Georges Jurish talks about how Blind Veterans UK helped him find independence
"Losing your sight can be a frightening, even isolating experience. I have suffered with sight loss caused by macular degeneration for five years. During this time my eyesight has gradually deteriorated, and I have also developed something called Charles Bonnet syndrome, where my brain plays tricks on me and I experience hallucinations. Seeing things which aren’t really there can be extremely scary.
I was interested to hear the results of Blind Veterans UK’s Isolation Survey 2016 , released this week, where 61 per cent of blind veterans said that before receiving support from Blind Veterans UK they had become increasingly isolated following a diagnosis of sight loss. I could certainly recognise those feelings from my own experience.
Fortunately I am lucky enough to have the support of Blind Veterans UK, who have given me invaluable support and advice, and provided me with free equipment which has transformed my experience of living with sight loss.
I remember the day when I first found out about Blind Veterans UK extremely clearly. I had been struggling to cope with my gradually deteriorating sight loss until my 80th birthday, when I realised that I had totally lost the ability to read. At this point, I was devastated.
I went to the Bristol Eye Hospital for an assessment where I was registered as severely vision impaired. Luckily, while I was there, I met a member of staff who encouraged me to attend the Action for Blind People Resource Centre in Bristol. A member of staff at the Resource Centre asked me if I had ever served in the Armed Forces or if I had done National Service. As I had served in the RAF for ten years they told me I was eligible for support from Blind Veterans UK. At the time I was unaware of the charity and wasn’t sure exactly what support they could give me, but nevertheless I applied for support and was accepted to Blind Veterans UK in June 2015.
Since then, my life has been completely turned around and my day-to-day experience has been transformed by the free equipment Blind Veterans UK provided. They sent me a CD player, a tablet which can read out emails and take dictation, and a talking scanner to read out my letters. Before, simple tasks such as reading the post were so frustrating and I relied on others to help me. This equipment has been immensely helpful for picking up the detail I had lost before, and has helped me feel independent again.
I also enjoyed spending an induction week at Blind Veterans UK’s Brighton centre, where I could rediscover the camaraderie I experienced when I was serving. I had served in the RAF between 1952 and 1962, at the Suez Canal zone in Egypt, and then in Iraq. I certainly had lots to reminisce about and it was a really interesting experience to be with people in the same boat as me. The Brighton centre is a very special place, the staff there were so kind and couldn’t do enough for us.
Blind Veterans UK’s survey showed that after receiving the charity’s support, 86 per cent of respondents said that it had helped them to feel less isolated, and more than two-thirds (71 per cent) reported it had increased their independence, with three quarters (75 per cent) saying it helped them make new friends/ acquaintances. I would wholeheartedly agree with these findings as it reflects my own experience.
Blind Veterans UK has helped me immensely. I am extremely grateful for the difference they have made to my life, and so are my family. I’m so glad that Action for Blind People referred me to the charity, or I wouldn’t be living the life I am now. I think it’s a fantastic thing that these charities work together for the benefit of everyone."