Alnwick optician helps blinded Hannah Powell

Hannah Powell with her mum Christine and dad Derek. Picture by Northern Eye Media Ltd
Hannah Powell with her mum Christine and dad Derek. Picture by Northern Eye Media Ltd

An Alnwick optician has stepped in to help a woman who was blinded by bootleg booze during a sunshine party holiday, by paying for her to receive a revolutionary artificial vision device.

Despite never meeting Hannah Powell, kind-hearted Kevin Thompson, 55, decided to come to her aid after being touched by her tragic ordeal.

Kevin Thompson, of Thompson Opticians, has stepped in to help. Picture by Northern Eye Media Ltd

Kevin Thompson, of Thompson Opticians, has stepped in to help. Picture by Northern Eye Media Ltd

The 22-year-old, from Teesside, suffered kidney failure and blindness after her vodka and orange cocktails were laced with methanol, on the Greek island of Zakynthos last year.

But thanks to Mr Thompson’s generosity, GP receptionist Hannah will soon be given a clearer picture of the world around her.

The boss of the Thompson Opticians chain – which has branches in Northumberland – is forking out more than £2,000 to give Hannah a device called OrCam that allows blind people to read text, know what’s on their computer screen or smartphone and identify what food they’ve got in their fridge by reading the labels.

The tiny device, invented by Israeli scientists, clips on the side of any pair of glasses and when Hannah points a finger at anything she wants to read, a laser picks it out and a small camera identifies the words.

A mini-speaker in an earpiece will then tell her what the words are. Nobody else will hear anything as the device uses bone conduction to transmit the words silently through Hannah’s skull.

Mr Thompson, who is chairman of the National Association of Optometrists, wanted to help Hannah after reading a newspaper story about her plight.

He said: “I’ve spent my entire working life trying to make people see better and when I read about Hannah I thought this is the most extreme case of sight loss I’d heard about.

“I was moved by her terrible ordeal and the devastating consequences of losing her sight.

“In Hannah’s case, her loss of vision was so sudden and as far as I know there’s no cure. But I was aware of this OrCam device and although I’ve never met Hannah, my heart went out to her and I’m in the fortunate position of being able to help.

“It’s lovely for me, given all the awful news going on in this country, to think that perhaps I’ve put a smile back on Hannah’s face.

“I’ve got a family of my own and we go abroad on holiday and are exposed to the same risks as Hannah was.”

Hannah has been left stunned by Mr Thompson’s generosity. She said: “I want to give him a big hug and cuddle. The fact that a complete stranger wants to help me is overwhelming, it’s so kind of him.

“For someone to think of me and spend so much money on me is beyond belief. There are some horrible people in the world, but equally there are some lovely ones that restore your faith in human nature.”

When bosses at Sight And Sound Limited, the UK distributors of the OrCam devices, heard about Mr Thompson’s generosity they offered to upgrade the device Hannah will receive to one that can recognise people’s faces and tell her who is standing in front of her.

Hannah’s dad Derek said: “We are over the moon. This is a boost for Hannah and will give her back some independence.

“Mr Thompson has changed her life for the better. I get a lump in my throat thinking about it, a stranger being so kind to us.”