“I first noticed there was something wrong with my sight back in 2004; it was like permanently looking through a fog, so I went to my optician who referred me to a specialist. I knew things were serious when the doctor told me I had to stop driving there and then – that was the first piece of my independence gone.
“I was eventually diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and my sight slowly deteriorated over eighteen months until I could no longer watch TV and now I can’t see anything at all.
“My wife of more than 60 years became my eyes and together we muddled along. She read to me and guided me when we went out, I missed doing many of the things I used to do for myself but together we coped.
“But in July 2018 she was diagnosed with dementia and after falling out of bed and fracturing her thigh, she was taken into residential care. Living on my own in a remote farmhouse now feels isolating and lonely. The most difficult thing is that I struggle to go out alone. To get on the bus I have to cross a main road, which doesn’t have a safe place to cross. I miss the simple things like getting out of the house for some fresh air, getting some exercise and chatting to people. Sometimes because I’m in 24-hour darkness I fall asleep during the early evening and then I can’t sleep at night, which just makes me feel awful.
“When My Sight Newark opened, I asked someone to take me and I met other people in the same boat as me. I enjoy all the activities, but I also wanted some exercise and to get out of the house more than once a fortnight for a walk in the fresh air, so they suggested I have a My Guide and that’s when I was introduced to Helen.
“I usually meet Helen once a week and we go out for short walks in the local area. I benefit from the exercise and it helps me stay fit. I also enjoy chatting to people that we meet in the Cafe, the staff there are getting to know me now and they chat to me when we go in, which is grand! When you’re disabled people tend to avoid you. I think they don’t know what to expect so they don’t engage in conversation and as I can’t see them it makes starting a conversation difficult. Helen helps me to get talking to people in the cafe, and in the park, which is exactly what I need.
“Helen and I hit it off from the start, she’s really chatty and will talk to anybody! I really look forward to her visits, it gets me out from behind my four walls, gives me exercise and the chance to chat to people. Helen helps me start conversations, which is so important. I don’t want to sit at home with no-one to talk to, I want to get out and meet people because talking is one thing you can still do when you’re blind. I really appreciate what Helen does for me, it makes such a difference. ”
“Like many women my age, I’ve spent much of my adult life caring for my children, but as they’ve flown the nest I needed to do something to fill my days.
“I haven’t worked outside the home for years and as getting an interesting job without experience proved impossible, I decided to volunteer instead. I saw the My Guide role on the CVS website and thought it looked interesting..
“Once I applied I was contacted very quickly by My Sight Notts, which I think is important for people considering volunteering, if organisations leave you hanging around for weeks it makes you think they can’t need you that much!
“The training was informative and interesting, we wore special glasses that simulate different eye conditions and practised guiding others and being guided ourselves, which really makes you think about what it must be like to lose your sight.
“I really enjoy the time I spend with Rex, it’s something I look forward to each week. He’s easy to talk to and we get on well.
“Being a My Guide volunteer is really worthwhile, it also gets me out of the house and I enjoy walking and talking to someone I wouldn’t normally meet. It’s good to know that a small effort on my part makes a great deal of difference to Rex.”