March 2008

Latest News March 2008

Well hello to everybody out there in cyberland. Our thanks for all the emails received as people have become aware of this site. We are ploughing through them as best we can and we will respond to everybody who has contacted us. Promise! Even Biscuit is learning a touch typing course as we speak!

Picture of Cathy standing in front of the bike with Bernard sat on it and in the background.

Media Picture

The latest National publication to feature Cathy has been ‘Yours’ magazine who did an excellent full page article on various aspects of her life as she talked candidly about her past with Sam Howells. It really is a very good article. The article was sparked by the Radio 4 interview (Inheritance Tracks) completed with Cathy’s sister. Various papers have started to contact us about the story and so we will wait and see where this eventually leads. We are not getting too excited as we have been here before only to end up somewhat deflated as fickle winds have blown through our optimism!

As you may be aware our departure date has now been set as Cathy has just had her second, and final, operation (now on her left eye). The nature of the difficulties has led to several adjustments of the departure date. While this is true, the homepage countdown is now fixed and each successive day brings us closer and closer to the start.

Cathy is currently recuperating after having the latest operation (cataract on her left eye). This operation was largely preventative and was used as a control for her glaucoma. Currently her eye pressures are 14 and 16 and so things are looking well with both pressures being under 20. When we eventually arrive in Australia we will have her eye pressures checked just to be on the safe side; fingers crossed they’ll be fine. It is important to state the operations for cataracts will have no impact on her vision at all – they have been used purely to control pressures. Cathy remains part of the four or five percent of people who are blind and have no vision at all.

Cathy and I would like to express our thanks to the Surgeons, nurses, and all the staff who took part in her care at Warrington General Hospital. Our special thanks to Mrs Wishart who operated on Cathy and who was so kind and full of information on the numerous visits required.

Biscuit – as always – made many friends on these visits to the hospital (from wards to canteens). Myself and Biscuit spent some time with a fellow patient (who had Down’s Syndrome). ‘Mary’ was extremely anxious about her operation and Biscuit managed to squeeze lots of laughs out of her with her ‘googly-eyed’ antics and requests for tummy tickles. There is nothing like a dog to de-stress people!

Picture of Bernard and Cathy sat on the bike with a disabled parking badge in the windshield.

Disabled parking?

My thanks also to all the people who thought I was blind and leapt out of my way as I walked Biscuit through the hospital! Also to the kind staff in the restaurant who insisted on carrying the tray to my table even though I did tell them I wasn’t blind but only looking after Biscuit for a patient. They then disappeared to get a bowl of water without any prompting at all. As I walked though the hospital people would continue to jump sideways out of my way throughout the day. I took Biscuit in and out the hospital several times during the day (after all she did need to go and sniff every tree in the grounds) and the same thing happened each time. In some ways it can create a real quandary for me as a sighted person when people react this way. Biscuit was with us for several reasons and it lead to some interesting events:

1. Biscuit cannot really be left alone for any length of time. Guide Dogs do actually say that a dog should not be left alone for extended periods – this means three to four hours or longer. Since we were to be in the hospital for about eight hours this meant she had to come with us as we had no access to anyone to look after her. Thus Biscuit was left in charge of me – rather than the other way round! I’m sure you can imagine that people made – natural – assumptions that “Guide dog equals blind” and then reacted in their normal kind and considerate way.

2. To enter and leave the hospital (by law) she has to wear her harness. Much like any Guide Dog, it is the harness which determines the role of the dog; so a blind person with a dog but without the harness would not constitute a ‘Guide Dog’ and so can be denied entry (people seldom do, but this is a fact). Thus I could have taken the harness off Biscuit but – legally – she then cannot enter the building. I must admit I did take the harness off once going in (to save people thinking I was blind) and it did not make no difference – people still pushed each other out of the way for ‘the blind guy’; by then carrying the harness.

I gave up in the end and left the harness on while only using the lead.

Another observation concerned newspapers.

Throughout the day I had several newspapers in my bag (I read for Catherine while we passed the hours before surgery). I didn’t dare read it on my own in the canteen after everybody was so considerate in ‘looking after’ me. It would have looked terribly strange to people if I suddenly took out the daily paper and started reading it with Biscuit asleep under the table!

While this is true I think it is important to realise many blind people do actually have some useful vision. The popular view is that  ‘blind means nothing’ where most blind people can see something. It is possible for somebody who is ‘blind’ to be able to read a paper.  It may well be much more difficult and strenuous than for you and I but it can be achieved. Sometimes it can be done with eye alone or sometimes the person may use some form of hand held magnification.

Only about four or five percent of ‘blind’ people have ‘no useful vision’. Think about it. This means that about 95 percent of people registered blind can see something (even if it is merely knowing whether it is light or dark; called ‘light perception’). Cath exists in the four or five percent who cannot see anything.

So if you ever see a ‘blind’ person reading a paper don’t think anything of it. They are not ‘kidding you’ or ‘having you on’. Until you can see through somebody else’s eyes, you can not realise what it is like. As a sighted person I just accept that I can never know or fully appreciate the impact of sight loss. As I once said in an article:

“You cannot really understand sight loss by reading a book about it. You have to be the central character in the book to truly understand.”

This means each blind person experiences things in different ways and responds in their own individual way. There are a multitude of ‘blind’ people and each person is unique; there should be no stereotype applied.  Much like you and I really as we trundle through our lives. We all wish to be an individual.

Our best wishes to everybody out there who are keeping up with our progress.
If anybody would like to become involved in the sponsorship of the journey please email us.
Watch this space for further news.


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