At the age of 48, Michael Gray was on holiday with his wife Judith sitting on rocks and looking out to sea.
Suddenly, and without warning, one of his eyes began, in his words to “fog up”
He was diagnosed with a cataract and had to have a hole in his eye drilled to enable a lens to be inserted.
Some years later, Michael was working in a factory where he made fishing rods and he noticed he could no longer see the clock on the wall.
This time he was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which is an age-related medical condition affecting the middle part of the vision. It doesn’t cause total blindness, but it can make everyday activities like reading and recognising faces difficult. This was further compounded when Michael suffered a detached retina and had to undergo laser treatment
This came as a big blow to Michael who, even in retirement, liked to keep busy doing DIY jobs, pottering in his greenhouse and reading lots of books.
From 1959 to 1970, Michael served in The Royal Navy as an electrical mechanic, so on one of his hospital visits, he was asked if he knew of a charity called Blind Veterans UK.
Formerly known as St Dunstan’s, it was originally set up in 2015 to provide training, rehabilitation and lifelong support to those blinded in the First World War
Since then it has supported veterans across the UK with services such as convalescent care and holiday breaks.
St Dunstan’s was renamed Blind Veterans UK in 2012 to help more people understand who they are and what they do. They also launched their No One Alone campaign, to reach out to new blind veterans in need of support.
In Michael’s case, this has involved being given specialist equipment to help him around the home, such as a magnifier which enables him to read printed material, a boombox, which means he can listen to audiobooks, a talking watch, cane and dark glasses.
Michael, who lives in one of our homes in Hetton-le-Hole, says: “Before I encountered Blind Veterans UK I never had time for charities, but they have completely changed my life.
“As well as receiving equipment that can help me do everyday things, once a month they arrange for a carer to come around and I am taken out for the day to places like museums and the beach.
“This has all made a big difference and I am very grateful for their support.”
Blind Veterans UK currently support 4,000 people, but the charity says there are tens of thousands more veterans they could be helping. If you, or anyone you know, would benefit from the free support provided by the charity, you can call free on 0800 389 7979 to start the application process