Maria Pikulski speaks of regaining her confidence thanks to Blind Veterans UK
12 December 2013 17:20
Maria Pikulski, who Served in the women's Royal Army speaks of battling her sight loss and regaining her independence.
Maria Pikulski was 18 when she joined the Women's Royal Army. She started as a private, and went on to become a corporal. During her 13 years of service until 1993, she drove vehicles adapted for arctic conditions, cooked and did clerical work. When she left the Forces, Maria became a nurse in the local hospital.
One day in late 2002, one of her patients told her they were worried about her eyesight as she seemed to be struggling with simple tasks. Maria went to the optician and then to her GP, and was diagnosed with Leber's optic neuropathy. Maria's sight deteriorated rapidly from this genetic condition. By February 2003 she'd lost sight in her left eye, and by September of that year Maria was registered blind.
With our support, Maria has also taken part in a number of sports and outdoor activities, including running the London Marathon, skiing, sky-diving, adventure training and white water rafting.
Maria said: "When I lost my sight my world fell apart around me, and there were times when I didn't even want to carry on living. But becoming a member of Blind Veterans UK saved me. Until that point, I had no concept of how I would even carry on. However, the more time I spent training at the Brighton centre, the more I realised that, with their help, I could turn my life around."
Maria was also one of the first to take the Supernova computer course, designed to help visually-impaired people use computers confidently and skilfully. After the course, Maria got a job working as a senior administrator with Action for the Blind, where she's still working.
Maria said: "I needed to be around people who shared my circumstances, and I have met some truly amazing and inspiring individuals. I no longer want my life to end; in fact, I'm living it to the full. Blind Veterans UK has helped me regain my confidence in basic life skills as well as encouraging me to do things I never thought I would do, like taking part in charity races with other blind people.
"I really do feel like I have my independence back. I'm so grateful to Blind Veterans UK. Their support has been life-changing, and my happiness and independence is down to them and the help they've given me over the past five and a half years."
In this week's Sunday Express Maria tells her story. Make sure to pick up a copy and support the Sunday Express Christmas appeal in aid of Blind Veterans UK, or give a gift at www.blindveterans.org.uk/sundayexpress
If you know an Armed Forces or National Service veteran battling sight loss request free support by calling 0800 389 7979.