‘A web of support for the whole family’: Wife Sheena on how Scottish War Blinded has changed family life after husband’s sight loss

Posted: 28/11/2018 | Scottish War Blinded

Sheena Tasker’s husband Mike joined Scottish War Blinded four years ago. 

The Royal Signals veteran has quadruple vision in his right eye following a bleed on the brain which came to the fore in 1996, and since then he has also developed cataracts in both eyes and light sensitivity.

The couple live in Brechin, and each month, together with Mike, Sheena attends the charity’s Dundee-based lunch group, run by Scottish War Blinded at Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society.

Mike Tasker (left) and Sheena Tasker (right) sit with their dog Thistle

Along with their registered assistance dog Mischka and trainee assistance dog Thistle, and even occasionally their young granddaughter, the couple catch up with friends they’ve made through the charity and share stories from the forces.

It’s just one of the huge changes Sheena says Scottish War Blinded has brought to both of their lives.

Sheena said: “It’s been brilliant, really. The charity had opened up more areas for the both of us. We’ve made some good friends at the lunch group, and now we can go to more social gatherings again – we wouldn’t have that otherwise.

“There’s a group of us from the lunch group who have exchanged numbers now to bounce ideas off each other. And it’s still all the forces, so we’ve got things in common to speak about.”

Sheena didn’t initially think Mike would be eligible for membership with the charity, having believed his sight loss level wouldn’t be sufficient for him to qualify.

But when a friend who was already a member encouraged them to get in touch, they were delighted to learn that the charity supports any veteran in Scotland with significant sight loss, and that it didn’t matter that Mike’s sight loss had occurred after his service. 

Sheena says she can call their local Outreach Worker, Carole Martin, and she always will be able to provide support and advice, or with permission refer her to the relevant organisation for help.

“Mike’s sight loss affects the both of us,” Sheena, a former nurse, said. “There’ve been ups and downs, and times when it’s been very difficult, but we take everything a day at a time.

“Scottish War Blinded takes a bit of the weight off me, knowing there’s someone there who I can contact and can help.

“The charity is there for the family. If anything were to happen to me, the family know that if they need help Scottish War Blinded is there. It’s just having that web of support.”

Mike has received various specialist equipment from the charity, including a talking watch, specialised lights, cup levels and a CCTV reader, which has allowed him to read again after nearly two decades.

And these devices have allowed Sheena to relax, she says, knowing her husband is living as independently as possible.

Sheena said: “Before Mike took ill he was an avid reader. The CCTV reader the charity has given him has been life-changing. 

“Now he can look at recipes, he’s coming through with packets of sauces and he’ll sit and read through instructions for any of the tools that he still can use. It’s an absolute Godsend. 

“We enjoy caravan holidays together, and Scottish War Blinded has also given us a portable magnifier, which means Mike can now read the road signs in the distance for directions.

“Seeing the Mike that I married makes me happy. I see him doing things that he hasn’t been able to do for so long. 

“Scottish War Blinded has helped Mike to be more himself. Things people take for granted he can now do himself again.”

And Sheena and Mike hope that in the near future they will be able to take a trip together to Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre in West Lothian to meet more veterans and family members – with former marksman Mike particularly keen to try out the acoustic shooting activity.