Macular Week: Member Story, George Heenan

Posted: 28/06/2018 | Scottish War Blinded

Macular degeneration occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD usually affects people over 60 but it can happen earlier. In the UK around 600,000 people are affected by AMD – it is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world. 

Serving in the RAF in his younger years, George now 80, joined Scottish War Blinded at the end of 2017. George first noticed his sight deteriorating four years ago, and so booked himself an appointment with the optician. This initial appointment identified George did indeed have some problems, and so was referred to another clinic, where during his examination he remarked, “What’s wrong with the screen? There are dark marks on it.” The screen was in fact in perfect condition and this was when George realised his sight was no longer what it used to be, and was diagnosed with macular degeneration. 

After this George had to give up his driving and began to feel other aspects of his normal life impacted too. 

“I miss reading the most, books and papers. I’m a member of a community council and the notes are always hand written, and I can’t read these now so my wife does it for me.”

However, with support from Scottish War Blinded George is gaining new skills and adjusting to his sight loss with equipment provided by the charity. 

“I’ve received equipment from Scottish War Blinded and another charity called Visibility including antiglare glasses, a symbol cane, lighting and magnifiers. These items really help me to do things independently.

“But it’s not just the equipment that’s helped. I love coming to the Hawkhead Centre! I always say my week starts on a Tuesday as that’s the day I come here. The staff really are amazing and cannot do enough. They’ve shown me that there are so many things I can still do! I’ve made a bird bath in woodwork and I can enjoy art with the help of lighting and magnifiers, something I didn’t think I could manage. My next goal is to take up a musical instrument, so Josie will be giving me lessons on the accordion.”

When asked to depart advice to others with macular degeneration, George said:

“Firstly, if you think there has been a change with your vision, visit your optician as soon as you can. Everyone is different, but try to accept that this change in your sight will impact your “normal” life and you will, to start with be at a loss. It’s important to seek help, with the right support you will learn to find a new normal and you’ll be surprised at what you can still do.”

Are you or do you know of a National Service or Armed Forces Veteran with sight loss? It’s free to access the Linburn Centre, Hawkhead Centre and our Scotland-wide outreach service. For more information call 0800 035 6409.