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How it all happened
It took my falling fully-clothed into a river on a dark January morning in 2012 for me to admit I had to 'do something' about my eyes. I'd been diabetic since 1988 and I'd been insulin-dependent since 1991 .. but somehow, work, meetings and related commitments were always more important than my eyes and my health. Call it 'being a bloke'. I call it being an idiot!
Before my close encounter with the local river, I'd noticed that my eyes - indeed my vision - were getting worse. I told myself it was 'just an age thing'. For many years, I'd never managed to make the time to actually go for the free (!) National Health Service diabetic eye checks. Idiotic, as I said. So it was that on that dark winter morning as I groped my way along my usual dog walking route with our lack Labrador called Jet, I suddenly realised - all too late of course - that I was falling into the river from the bank.
I somehow got myself and Jet home, lied to my wife that I'd just slipped and fallen on some very wet ground and, as soon as she had gone to work, I got myself to the doctor He was clearly concerned not least because I couldn't see anything on the visual acuity test board no matter how close I stood to it! He made an immediate referral to York Hospital Eye Clinic.
And it was there I was told I had two detached retina.
I was thankfully placed in the excellent care of the brilliant Mr Jacobs the consultant. I've now lost count of how many times he's operated on one or other of my eyes. My left eye is bad - however much Mr Jacobs and colleagues tried, the vision in that eye will never be good at least not without some significant developments in the field of transplant surgery or something. So, my right eye is the one that does most of the work these days.
How DID it all happen? Clearly as a result of my having been a complete idiot. If you are a diabetic reading this please please please make absolutely sure you never miss a check up on your eyes. They are two precious things that this wickedly chronic beast of diabetes can so easily destroy if left to its own devices.
How has diabetic retinopathy changed my life?
In terms of work, I had to have 8 months off during most of 2012 which ended up putting a premature end to my EdD studies .. but through assessments from the UK Access to Work team, I got a new large screen laptop supplied plus Dolphin SuperNova software which magnifies everything on-screen and, if needed, reads to me. It doesn't seem to get on too well with Excel and has the odd fall-out with Word .. but that's another story! I can't argue with Apple over the excellent accessibility settings on their iPhones and iPads - both of which now display large text for me in SMS messages and emails. Many of the apps though - including Twitter and Facebook - need to get their accessibility acts together and I often prefer to work through Safari than an app as Sadari usually enables text to be expanded as needed. My bifocal glasses and computer screen glasses also help
My Dread of a Coughing Fit
Most of the time .. my bifocal spectacles help me to read most paper documents I fear and dread having heavy coughing fits though On several occasions now, after such a coughing fit ... I start to see swirling black 'tadpoles' in my eye A few hours later, the bleeding that the coughing fit caused has seriously affected the vision in my good right eye Twice now this has led to more time off work as I've been unable to function And of course at such times .. My social media presence evaporates as I can't see what's being posted or what I'm posting back While I could read and D taste to Siri .. you just can't always trust Siri will get it right as several embarrassing texts have shown!
Apart from the practical realisation of how valuable and useful the work of the NHS and Diabetes UK is ... the main lesson learned through all this is the need to reiterate and stress for all diabetic sufferers to take very pro-active care of your eyes! The other lesson of course is the living realisation that our eyes and vision are SOOO very precious and important Indeed what I most enjoy and value in life these days is each and every day that I can see where I'm going and what I'm doing
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