Charity’s listening ear can help others like Meggie

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Losing sight in one eye without any warning shook 87-year-old Meggie Watt’s world but a charity’s talking service has helped her rebuild her life.

One morning about 12 years ago, Meggie who lives in Oban woke up and could not see out of her left eye.

She went to her doctor who found there had been a massive bleed and at a follow-up hospital referral she was diagnosed with Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a chronic condition where blood vessels leak into the main part of the eye’s retina.

Meggie never regained her sight and six years ago AMD started to affect her right eye too. Despite treatment over the years – including more than 12 injections into her eyeball – her vision has not improved and she has little left.

Now registered blind, Meggie is waiting to see if specialists will remove a cataract to clear the sight she still has but it will not give her more.

Thanks to a counselling service run by the RNIB called Need to Talk, Meggie has a listening ear when she needs it and wants to encourage other people on a sight loss journey to use it too.

Retired social worker Meggie said her life changed from the morning she lost sight in her left eye. She gave up the aromatherapy service she was providing at North Argyll Cares Centre because of it and eventually stopped her spirit-guided art work – her drawings are on walls all over the world, including South Africa and at a haematology department in a hospital in India.

‘There were lots of things I couldn’t do anymore but I have found ways to readjust. I can’t read by sight without aids but I have enough vision to be able to get around. I use a reader device to read, I love learning new things.

The impact of AMD also rattled her confidence and mental health, but Meggie is still fiercely independent despite daily challenges and is determined to enjoy life with help from national sight loss charity RNIB.

‘When I still had vision in my right eye it wasn’t so bad as I could still see with that. But when that started going that’s when I felt this is going to change everything. It was very traumatic then. I am an outside person, an organiser. I’m still adjusting to my sight loss. It’s still a challenge.’

But it was through the RNIB using its Talking Books that she found out about its Need To Talk counselling service.

‘Just having someone to talk to and listen, to know that other people are going through the same thing as you and realising that you’re not alone is so valuable. Need to Talk opened up new avenues for me and it made me realise there are people worse off than me.

‘I would recommend it to anyone who is diagnosed with sight loss. It’s a fantastic service. At first diagnosis, people probably aren’t at that stage where they can think beyond their condition. When you’re ready, that’s when you’ll feel up to asking other people with sight loss how they cope.

‘Like any medical condition, you have your find your own way to come to terms with it, but you can do this more easily if the support is there,’ said Meggie, who also started up Oban’s Blind Vision group, a support group for the visually impaired and blind community in the area, which is still running.