Inverness veteran who lost sight after stroke is regaining life-long hobbies with vision impairment charity's support

Press Release | 18/06/2019

An Inverness veteran who has significant sight loss after suffering a stroke is regaining his life-long fishing hobby with the support of a vision impairment charity.  

Del Tulloch, 75, was told he would not survive the night when his stroke hit in January last year – but after eight months in hospital the determined veteran is fighting back.

The life-changing illness has left the talented fisherman in a wheelchair and with very poor sight, meaning he can no longer see to tie flies for fishing.     

But with a variety of specialist equipment provided free of charge from charity Scottish War Blinded, including a CCTV reader which magnifies onto a large screen, the master fly-tier is getting to grips with his hobby once again.  

The grandfather-of-three said: “I’ve been fishing since I was four and I used to tie a lot of flies. I think it’s just being outdoors I liked. I miss that terribly.

“With the CCTV magnifier I can pass on my knowledge of fly tying to friends. I’ve started to do this again now.”

The Royal Air Force veteran, who was also a dedicated golfer before his stroke and remains a regular at Inverness Golf Club, admits his “stubbornness” is seeing him through the challenges he faces.  

“The doctors told me I was going to die,” said the father-of-two. “I was so determined I wasn’t going to die.

“At first having a stroke made me angry. It’s taken a lot of the things I was used to away. It’s changed my life. I was told I would never walk again, but I’m starting to make inroads towards that and walk a bit.

“I’m determined. I think because I’ve been stubborn, that’s why I’ve got on so well.

“My eyesight is the one of the things I miss the most. It’s taken away my driving and a lot of other things.

“My left eye has gone altogether as far as I’m concerned. It’s an unpleasant thing to have.”

Del’s forces background made him eligible for support from Scottish War Blinded and he became a member while he was still in hospital last year.

Scottish War Blinded Outreach Worker Sheena Menzies, who supports the charity’s members in the Highlands, worked closely with Del and his wife, Phyllis, to establish what kind of specialist low vision aids and support the couple needed. 

When Del returned home, various specialist equipment – from talking clocks to magnifiers – was already there waiting for him, all provided by the charity free of charge.

The CCTV reader is one of the latest pieces of equipment he’s received, as well as a Synapptic smartphone, which has specialist software for users with a vision impairment, and he describes as “an asset”.

And Del’s wife of 38 years, Phyllis, says it all makes a huge difference to life at home, as does the support of Outreach Worker Sheena.

“Before his stroke, Del would be out fishing all the time with his friends,” Phyllis said. “He was at the golf course every day, every day of his life, virtually.

“His friends still see him all the time now, but his sight loss has been the biggest thing. It’s the simple things like using the remote for the TV, using the telephone – those kinds of things he struggles with because he can’t see all the numbers.

“But we have a big-button phone now, talking clocks, and his Synapptic phone. With the CCTV magnifier he can show others how to tie flies now because he has the equipment so he can see.

“It’s not just his sight, it’s processing due to the stroke, but Sheena understands that. Not many people do understand. She’s been a good sounding board because she has empathy. The two of them seem to understand each other.”

Del added: “Sheena’s very supportive. She even helped dig out the information so that I could get my Malay Peninsula General Service Medal I was entitled to – I wouldn’t have known where to start.”

The couple also attend Scottish War Blinded’s monthly Inverness lunch group at Inverness Golf Club along with fellow veterans with sight loss and their partners and carers.

And as he steadily gets back into activities at the golf club and enjoys tying flies again, determined Del is hoping that a fishing trip will be on the cards soon.

He added: “I help out with a lot of the competitions being played at the golf club – I use a travel magnifier that Scottish War Blinded gave me to help me with the cards.

“There are things that we’ve found out about now through Sheena and the lunch group that, if it hadn’t been for Scottish War Blinded, we’d never have known about.

“It makes me feel tremendous. It’s brilliant, the support I’ve had. It makes me feel like I’ve got somebody there if I need it.”

Rebecca Barr, Director of Scottish War Blinded, said: “It’s wonderful to hear how Del is beginning to enjoy his much-loved hobbies again with the help of the specialist equipment we’ve been able to provide.

“We work closely with each of our veterans and can provide free, tailored support and training to maintain their independence despite their sight loss.

“We’re already working with a number of veterans across the Highlands and would are very keen to grow our community across the region. If you are a veteran with sight loss, or you are a relative, friend or carer of someone who is, we’d love to hear from you.”

Scottish War Blinded gives free support to former servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.

Visit www.scottishwarblinded.org or call 0800 035 6409 to refer a veteran to the charity.