A blind National Service veteran from Hull is encouraging blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women to access services and support from the national military charity that has helped him adjust to life with sight loss.
Bill Skinner, 81, has been receiving support from Blind Veterans UK since 2008, after losing his sight due to age-related macular degeneration.
Ex-Army man Bill was called up to the East Yorkshire regiment in 1952 as part of his National Service, and spent two years serving in Germany and the UK.
Bill said: “I had a great time in service, apart from just one day – not long after I’d joined up, I was involved in an accident with a grenade and was left with a punctured lung and seven pieces of shrapnel all around my body. Luckily, I was 18 at the time and was fit enough to recover, and go on to complete the rest of my service.”
After leaving service, Bill returned to work at the ink manufacturer he’d worked at before joining up. But due to the injury to his lung, he was forced to change jobs and went to work on the docks, where he stayed until retirement aged 65.
It was during retirement when Bill noticed something was wrong with his sight: “I was playing golf one day and everything started to look distorted. I’d been given a clean bill of health at a check-up a couple of months before, so I called my optician as soon as I got home.
“I was referred to the consultant at the hospital and after about a month, I was told that there was nothing they could do for me and that I was going to lose the sight in my left eye. Then, a bit later on, the sight in my right eye was affected as well.”
Bill was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, which has now almost completely robbed him of his sight. At the eye hospital, the ECLO (eye clinic liaison officer) asked Bill if he’d served in the military, and because he did, she gave him Blind Veterans UK’s contact details and encouraged him to get in touch.
Bill said: “Losing my sight was hard, but I don’t let it stop me, I don’t let it get me down, and Blind Veterans UK has helped make a difference. The best thing is that they’ve helped me with equipment at home, so I can still read things, and I can listen to audio books, and I can still use my computer. They set up my computer with audio and magnifying software, and have given me training to use them, so now I’ve got a room at home with everything set up so I do what I like – it’s brilliant.
“I’ve visited the charity’s centre in Sheffield a couple of times, and my wife has always come with me, which we’ve both enjoyed. I was quite happy doing my training sessions, and she was able to make new friends with the other wives and partners.”
Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans, like Bill, discover life beyond sight loss. The charity has three training centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno, North Wales and a network of welfare officers around the UK.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and are now battling severe sight loss, call 0800 389 7979 or go to www.noonealone.org.uk.