National Eye Health Week - 'A howl of rage and fear'

Posted: Tuesday 25 September 2018 at 14:19

As a hospital optometrist I met a patient named Mary at both the macular and low vision clinics, when she attended due to her advanced macular disease. She had a very positive outlook on life and I thought she seemed to be coping with whatever life, and her deteriorating vision, threw at her. 

Mary volunteered to take part in a research project I was working on, which involved me visiting and interviewing her in her own home. It was only when I met her in that context I realised how difficult and stressful life really was for her.   

In that interview I witnessed what can only be described as a howl of rage and fear, both at her own inability to cope with her deteriorating vision and at society’s lack of understanding.

Mary had always been active and involved in her community, now she was living in terror. Her biggest fear was that her elderly husband would have to stop driving or worse that he would die, leaving her alone. 

In private she was obviously depressed, anxious and becoming less confident every week. She felt increasingly unable to manage simple tasks such as cooking and sewing. Even interacting with own family became difficult, as she felt they were unable to understand the emotional and physical journey she was on. 

She was very isolated and went to bed at eight o’clock most nights, as it was easier than going out for an evening walk, or even trying to watch television. 

Meeting Mary in her own home was an important lesson to me and demonstrated the extent of the struggles people with macular disease face – even if they seem to be taking it in their stride. 

People should not have to face this debilitating condition alone and that is why the services the Macular Society is able to offer are so vital. The Society is able to support people effectively, in a way that a busy eye clinic is not always able to.

- Alison Guthrie, Macular Society Trustee and hospital optometrist