Photo of blind veteran Nick barber with his wife Jackie on their bikes

Jackie's story

Jackie Barber, 50, cares for her husband Nick, 54, who joined the RAF Police in 1983 and was a dog handler in Germany, the Falklands and the UK.

After Nick left the RAF he took a year off before joining the National Blood Service, where he met his wife, who still works there as a Senior Sister in the Norwich team.

Nick discovered that his sight was deteriorating in 2001 and went to the opticians for a regular eye check. Initially the doctor believed that it could have been a stroke that had led to Nick’s sight loss but after an MRI scan Nick was diagnosed with a genetic disease that causes blindness, retinitis pigmentosa.

Since losing his vision Jackie has cared for Nick while ensuring that he is still as independent as possible. She prepares his meals in advance and does all the driving, as well as making sure that their house is safe and familiar for him.

Jackie said: “Before we found out about Blind Veterans UK we were really floundering. Both of us are out here on our own and we didn’t receive any support. Nick was very reluctant to apply for support from Blind Veterans UK at first. He believed that because he was quite young he wouldn’t be entitled to any care but I insisted that he should apply.”

Blind Veterans UK recognises the enormous contribution people like Jackie make, and that’s why it is reaching out to vision impaired veterans and their carers who could be benefitting from its services and support. Carers play a vital role in referring those eligible to the charity as well as providing much needed care at home.

Fortunately Nick did put in an application and in 2007 he started to receive free support from Blind Veterans UK.

Blind Veterans UK have given Nick specialist equipment that has allowed him to stay independent. He was given software for his computer and equipment to use in the kitchen so that he can now make himself a drink safely.

Nick also regularly goes to both the Brighton and Sheffield centres run by Blind Veterans UK and has taken courses in photography and picture framing. In 2016 Nick will visit the Blind Veterans UK Llandudno centre for the first time and Jackie will get a well-earned respite break.

Jackie said: “Nick being able to have a week away with Blind Veterans UK is so important. I know that he will be surrounded by staff who know how to keep him safe and that is a real relief. The weeks when he visits the Blind Veterans UK centres really give me the chance to recharge. I don’t have to worry about anything so a weight is lifted.”

As well as getting respite breaks when Nick visits the centres, Jackie has received support and services from Blind Veterans UK too. This year Jackie attended a carers’ session in Brighton where she had the chance to meet other carers in the same position.

Jackie said: “My advice to other carers would be that there are people out there, like Blind Veterans UK, who can help. You just have to pick up the phone if you are struggling.

“For us, Blind Veterans UK are second to none. We had absolutely nothing before we got their support and it is because of their help that Nick has now got his confidence back.”