Hello, I’m Nina and I’m a blind lady living in Manchester. I’d like to share a little of my story so far with you.
I was not born with a sight condition; I contracted the flu virus when I was two years old. After the virus burnt itself out, I was left with many different sight problems. The closest the doctors ever came to a diagnosis is Chronic Uveitis and cataract. I had several surgeries as a child, but it wasn’t until I was around 12 years old that I had surgery that made a difference to my sight.
From age 12 to 26 I had several corneal graft transplants surgeries. I also had both my lenses transplanted and they tried to remove some of the cataract, as it had stuck to the eye. I think in total over time I’ve had 2 lens and 6 corneal transplants. I always said I should have a points reward card with the NHS as I was there that often!
Throughout this time, I had good sight and at one point amazing sight in the right eye, but I will get to that in a moment. As good as the vision got unfortunately it got just as bad too. There were times when I could not see my face in the mirror due to the fogged and blurred vision I had. When it was like this it was difficult to navigate, read and be independent.
One eye was worse than the other so I managed to plod on and fool a lot of people that I was okay and that I could manage. I could manage but there were also times I was better at hiding just how hard it was. I had become very good at life like this and didn’t want to put people out, so I pushed forward. I don’t think I have done too bad considering; I achieved a degree in Design and Art Direction from Manchester Metropolitan University, set up several businesses one being jewellery and crafts design. I wanted to show that I could achieve anything that a fully sighted person could. I had determination to prove I was not useless.
Time was flying by with my eye journey and life activities. A successful surgery meant that I was able to read the newspaper for the first time in my life without a magnifier, so what happened next was not on my radar at all. In January 2009 I had an accident at work. I lost my right eye after something fell on me and it burst the eyeball. I’d come so close, but it seemed that good sight was not going to be in my future.
With the same grit and determination I’d found within me previously, I carried on. I thought, “I’ve managed with limited sight before. Come on Nina you can get through this;” and that is what I did.
I went on to have my now 10-year-old son and set up my business which combined my two passions, hospitality, and creativity. I opened a creative cafe in South Manchester. I wanted to create a place where people could escape their stresses and lose themselves in creativity. It was creativity that saved me and kept me positive, so I wanted to share this with others. I’d picked myself up again. Things were going well, I had adjusted to life with one eye, become one with technology that enabled me to function. I used electronic magnification to read, I acquainted myself with Apple products and Zoom software. I was rocking and rolling but then……
The universe had different plans for me. Whilst I was running my business well, I was running it alone. That meant me wearing the hat for PR, HR, Manager, Trainer, Front of House, Back of House; you get the idea. I was running circles around myself, and it all came to a head.
One morning I was attempting to do 5 things at once. I bent down to pick something out of my bag, misjudged the depth of where the TV was on the table and in my hurry, I caught the TV with my eye. I instantly lost the sight. I knew it was gone as it went the same as the right eye. My sons were there and called for help. I remained as calm as I could but was hysterical inside. All I remember is asking the doctors to save the eye because in my mind this meant there was hope.
They saved my eye, but sadly not my sight. The adjustments I had to get my head round were difficult. The emotions I was feeling were intense, I think I cried solidly for 2 months.
The thing that still leaves me with a lump in my throat is that I will never see my son’s face again; but I have come to understand that it is not the sight that is the most important thing, it is the feeling. The love we have for each other will always be there.
My life moved forward; it took hard work and still does. Losing my sight completely after such a rollercoaster of a vision journey left me wondering what was all that about?
I went through a lot of inner work; therapy, counselling, meditation, massage, mentoring and talking with people who have and are going through the same thing as me. This led to acceptance and an understanding that it all happened for a reason. I am a stronger and more authentic person now.
I had no option but to face my disability whereas in the past I ran from accepting I was different. Now I love that I am different and celebrate it, I even have a rainbow long cane because why not!
I have learnt with patience and support how to live as a blind person and this learning continues. I know I was able to move forward because I was to accept that change; in whatever form it came. Once I understood this, I could work with it and work with it to my advantage.
If it wasn’t for me losing my sight, I would not have met the amazing people I have through the various charities and communities I am a part of. I would not have developed Charles Bonnet Syndrome which is a condition that causes silent visual hallucinations; but that is another blog post on another day.
I wouldn’t have realised how much inner work I needed and how much more I need. It may sound strange but losing my sight has given me so much more sight; I have taken more positives than negatives from my experience and I am grateful for this every day.
I move through my new life now being open to new learning. From learning new ways to use technology, to how I communicate and reflect on my feelings. I believe the way we perceive what happens to us influences how we live our lives. I have learnt to be more positive and try to support others in their journeys.
Life can be hard, and you can’t always dodge the curve balls that it throws at you but having support around you is what will help you through it. Sightline is one of those resources and offering a friendly ear is often more powerful than any prescription or cure. I know my family and friends got me through the darkest of times. My one piece of advice is to create a network for yourself.
That will help lead to acceptance and the rest will fall into place.
Thank you for reading about my journey so far.
Sending love to all
If, like Nina, you are on your own sight loss journey and would benefit from a telephone befriending relationship, please get in touch.
Call 0800 587 2252 today
For anyone wishing to find out more information about eye conditions, the RNIB website has lots of useful information.