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GaryGary

When I was fourteen I was hit in the eye by a cricket ball. This caused internal bleeding and I spent five days in hospital as consequence. That left my right eye weak, and I am now blind in it. Except for the cricket ball incident; up to the age of fifteen I had quite a normal life. I was in the boys brigade, had a paper round and was in the army cadets. While I was on a run for the cadets I fell over and injured my right knee. I managed to finish the race. Later that day I went to hospital and was treated for fluid on the knee. I was given crutches as it went on for quite a while. I ended up in Gravesend hospital where they mistakenly gave me traction and it was eventually discovered I had rheumatic fever. I spent 9 weeks in hospital having tests and bed rest for my knee. The rheumatism moved from my knee to the rest of my body. I was unable to walk and had to learn to walk again starting slow and working my way up. I started with a zimmer frame, then went onto walking sticks and wheel chair. I put on a lot of weight due to the steroids and being bed bound for a long time. My brother came to visit me and didn’t recognize me due to the steroids. After that I carried on at school, using a taxi over a six month period. The doctor sorted out my pills and I slimmed down and started walking without aids.

I left school, stayed in the cadets and started working for Blue Circle cement, testing cement; making it testing it and breaking it up. I worked in North Fleet, Swanscomb, Hull. I then went into shift work and started making paper cement bags and did this until I was 30 and had to stop due to illness. I had a bad flare up all over my body due to the rheumatoid arthritis. I was bad for about a year, unable to walk and was in a lot of pain. I started off with conjunctivitis and then it turned into iritis. I had a crilogy operation; done with ice. After this operation I lost the sight in my right eye. I carried on with life pretty well after this. It didn’t stop me getting on with things. I still worked and drove and supported my wife and three children. My two sons were ill from birth due to genetic blood disorders from my wife’s side. I carried on working with the odd flare up and aches and pains until I packed up through ill health at the age of 31.

When I was 35 my father was dying of cancer and I was very busy supporting my mum and dad, driving backwards and forwards all the time for about six months until he passed away. By the end of this period I was feeling physically and emotionally drained, then my left eye started to play up. It happened soon after my father’s death. I switched the television on and it was all purple. My wife took me to the hospital and from there I started having treatment for pressure at the back of the eye until they referred me to Farnborough Hospital. Here I had an operation to place a drain in my left eye and was left temporarily blind. In hospital I got very depressed worrying about not seeing my wife or children again. After two months of blindness I started to get a pin holes worth of vision in my left eye, which wasn’t central so I had to move my head at funny angles to see anything. After six months my vision returned to a reasonable level and has stayed at that level since. I am classed as partly sighted. Some time later I had a cataract operation on this eye but fortunately my vision has stayed the same.

Due to my steroid treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis I now have osteoporosis and have had to have both knees replaced. At the moment I am having trouble with my left hip. I have always used two sticks to support my legs when walking but due to not being able to hold them properly in my right hand I am only able to support my left side. Due to the arthritis in my fingers, both hands and wrists need to be operated on in order to straighten them out, so that I have a greater range of use with them. It is looking likely that I will need the same operation on my feet, as my feet are turning out and my toes are curling under and turning out. I have recently been told that I will need my hips replaced as well.

My situation is that I am now divorced and live alone and my condition is getting worse. It makes me feel really depressed. I try not to use any anti depressants and stay positive but it is hard, very hard. It is hard to get about. I generally only venture out to Creatability at Swanley and the hospitals. These are accessed by transport through the services. Having a service or centre to go to is a great escape for me as I get a change of scenery, meet other people and have a laugh.