Annie lives life in full vigour, embracing the positive and negotiating the ‘inconvenient’ all with a healthy dose of good humour and sensitivity. Having raised six children with her husband, Trevor, and lived in 26 houses, her story is testimony to that wonderful saying, “keep on carrying on.”
There is no such word as can’t in Annie’s vocabulary and no reason to dwell heavily on what won’t be. She feels that being prepared in case something should happen is like having an insurance policy in your back pocket.
Early 2000’s while we were living in Queensland, I noticed my right eye felt funny, a little solid or thick. My regular appointment with my Optometrist was not due for another 5-6 weeks, but I managed an earlier appointment.
My eyes were otherwise healthy, so I had no reason to suspect high pressures, a fast-tracked referral to a glaucoma specialist, and a rapid onset glaucoma diagnosis within a week. It was a huge shock.
My Ophthalmologist was keen to explore what may have caused glaucoma as I have always been very fit, played sports, and eaten a healthy diet. In my younger days, I suffered from hay fever, and in the late 70s, I developed chronic asthma, which was treated with lashings of prednisone. As I couldn’t trace glaucoma on either side of my family, the doctor surmised that steroid use was the likely culprit.
An iridotomy, laser treatments, and drops managed glaucoma in my right eye until 2010 when we moved back to New Zealand. Despite more laser treatment and increased eyedrops, the vision in my right eye rapidly deteriorated, while the vision in my left eye was slowly declining.
I had a trabeculectomy on my right eye, and soon after, it was determined that I had lost most of my peripheral vision, and there was nothing more they could do. Keeping sight in my left eye was the priority; however, I wasn’t prepared for what came next, which was my biggest lesson.
My iris was attached to the outer lining of my eye. It was a fiercely complex operation, and unfortunately, just bad luck that a large blood clot formed, leaving me completely blind for two weeks. The blood clot eventually dispersed, leaving me with 25% sight in my left eye and a great appreciation for what I would do with it.
Although I have had to adapt, I have found the support and information from Blind Low Vision and Glaucoma New Zealand of enormous benefit. I have joined the BLV committee and look forward to co-facilitating the Taupo Glaucoma Support Group.
Annie is mindful that no one person has the same experience with glaucoma and graciously shares her story in the hope that some of her ‘tips’ may prove helpful for someone else.
Never miss taking your eye drops – not for a minute, not a day, even when touring or traveling overseas. I religiously took mine, and I’m sure it prolonged my sight.
Purchase a dark-coloured mixing bowl to help see if the butter, eggs, milk, and flour are smooth when baking. Especially helpful when making meringues. Cut onions, parsnips, or potatoes on a dark coloured cutting board
Watch doorways for changes in floor finish, small steps, or door width.
Train your family not to move the furniture and to put things away in the same place each time.
Talk about what you can see, or not see. Others do not easily notice sight loss, especially if we appear to manage well.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help and take it when offered. If not all the time, balance this so that people are there when you need help. Guide them on how to help you. It is a real skill to guide you with a gentle voice or arm. Be patient.