“The problems diabetes could cause were never really drilled into me; either that or I didn’t want to hear them.”

Richard has had type 1 diabetes since he was 16 which eventually lead to him losing most of his sight. We spoke to him recently about the dangers that diabetes can bring in terms of sight loss, his personal experience and how coming to Henshaws has helped him.

“I’ve had type 1 diabetes since I was 16, to be honest I didn’t really look after my blood sugars as I should have. I remember on one occasion when I went on holiday for two weeks and didn’t take any treatment for it. The problems this could cause were never really drilled into me; either that or I didn’t want to hear them.

I’d worked all my life since I was 16, doing a lot of nights and a lot of driving. One night I was driving home and was struggling to focus on the road, I thought I was just tired from work so I came off at the next junction. When I stopped I closed one of my eyes and realised I couldn’t see anything out of the other! I didn’t even realise that my sight was going. Looking back if I had of managed my diabetes better it may have not got to this stage.

I went to see a specialist at Stepping Hill Hospital who thought my sight loss was down to my diabetes causing blood vessels in my eye to blow, creating an internal mask of blood. I had various operations to try to restore the sight but they didn’t work, I was left completely blind in my right eye with just a small tunnel of vision in my left.

Where I live I have a close circle of friends, when I lost my sight I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, I didn’t want them to see me with a stick or a dog so I kept a lot of it to myself. People don’t realise that, if you’re not a strong minded person, your life can feel destroyed when you lose your sight. For me the biggest thing was losing my job because I couldn’t drive; I felt as if I’d lost all of my independence.

Richard smiling at the camera

I first heard about Henshaws through one of my mums friends, we rang and asked how they could help me and I signed up to the Skillstep course. I’ve since done two Skillstep courses, in 2011 and 2015. Initially, one of the biggest benefits from coming to the courses was that it gave me the chance to interact with people who had gone through what I had and with similar conditions; it helped me tell myself “you’re not the only person who is blind”. We all learnt from each other on the course, it was the first place where I wasn’t embarrassed about my sight loss and the struggles it brings because everyone is in the same position.”

“Without Henshaws, I wouldn’t like to think where I would be; a lot of people give up when they lose their sight, to be honest I’d say that Henshaws saved my life. I had reached a point where I’d just sit at home because life had become too difficult but coming to Henshaws allowed me to interact with people with similar problems. I looked forward to coming to each of the sessions because of the community feel of them; it brings people out of their shells and helps them overcome their visual impairment.”

“I’ve met quite a few younger people with diabetes who had a similar attitude that I did at their age. I try to use my experience to help them fully appreciate the consequences it can have, especially in terms of sight loss and other health issues. I’m lucky that I still have some of my sight left, even if it is a small percentage, through sharing my story and experience I hope others can avoid the adverse affects diabetes can have.”

Diabetes UK have a number of webpages about managing your diabetes and the affect mismanaging can have on your sight:

This Diabetes Week, Diabetes UK want to make it easier for you to have tricky conversations about diabetes, with your doctor, your friends and family, and people you’ve just met. Follow #TalkAboutDiabetes on Twitter from Monday 11th June until Sunday 17th June to learn more.

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