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Jo-Ann’s story

Jo-Ann Knight was diagnosed with advanced glaucoma following a routine eye test. Her diagnosis started a journey that would change her life.

I live a full and wonderful life.

I received a letter from the Government on my 60th birthday, advising I’d now get free eye tests and prescriptions, so off I went to the opticians.

Up until that point, a previous optician had told me I simply needed reading glasses, so I’d just kept buying stronger and stronger over-the-counter glasses and hadn’t bothered making another appointment.

My new optician did the ‘puff’ test and immediately sent me to the nearest emergency eye clinic, a 30-minute drive away. That optician has my undying gratitude. I was unable to drive at that time, due to having my foot in a boot from a snapped Achilles tendon a few months earlier. So, my daughter drove me to the clinic where it was confirmed I had advanced glaucoma in both eyes. I was unaware at that time that my vision had deteriorated. Had I continued to drive, this story may have had a different ending. A snapped Achilles tendon and an excellent optician saved my life.

I was scared when they told me the news. I thought I’d go blind, because that’s what glaucoma meant to me at that time. I wasn’t given any information, other than being told I’d be on drops for the rest of my life and would need to notify the DVLA.

At the time I was diagnosed, I had very little peripheral vision left, no depth perception and no contrast capability. My diagnosis started a journey that would change my life. I had frequent hospital appointments, many different efforts to reduce the pressure including cataract surgery, a trabeculectomy in my left eye (I’m an aggressive healer, so it didn’t work) and several laser treatments. Finally, a decision was made to concentrate on my right eye, the strongest one, and I had a shunt inserted. My pressure is now just within the required range thanks to putting in eye drops three times a day.

I’ve had to change how I live my day-to-day life. Stairs without edge markings are scary, crossing the road is scary, and I don’t go out at night. Because I’m not bumping into furniture, my family often forget I’m visually impaired (VI). I’m the first one in the family with glaucoma and my children now have regular eye tests

It would have been useful to me if I was given more information at the beginning of my journey with glaucoma and sight loss. I floundered for about two years, buying a variety of aids, and trying to navigate this new way of living. It was purely coincidental that a VI friend introduced me to a lady who told me to get registered as VI. Her organisation came to my rescue with various aids, taught me to use a long cane and showed me so much, that I began to grow in confidence to manage this new life alone. I wish I’d been pointed in the direction of help much sooner.

My advice to anyone newly diagnosed with glaucoma is don’t panic, it will be alright. glaucoma is not a death sentence, it’s a condition. If caught early and with sensible life choices, it’s manageable. You just need to be prepared to change how you operate on a day-to-day basis.

Though I’ve lost several aspects of my vision, I will always be grateful for glaucoma. I retired and instead of the sedentary, solitary retirement I’d envisaged, I was introduced to a community of VI people. I belong to so many different interest groups that I barely have time to scratch my head. I’ve learned to adapt my daily living to accommodate the shortcomings of my vision. I’ve made the most of all the help I can get from other VI people, charities, associations and technology.  I live a full and wonderful life. And while I’m aware that a glaucoma diagnosis can sometimes hinder your life, for me it has been life-changing in so many positive ways.