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Champagne cork threatens sight

June 6, 2016

Photo of Ricki Lee Coulter near an eye machine
Ricki-Lee Coulter

Ricki-Lee Coulter, award winning Australian singer, songwriter, television and radio presenter, was visiting her family in Queensland when an accident threatened her eyesight.

“I was at my parents’ house having champagne with my mum and my husband before flying to Melbourne,” Ricki-Lee says.

Sitting on the couch with the champagne bottle on her leg, Ricki-Lee took off the wrapping and cage. When she leaned in to hug her little sister, the
cork popped and hit her straight in the eye.

“Excruciating is the only word that comes to mind. I felt like I was hit by a train or punched in the face by Mike Tyson, I was holding my eye and was terrified to take my hand away,” she recalls.

“With my vision, at first I could only see the tiniest little bit and the rest was just solid black. I couldn’t focus on anything and everything was blurry.

“You really don’t ever think about how much you use your eyes until something goes wrong. It was really scary and quite a shock, immediately a million things started running through my mind like ‘what if I get a black eye?’ which escalated quickly to ‘what if I can’t ever see?’”

After the all clear from a QLD doctor and taking painkillers, Ricki-Lee flew to Melbourne but woke up the next morning with agonising pain — so she went straight to the Eye and Ear.

She presented to the Emergency Department with a hyphaema (bleeding in the eye), commotio retinae (bruising in the back of the eye), soreness and inflammation.

Ricki-Lee had a number of scans and tests (including a CT) to make sure she didn’t have a fracture.

“They did so many tests and I really felt like no stone was left unturned. I felt like I was in the best hands, which was extremely comforting.”

Dr Alexander Tan treated Ricki-Lee with steroids to reduce eye inflammation and long-acting dilating drops to stop the bleeding and protect the eye from re-bleeding; a significant risk that can require surgery to prevent permanent vision damage.

Ricki-Lee is thankful for the care she received.

“Honestly, it was incredible. Everyone was so helpful, so quick and efficient, and looked after me so well. Dr Tan was amazing, extremely thorough, answered any and every question we had and communicated everything with us every step of the way.”

After some rest, Ricki-Lee’s right eye remains slightly dilated due to the trauma; however it hasn’t impacted her eyesight which now has 20/20 vision again.

Ricki-Lee’s advice: “Once you take the cage off the cork, cover the head of the cork with your hand and take the cork out immediately. Don’t ever just let it sit there.”