Decisive action from Rebecca Armstrong’s eye specialist meant the mother of four could start her life again.
Five years ago, Ms Armstrong suffered a cardiac arrest that left her blind due to vestibular damage. While learning to walk again, she struggled to understand whether her blindness would ever go away.
“With my case it took a long time for doctors to even say, it might get better or it might not,” she said. “It was always a waiting game. It put my life on hold for five years.”
Ms Armstrong is now making progress, having completed two Quality Living Groups, one designed for parents and one for adults
Fortunately, a simple, decisive action, four years after her cardiac arrest changed Ms Armstrong’s life’s trajectory.
My ophthalmologist said, “Ok, it’s been stable for two years, it’s not getting any better so I think we need to call it and take the next steps”. With that, she referred Ms Armstrong on to Vision Australia, the not-for-profit national provider of blindness and low vision services in Australia.
Ms Armstrong says this was the first time anyone had pushed her to take control and to learn to live with blindness rather than sitting still and waiting.
Reflecting on the first contact she had with Vision Australia she said, “I went from struggling, to talking to someone who completely understood what I was saying, and I just broke down.”
It is a known fact that people who are blind or have low vision are 2.5 times more likely to develop depression than the general public.1 In the case of Ms Armstrong, all the frustration, loneliness and shock of vision loss came out at that initial meeting and she was immediately connected to Vision Australia’s emotional support groups. Called Quality Living Groups, they are invaluable to people with blindness or vision loss. Facilitated by experienced coordinators, participants are able to talk through their frustrations and emotions.
Ms Armstrong said the groups changed her outlook on life. “I went from feeling completely lost and alone to all of a sudden having this group of people who completely understood how I was feeling.
“It made me so much more motivated and brought me out of that feeling of ‘What’s the point, why bother?”
Ms Armstrong is now making progress, having completed two Quality Living Groups, one designed for parents and one for adults.
“I was reliant on my partner, so the groups really got me excited to explore all the programs on offer and what I can do to bring myself out of that horrible loop,” she said.
The groups also provide information on the support available to help people who are newly blind or have low vision. This ranges from easy-to-use new technology like screen readers and magnifiers, to advice on adjusting things at home or learning to get around the neighbourhood again.
Vision Australia’s Quality Living Groups are tailored to participants’ needs, so no two courses are the same. You can find out more about Vision Australia’s social and emotional support groups here.
To refer a patient, visit visionaustralia.org
1. Centre for Eye Research Australia, Clear Insight: The Economic Impact and Cost of Vision Loss in Australia, Aug 2004