The most helpful conversation I've had
Employment lawyer Anna Fletcher called the Society’s Helpline when, after seven years of experiencing symptoms, she was diagnosed with punctate inner choroidopathy (PIC).
She had been struggling to find support and had even been told by her employer's, then private health provider, that there was no treatment and that she would go blind. This was completely at odds with the medical advice she had received, but nevertheless upsetting to hear.
Anna was directed to the Society’s Helpline, where she was put in touch with the free counselling service. For the first time since losing her sight Anna was able to think positively about the future.
She said: “I was devastated. I spoke to someone from the counselling service and it’s really hard to describe how it made me feel. It was the most helpful conversation I had had outside a clinical environment. It was a really pivotal moment for me and made me feel like it was going to be OK. I would adapt and learn to get on with it, which is pretty much what I have done.”
She added: “I decided that I just didn't have any choice. I had a new baby, a family and a job I loved, so I just had to get on with it.”
Anna first experienced symptoms of PIC in 1997 when vision in her left eye became distorted. It wasn’t until she started losing sight in her right eye, seven years later, she was finally given a diagnosis.
She said: “I just got used to operating with one eye. But when I was on maternity leave I started experiencing the same symptoms in my right eye and I knew there was a big issue.”
Anna, aged 48, works for global firm Gowling WLG. The firm and her colleagues have always been incredibly supportive of her condition. She said her clients, who are often HR professionals, are very understanding.
Anna is heavily involved in supporting the firm's disability network and encourages people to talk about their issues.
She said: "One of the things I remember being advised by my first Access to Work adviser was that things can go wrong in the workplace because people stop, or perhaps never start, talking to one another."
Anna added: “It's important for employers to focus on what someone can do and how they can keep that person in work, rather than seeing a condition as a problem."
Through Anna, Gowlings has kindly provided pro bono legal support to the Society to help to further the work of the Society’s call to increase the level of research funding into macular degeneration.