John Smith’s Story

It was approximately 16 years ago that retired music teacher John Smith (77) realised something was wrong with his vision and he was directed to the hospital.

He was subsequently diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) that affects his central vision.
John continued to lead an active life particularly enjoying golf, going to the gym and attending Exeter Cathedral but his eye sight began to deteriorate.

John said, “The emotional impact of sight loss was built up over a period of time. My wife and I regularly attend the morning service at Exeter Cathedral. About six months ago I opened the service sheet and I thought, “Oh my goodness...I can’t read this anymore!”

On 9th December 2018 John took the bold decision to stop driving. He recalled, “I was driving the short distance to the gym which is about a ten minute drive on a back road. I thought there was a car in front of me but there wasn’t. I was having hallucinations which I had read about. I thought this is total lunacy. I turned around and went straight home. I put my car keys away and more driving…it’s too dangerous. It was a shock because you lose your entire freedom.”

It was my Optician who recommended Devon in Sight.
Support Worker Margaret Vickers has been of great assistance to me and my wife. Men are not particularly good at getting medical help or support. She listened which was so refreshing. She advised me to access the Macular Society Counselling Service which was very good.

Devon in Sight put me in touch with the Torch Trust who were able to get large print hymn books into Exeter Cathedral. It was wonderful to continue with our worship.

I was invited to attend the Tiverton Talk and Support Group which I found to be very relaxed.  It’s been excellent meeting other people with sight loss. Marg has the amazing capacity to let us talk about the issues we want to talk about. It was so helpful sharing experiences and realising that I was not the only one on this journey. I have valued the support of my peers.

Over the months I have found that we have covered  so many issues relating to sight loss. I have found all the guest speakers interesting. The best thing for me was being introduced to the specialist functions of the iPhone. I’ve had lessons with Jo Fishwick a specialist Assistive Technology trainer from the RNIB. After two or three lessons with her I’ve gained in confidence with Assistive Technology (AT).

I would really encourage people to go to their local Talk and Support Group to experience what is on offer. Until I went to the group I had no idea of the support available to me. The world that it opens up to you is amazing!
For several months I haven’t been able to see a face clearly or read things easily which I was beginning to find particularly distressing. However, I took up the option to try ‘Skills for Seeing’ training which is specifically for people with central vision loss.

I didn’t know what to expect at all but I had an assessment with Lynzee Valentine at Splatford Barton. I was thrilled to learn that my peripheral vision was okay. Nobody medically ever said, “you will not go blind!” Before the training if I looked straight ahead all facial features were blurred...everything was very distorted.

After the training I can see a person’s  face or whatever I am looking at much more clearly, their features are clear. I have to explain to people why I am breaking eye contact with them to line up my peripheral vision but the result is I can see a face clearly again. As a result of the Skills for Seeing Training I feel much better...much more confident!”
In conclusion John added, “For me the most important thing is being able to do things for myself. I can still go to the gym, I can still swim, I can go to church; golf is proving a little challenging at the moment but I hope that my new skills will help with that!”