Getting the old Natasha back

23 February 2016
Natasha Rocca recently lost her sight and has shared her experience of rehabilitation with us and what the support should look like.
My name is Natasha Rocca, I’m 26 and I live in Croydon. 
I’m type one diabetic and in 2013 I unfortunately discovered I had renal failure and then a short while afterwards, detached retinas in both eyes.
Once all of my operations were complete at the beginning of 2015, I realised my sight wasn’t returning and fell into depression. I felt I couldn't leave the house, go to the shops or travel to see my friends or family. I became fearful of simple things like crossing the road, taking steps, and darkness.
I was registered severely visually impaired in April 2015. Within a couple of weeks of being registered, Croydon Council called to make me aware that they were now dealing with my case and that the visual impairment team within the sensory team would be contacting me very shortly. A few days later, I had a phone call to say that Neil would be meeting me at my home next week to go through everything I needed to learn as well as carrying out an assessment around the home. I didn't really know why they were coming as it was all so new to me and a little scary - one day I was sighted and the next I wasn't! All I remembered was that someone was coming to help me and I was so grateful. 
Neil arrived at my home the following week. He was so lovely and calm about the whole situation. He provided me with all the information I needed and advised about some lighting within the home to improve my vision while moving around. I had never thought about changing simple things within the home that could enhance my vision but the ideas were great and I took them on board. He explained that a guy called Greg would come round and chat about travelling around. 
Within a few days, Greg had contacted me and scheduled in a date to meet me at my home. The thought of using a cane or a guide dog made me feel so self-conscious. I was so adamant that when Greg arrived to talk about it, I was going to have nothing to do with canes or guide dogs. 
Greg arrived a week later and, just like Neil, he was very calm and understanding about the situation. I’ve always been worried about being patronised by people who don’t know me but this was never the case.
Greg explained that he would design a mobility programme for me based on the routes I use. This meant that hopefully I wouldn’t need to see him again!
He broke the mobility programme down into small sections for me to understand. He couldn't stress enough that it didn't matter how long it took me to adjust to travelling independently again as long as I was progressing and felt more confident in getting out and about.
Greg went out of his way to change my view on using a long cane and suggested changing the colour of it, this started to make me think about how I could create a fashion accessory and that was definitely more appealing to me! 
I was so nervous during my first sessions and only felt confident when I could see, which is obviously not a lot! I would just stop until I could try and gauge my surroundings. But with Greg's patience and determination, he quickly got my confidence up to a standard where I was heading into London and onto Oxford Street! My issue was patience, I knew this; I still wanted to walk at 40 mph with the rest of London’s commuters. 
I now travel to audition venues I've never been to before, travel to and from work every day which is about an hour and a half journey, I commute during rush hour and I venture into town to meet friends for dinner. No location is an issue for me to get to anymore and the old Natasha is back! 
Greg stepping in and providing this service so quickly has really helped me get back on my feet and back to work quicker than I ever expected. I am so glad that I was seen and helped so quickly!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the local authority involved as soon as possible when you’re diagnosed as visually impaired.  
I can only hope that anyone who has been recently diagnosed and is not offered rehabilitation, gets this support as soon as possible, and local authorities improve the support available for people with sight loss.