When Dianne Woodford realised she had lost her sight overnight at the age of 38, she realised how easy it would be to fall into despair. But little by little, she picked herself up and found ways to rediscover the joy of living. Now, she's planning to write a book to try and encourage others who have been recently diagnosed and feel they're facing an uncertain future.
My Sight Loss Journey – A Diabetic’s Tale
by Dianne Woodford with Jim McIntosh
I am a single mother of three children and my story centres around the impact of losing my sight at the age of 38. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager and this gave rise to mental health issues, as I struggled to come to terms with the disorder as a teenage girl who just wanted to be the same as her friends.
At the diabetic clinic the specialist nurses kept reminding me that if I didn’t do things right I might eventually have complications, such as losing my sight. Knowing this could happen as I got older was overwhelming for a 14-year old. I felt like I was a real burden to my parents at this time and I couldn’t see an end to my problems so I tried to take matters into my own hands.
During a subsequent period as an in-patient on a psychiatric ward, I learned how to explain my concerns and started to take control of the diabetes. I completed my O levels at school, went to college and began a career as a carer and then a nurse.
I subsequently worked as a nurse for 19 years, ultimately becoming a Practice Nurse for a GP surgery in Hull and this gave me an understanding of the potential health issues that diabetics have to deal with. However I never thought it could happen to me.
Life moved on and I had three beautiful children from two marriages, both of which ended unsuccessfully. As a busy single Mum with three children and a full time job, my diabetes was not being well-controlled, making me more susceptible to illnesses.
As a result in April 2007 I contracted meningitis. Four months after having meningitis, I woke up one morning to find that overnight and without any warning I had lost my sight. I will never forget the date – 26 August 2007. Life would never be the same again. I now only have minimal vision in my left eye and am completely blind in the right.
Determined not to just accept it and let people care for me, I began to work out how to undertake the normal tasks any mother does and also set up my own charity called Visability to help other visually impaired people where I live in East Yorkshire.
My journey to independence was helped enormously when I got my own guide dog called Hattie a character in her own right with a particular liking for the pick and mix counter at a local shop.
My story also covers how I first came across the work done by the RNIB to assist visually impaired people like myself. Meeting some of the people involved in RNIB campaigns was a life-changing moment for me, and I developed an interest in actively assisting with RNIB campaigns.
After I lost my sight, what I really wanted was to read a biography about somebody’s life after sight loss but I couldn’t find any and this was the seed that started me thinking “one day I will write a book”. I am now doing this and my book will detail the ups and downs of my life with the aim of inspiring other visually impaired people to climb their own mountains. The book is due to be published in Autumn 2016 and hopefully will be followed by a second as I have too many stories to fit in one book!