Living with age-related macular degeneration

12 February 2014 14:25

John Andrews speaks about living with age-related macular degeneration for nearly a decade during national age-related macular degeneration month.

February is national age-related macular degeneration and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of sight loss in people 65 and older. 87 year old John Andrews, who volunteered to join the Royal Navy in 1943 and served in convoys in Asia until after the end of the War, speaks about losing his sight due to age-related macular degeneration nearly a decade ago and the support he has received from Blind Veterans UK.

"Like a lot of boys my age, I was quite war-like and the idea of being in the military was very exciting. I was running an errand in Bury St. Edmunds when I passed a recruiting station with a huge model battleship in the window - I just thought instantly, 'This is for me!'"

John was recruited by Commander William Oates, brother of the famous explorer Arctic explorer Captain Lawrence Oates, to serve in the Royal Navy. Although John had never been on a ship or even learnt to swim before, was soon serving on board convoys to the Far East.

"The vessel I was stationed on was a headquarters ship for the top brass. Most of the big guns were stripped out to make room for special quarters for the admirals and so on.

"It did mean that we were a bit more vulnerable - we couldn't engage another ship, but that didn't always stop us. Our commanding officer was something of a con artist and there was one time when he steamed the ship right into the middle of some enemy gunboats and demanded they lay down their arms.

"In the end, they surrendered - without realising how harmless our ship was!"

John was discharged from the Navy in 1946 and he started to notice that he was having problems with his sight nearly ten years ago: "I remember losing my sight very well - you can't possibly ever forget something like that.

"I was sat up in bed reading and I noticed that the pages were getting blurry and going yellow in front of my eyes."

John was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration and was started on a course of eye injections to help slow the progress of the disease. He is now supported by Blind Veterans UK, which has supplied him with gadgets such as magnifiers to help him live independently with his sight loss.

"Blind Veterans UK has not only given me support to help with my sight loss, it's also meant that I've been able to meet other people in exactly the same situation as me.

"We all served and we all have severe sight loss and it's reassuring to have that network there."

Research shows that there are 68,000 plus blind veterans who, like John, could receive free support and services from Blind Veterans UK but are not currently aware. Find out how to request free support for someone who served in the Armed Forces or did National Service, and are now battling sight problems. Call 0800 389 7979 for free.