Twenty Specsavers stores in New South Wales have donated over $120,000 to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Sydney over the past five years through the Specsavers Community Program, funding surgeries performed by a robot.

The state-of-the-art surgical robot, which was the first of its kind to arrive in Australia, was bought by Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in December 2015, and costs $4,000 for every surgery it’s used for. The much-needed funds raised through the Specsavers Community Program have been used to perform surgeries on 30 different patients.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is a not-for-profit, independent centre specialising in advanced treatment and research for patients suffering from rare and complex cancer cases. The centre sees more than 40,000 people every year for screening, diagnosis or treatment, and is named after Prof Chris O’Brien AO, a cancer specialist who lost his own three-year battle with an aggressive brain tumour in 2009.

In recognition of the contributions made by Specsavers stores, store partners were invited to attend a special breakfast event in March 2018 to hear from Lifehouse CEO Eileen Hannagan about how their contributions had been directly helping cancer patients at the centre.

“We were the first hospital in the Southern Hemisphere to get a da Vinci Xi Dual Console Surgical System which we purchased for head and neck surgery,” Eileen said.

“The surgical robot translates the hand movements of the surgeon into precise movements of tiny, wristed instruments working inside the patient’s body. This allows the surgeon to get down to the back of the tonsils or the throat to remove the tumours. The difference to patients is incredible. They’ve not been cut, they’ve not had their jaw broken, but they have had their tumour removed.

“Many patients can pay, but the patients who can’t pay are funded by our hardship program. So community support enables these patients to have life-changing surgery.”

Commenting on the robot’s operating costs, Eileen added, “Hospitals don’t make the kind of money we’d need to continue to let this kind of technology run – it’s really the community support that enables that.”

Gail O’Brien, wife of the late Chris O’Brien, was also present at the breakfast and thanked the stores personally. “We have come so far and we wouldn’t have got there without your support,” she said.

As part of the Specsavers Community Program, Specsavers stores across Australia and New Zealand donate a portion of their glasses profits to both a local charity partner, such as Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and national charity partner The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Specsavers store partners with Gail O’Brien and Eileen Hannagan