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Vision as a warning sign for stroke risk and heart conditions

NEWS RELEASE
For Release May 19, 2016

Contact: Cathy Moss  
917-301-6773
cmoss@willseye.org

FOX TV Newsman Credits His Eyes and Several
Great Philadelphia Doctors for Saving His Life

(Philadelphia, PA) – When Fox TV News Anchor/Reporter Chris O’Connell woke up one morning with sudden blurry vision, the Philadelphia TV journalist wondered what could be going on. “My vision is everything to me- I have to read the teleprompter, I need good vision to do my job and, of course, I want to see my kids’ beautiful faces,” he said. But when he wasn’t seeing an improvement with his blurriness, he quickly sought out the experts at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia; an internationally respected medical center especially known for getting to the heart of hard to diagnose vision problems. “Brief vision changes in one eye can be a sign of an oncoming stroke,” says Chief of Neuro-Ophthalmology, Robert C. Sergott, MD of Wills Eye. “If temporary blurriness or reduced vision is due to an oncoming stroke, you may only have a few hours to get emergency care before a stroke occurs.”

Turns out Chris did have a particular type of stroke – one in his eye that made the 46 year old runner still a ticking time bomb for a larger more familiar stroke in the rest of his body where a blood clot can break off hitting his heart – leading to a possibly fatal heart attack or a clot to the brain causing a devastating stroke.

Dr. Sergott says these fleeting vision changes are tricky and easy to miss by people including other doctors in some cases. “It’s like fading vision or a window shade coming down or going up and lasts only a few minutes before it goes away. Because it’s brief and vision quickly returns to normal, people will ignore it since they feel better.”

But you should never ignore temporary vision changes, says Chris and agrees Sergott who advises seeking emergency eye care as soon as possible at your local hospital or an eye hospital if there is one near you. Brief vision changes can occur alone before a stroke happens without other more familiar stroke symptoms such as face droop, one-sided weakness or slurred speech.

Chris’ stroke led Dr. Sergott and his team to quickly bring in heart doctors at neighboring Thomas Jefferson University Hospital who also determined Chris needed cardiac monitoring as well. Now, Chris is fitted with a tiny (about the size of a paperclip) but protective implant in his chest -- miraculous technology which allows Chris’ cardiologists to keep watch of his heart condition and jump into action to treat him if necessary - even when he’s not at the doctors’ office.

“We want to remind everyone that strokes can begin with blurry vision as the only symptom so sudden loss of vision in one eye – even if temporary - should trigger an immediate trip to the ER rather than waiting for days or weeks, said Sergott.

“Not every case of blurry vision means a frightening diagnosis, but my eyes were the best clue of all - they told me I might be in trouble, said Chris. This was personal news I need to share to save others.”

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Download a pdf of the press release.