Alnwick optician gives blinded Hannah Powell the gift of ‘sight’

Kevin Thompson and Hannah Powell. Picture by Northern Eye Media
Kevin Thompson and Hannah Powell. Picture by Northern Eye Media

A kind-hearted Alnwick optician and a woman he helped ‘see’ again have met for the first time.

Kevin Thompson read about Hannah Powell, who was blinded after drinking bootleg booze while on holiday in Zante last summer, and paid for her to receive a revolutionary artificial vision device.

Hannah Powell reads the first Harry Potter book. Picture by Northern Eye Media

Hannah Powell reads the first Harry Potter book. Picture by Northern Eye Media

The 22-year-old from Teesside made the trip to Alnwick last week to meet Kevin and try out the new equipment.

Touched by her ordeal, Kevin, who runs the Thompson Opticians chain, splashed out more than £2,000 to give Hannah an OrCam device.

The tiny gadget clips on to the side of Hannah’s glasses and whenever she points at anything she wants to read a laser follows her finger.

A tiny camera then captures the words and they are read out to Hannah through a tiny speaker in her ear, allowing her to read all sorts of things.

And when Glenn Tookey, the boss of Sight And Sound Technology – the UK distributors of OrCam devices – heard Hannah’s story he travelled up to Alnwick to offer her a free upgrade to a new version that can recognise people’s faces and tell her who is standing nearby even before they speak.

The first thing she read in Alnwick after being given the device was Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone; fitting as the film adaptation was shot at the town’s castle.

Hannah said: “I just can’t believe this, I never thought I’d read anything again. There’s no magic in this book as good as the miracle that has been done for me. I’m overwhelmed.

“Kevin is just lovely. What a kind and generous man, he has changed my life.

“I never thought I’d read again, but within ten minutes of getting the OrCam I was reading a Harry Potter book.

“It’s fantastic for me and a magnificent gesture for Kevin, who I didn’t know, to do this for me. I’ll never be able to thank him enough.”

Kevin, 55, was more than happy to help.

He said: “Getting the chance to watch Hannah ‘read’ a book was worth any money to me.

“Meeting Hannah was a real pleasure and I was hugely impressed with how she’s coping with the devastating consequences of losing her sight.

“I’ve spent my whole working life trying to make people see better. If I’ve been able to help her in some small way then that’s wonderful.”

GP receptionist Hannah has no vision at all in her left eye now and just 10 per cent in her right. The bootleg booze also destroyed her kidneys.

She will face a transplant operation in November, with her school cook mum Christine, 52, donating one of her organs.

Christine said: “Kevin Thompson is a man in a million. It’s very touching that such a busy chap can take time out and spend so much of his own money to care for my daughter. He’s a bit special isn’t he? We will be in debt to him for years to come.”

Mr Tookey added: “Losing the use of your eyes is devastating, you lose your sight but also your confidence, people take seeing colours for granted, but for blind people the rich tapestry of the world has gone forever.

“So an OrCam will change Hannah’s life for the better, It can’t make right the terrible wrong that was done to her, but it can give her a little more independence.”

Greek police promised Hannah and her family that whoever poisoned her with the fake vodka would be brought to justice.

But ten months later nobody has been arrested or charged and while all the bars in Laganas were shut down after Hannah’s ordeal they re-opened within 24 hours.

She has since been contacted via social media by other holidaymakers who say they fell ill while holidaying in Zante and are suspicious about what they drank in the bars there.