Theresa from Sherwood has macular degeneration, she lives alone since the death of her husband. Here she speaks about the benefit of being matched with James, her My Guide volunteer.
“I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration about 26 years ago, it was really hard at first but once I got over the shock I managed fairly well to start with, but over the years things got more difficult. First I lost my husband and then I couldn’t keep up the repairs on the home we’d shared so I moved into a small flat. The flat’s easier to manage but I’m now not as familiar with my surrounding are, which is difficult.
“As I’ve got older I’ve developed painful arthritis and I was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which means I’m afraid to go out, I suppose I lost confidence.
As I got older so did my friends and as they became frail they couldn’t support me and so I saw less people and became more isolated. Sometimes I felt desperately lonely and some days I wondered if anyone knows if I was dead or alive.
“Loneliness is a devastating thing and my poor sight makes it worse because I can’t read, watch TV, or see to stop the right bus if I do try to go out alone.
“People need human interaction to live, it’s like oxygen and without it you wither up inside. Going out only once a week with a friend to church but sitting alone for six days is really sad; it feels like the world’s shrinking.
“When someone from My Sight suggested a volunteer My Guide I was hopeful but nervous. The volunteer they had for me was a young man and I couldn’t understand why a young person would want to sit and listen to an old woman like me but I was so desperately lonely I decided to give it a go.
“My volunteer, James is a lovely young man; he’s very kind. We meet once a week for coffee, cake and a chat. He listens to my life stories and I listen to his. He sometimes reads my mail but mostly we talk.
“His visits made me feel better very quickly, I couldn’t wait for him to come and see me. His visits are something to look forward to, something to live for and there’s nothing more important than that.”
“I guess I’m a typical medical student, I study hard and enjoy anything outdoorsy like tennis and mountaineering.
“Before signing up to be a My Guide volunteer I looked at various volunteering opportunities on the do-it website and thought being a My Guide for a visually impaired person would be a really worthwhile thing to do. It also worked out with my schedule as I could do it in the evenings and fit it around my final year studies and medical placements.
“We meet at Theresa’s flat and mainly just chat over tea and cake – lots of cake! Theresa has many stories to tell about her interesting life, especially about the Second World War and her move from Poland to the UK. I find her stories really interesting, you don’t always make time to get to know someone from a different generation but I think more of us should! I share with her stories about what I’m doing and I help read her mail. On my last visit, she took me to her favourite Polish restaurant where I tried Polish food for the very first time, which is something I might never have done without Theresa.
“I enjoy volunteering as a My Guide. It makes me happy to know I’m making a difference to a lovely lady like Theresa, it also helps me put my own final year exam stresses into perspective, so it works for both of us.”