I guess a good place to start is a bit of introduction.
Well, I am that crazy woman who has tunnel vision and lives in a long metal tube. Apt maybe…
OK, let me explain: I am Tracey. I come from Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. I’ve been very happily married to Tim since 1 August 1987. We have two daughters; Debbi, married to Ryan, living in Surrey. Rosie, lives with partner James plus Hallie (4) and Theo (2) in Worthing. Grandchild number 3 is due in March 2021.
I’ve had a varied career; I left school and went straight into training as a Pharmacy Dispenser for Boots the Chemist. That was a two year course, at the end of which I got my certificate and headed off to work for our wonderful NHS as a Student Pharmacy Technician at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. That was another 2 years of study including a weekly trek up to London’s Kings Cross area to college. (Not saying I was exceptionally innocent and naive in those days, but I really had NO idea what all the pretty ladies were doing outside KC station!).
That got me fully qualified in 1987 and led me on to move to Worthing and Southlands Hospitals and ultimately to the grand heights of Senior Pharmacy Technician. I left that in July 1992 to raise the family (Debbi was born in the October). After a 16 year break and a few other jobs along the way, I returned to hospital pharmacy to discover that the role had evolved enormously and was no longer anymuch like the one I had qualified to do! Strangely, the levels of clinical knowledge and responsibility had massively escalated, but the salary had remained the same! It was a good challenge to rise to though.
The other jobs along the way included School Exams Invigilator, Classroom Cover Supervisor, Tupperware Demonstrator & Team Manager, Regulatory Affairs Officer (in pharmaceutical industry) and Owner/MD of a Children’s Day Nursery. Oh… and PA to hubby in his computer business (that was often as well as my ‘day job’).
After leaving Hospital Pharmacy for the second time (when the whole structure of the career changed in a way that really was not ‘for me’), I then began my journey into sightloss.
It all began when I was driving our 7-seater around Worthing; as I was accelerating away from a mini-roundabout, a chap ran across the road in front of me. Thankfully, he was a very fast runner! I missed him by a squitch. Had I seen him coming, I would, of course, have braked hard, but I didn’t, and so was still accelerating away from the junction. OK, it is highly arguable that it was him who was daft in dicing with traffic, but it frightened me! I realised that he simply did not appear in my vision until he was on my left side.
I got myself into a certain high-street optican (the one we are all told we ‘should have gone to’) where a thorough eye test was carried out, including a field of vision check. Half an hour later, I was being referred for an urgent appointment at the Eye Clinic at Worthing Hospital. This was in July.
Long story short – what followed was a series of appointments for a huge array of tests and scans and, by the end of September, I was registered Severely Vision Impaired / Blind. Needless to say – that driving licence was duly sent to DVLA never to be returned! At this point, the vision in my right eye was divided in half – the ‘inside’ half was OK (ish) but the ‘outside’ half was non-existent.
This continued to shut down over the course of the next few months to what it is now: a pin-hole in the centre.
For an idea of this – take a drawing pin and pop it through a piece of paper. Hold that up to one eye, cover or close the other completely and look through that pinhole. (My left eye has never had any useful vision – just vague shapes and shadows – a birth defect that never caused me any trouble).
Now I have good eyes days and bad eyes days – affected largely by stress, tiredness, fast travel (cars, trains etc where the ‘view’ is whizzing past too fast to focus) and excessive screen-work. On a good eyes day, that pinhole is reasonably clear, enabling me to read (with adaptations) and see quite well. On a bad eyes day, however, I can only liken the vision I have to the view via moving muddy water. On any day; good or bad, bright lights hurt and dim light is useless.
This is all accompanied, pretty much all the time, by strange flickerings, flutterings, flashes and floaters in both my actual remaining vision and in the bits that are no longer there. A strange phenomenon known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome; a kind of visual equivalent to phantom limb pain experienced by many amputees.
So, in 2011 life suddenly got drastically changed: I could no longer be the person who did all the doing. No longer was I the Mum-taxi-service, or the key shopper, errand runner, and general driver, go-getter, dropper-off, fetcher and deliverer that I was used to being. I was now the person who needed the lifts, guidance and assistance. A very alien concept indeed and one that I found incredibly difficult to accept and adjust to. Needless to say, the result was a very different me – depressed, withdrawn, reclusive and seriously contemplating ways to rid my family of the burden that I felt I had now become.
Since then, life has changed, I have changed and my outlook has changed beyond recognition. I hope and aim, as this blog goes on, to share the who, how, why and what of it all It has been, and continues to be quite a journey!