"The doctor standing by my bed and telling me that a rare virus had completely blinded me in my left eye and destroyed almost all the sight in my right, overnight.
My whole world fell apart in that moment. I had always been so capable. I’d spent 14 years in the Army serving in the Royal Corps of Transport: in the UK, the Falklands and in Germany. I feel like I was born to be a military man – I always had a passion to serve. My dad was in the Royal Navy, my brother is too and my sister was a sea cadet, so Military Service runs deep in our family.
Now there I was, suddenly unable to see or do anything. I felt like my life was over. It was the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me – a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.
In the desperate months after I went blind I thought, ‘I have to do something. I want to look forward’. I remembered Blind Veterans UK and got in touch. I am so glad I did because it totally changed my life.
I was nervous about contacting them but I needn’t have been. I was introduced to Jo Gray, my Welfare Officer, who became my Florence Nightingale. She calmed me down, gave me hope and opened the door to opportunities that have brought me back to life again.
The first thing Jo did was to book me on a week-long Residential Assessment course at the Blind Veterans UK Centre in Brighton. It was a visit that changed everything – I was given an incredible range of vital equipment and training which helped me start to rebuild my life again.
Two months before I was blinded, I walked my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. But the first time I could see the photos was when I was given a desktop magnifier to take home. It was an incredible moment for me and my wife to finally share.
I’ve been back to the centre in Brighton four times since. Each time my life changes and improves even more.
To me, it’s all about dignity and being useful. I’ve learned to cook things for the family, like beef stew and dumplings, and to wash and iron clothes. I’ve also done an IT course to help me manage more of my own affairs. Within 10 minutes I was able to send my first email. I wrote it to my wife Shirley to tell her how much I loved her because she’s been my rock through everything.
Everyone at Blind Veterans UK has supported Shirley too; it’s not just my life that was changed forever by blindness. Now she says she doesn’t have to worry – it’s like we are part of a bigger family and that I’ll always be safe. I know too that whatever challenges might come, I can rely on Blind Veterans UK."