We’ve collected a number of case studies from some of our members who have benefited from the help and support provided by EYECAN Jersey.
When Glen was told he could no longer be a chef, the thing he loved most was taken away from him. But he found new hope with EYECAN.
Glen has been a chef all his working life. He arrived in Jersey as a fresh-faced 19 year old in 1980 and has worked in Island kitchens ever since. In 2012 Glen’s world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with diabetes and very quickly started to lose vision in both eyes. He is now registered blind and has mobility difficulties as a result of his condition.
With his career over, Glen felt his life had no purpose and his confidence was quickly eroded. At first he didn’t know what to do, or how he was going to live. Then a contact at Social Security put him in touch with EYECAN for assistance. He was nervous about contacting the society: he didn’t know what they did or how they could assist him. More than anything he didn’t want to be branded with being blind.
Glen soon discovered that EYECAN offers empathy not sympathy as well as advice and practical help for anyone with a sight impairment, no matter how serious. Glen still finds it amazing that so few people know about the work of EYECAN and he has now become very involved in the work of the charity, and a number of other user groups including the Disability Partnership Board, Speak Out and the Sanctuary Trust for Men in Crisis.
And Glen is back in the kitchen, the environment he loves, helping the crew at Westlea, which is just one of the ways in which he has fully embraced everything that is on offer. He believes EYECAN has been the prop that has given him back his direction and helped him to diversify. Glen is currently studying for a qualification in counselling and psychotherapy at Highlands College and is applying what he is learning in a practical way every day through the different groups and societies he is engaged with.
Jem was born with cataracts and has worn prescribed lenses from the age of three months. But that hasn’t stopped him from being very competitive.
Like any 12 year old Jem likes playing video games, football, tennis and doing all the other things young boys enjoy. But Jem’s great passion is chess and he’s already proving a force to be reckoned with. One day he hopes to be the Channel Islands’ first Grand Master.
Despite wearing lenses from as young as three months’ old, Jem has never allowed his visual impairment to stand in his way. There are some practical tasks he struggles with initially, but his determination usually wins through and with practice he can achieve almost anything he wants to.
Jem’s parents want him to have the same opportunities as his siblings, and whilst that brings challenges and occasionally stress, they have found the support that EYECAN delivers through advice and guidance, and working with local schools to create a safe and positive environment for sight children, has been invaluable.
After her daughter was born, Emilie lost the vision in one eye. There is a risk that, if she has another child, she could lose her sight altogether.
Emilie’s mum first noticed problems when she was about six years old. Emilie had become quite lethargic and after tests were conducted, doctors decided to remove one of her kidneys. Her vision was also giving her problems at school and, although she was prescribed glasses, her sight continued to deteriorate.
When she was ten Emilie was sent to Southampton Hospital and Great Ormond Street where she was diagnosed with uveitis, an inflammation of the optic nerve which can be caused by hereditary conditions.
The treatment continued and Emilie had cataracts removed and injections in the eye, which caused scarring and led to glaucoma. Despite this, and a number of other conditions, Emilie drew on her naturally positive personality to enjoy every moment of her life.
At 21 she married Scott and soon they were expecting their first child. Emilie says she has never been as well as when she was pregnant but when Freya was born she unexpectedly lost the sight in her right eye, and with diminished vision in her left eye already the challenge of being a mother soon dawned on her, and she realized she would have to learn to do things differently from other young mums.
Emilie was aware of EYECAN but thought it was mainly for ‘old people’ and so initially stayed away from the organisation, preferring instead to set up her own support group of younger people with impaired sight. But she soon realised that EYECAN offers a whole range of services and support for people of all ages and conditions that could make her life so much easier, and help her maintain her independence.
The support group still meets on a regular basis in town. It’s a very close-knit group of people who help each other out, share ideas and advice and look out for each other. Some of the members are also volunteers at Westlea, where Emilie comes for advice and training.
The team at Westlea has helped Emilie to get over the stigma of using a cane. At first she was worried that little Freya would think her mummy was different from everyone else but in fact it’s the other way round: she thinks people without a cane are unusual.
EYECAN gives Emilie practical solutions to every day living, and that in turn has helped her to maintain her independence. Simple things like a potwatcher to tell her when the water in a pan is boiling and a one cup kettle so she can make herself a cup of tea when she wants one, rather than having to wait for Scott to get home from work.
Emilie has had to accept that she needs assistance and, by listening, supporting, and providing aids or equipment that EYECAN has given that assistance in a non-patronising and practical way.
Norma says she isn’t really a meeting person, so when she was first invited to come along to Westlea Centre she was a bit reluctant.
Norma came from her native Durham when her parents retired to Jersey, where she fell in love with and married a Jerseyman and settled in the Island.
For many years she devoted her time at Les Chênes Residential School, while raising a family. When her husband Fred suffered a stroke and was moved into long-term residential care, Norma had to adjust to life with a different set of priorities.
Norma had first noticed problems with her eyesight about ten years ago and over time her vision has deteriorated. She suffers from a genetic condition called thyroid eye disease and, although she has been to the UK to have cataracts removed, her condition has not improved. Doctors have now told her the only option left is to have an operation on her eye, something which, understandably, she doesn’t want to risk at her splendid age of 85.
Norma may be a very independent woman, but she also enjoys the company of friends and wants to get as much out of life as possible. So when Chris from the EYECAN came to see her and asked her to come to a meeting at Westlea, it was the beginning of a new chapter and a world of opportunity opened up for her.
Despite her initial reluctance she now visits the centre every Tuesday to share stories with her friends Joyce, Betty and Audrey; to continue her love of painting; and to choose from the vast library of audio books. Norma likes any autobiography, biography or thriller and takes the books home to listen to them with her beloved Burmese cat, Bertie.
Norma has a little trouble walking so she is brought to Westlea each week in the charity’s minibus. As well as arts and craft, and the social aspect of meeting her friends, Norma enjoys the entertainment that is often put on in the afternoons.