Going blind ‘was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from’

Alan Walker and Chris Butler SUS-170202-161613001
Alan Walker and Chris Butler SUS-170202-161613001

A man whose world fell apart when he went blind after suffering a rare eye disease has now got a new lease of life.

Fifty-eight-year-old Alan Walker has ‘seen’ his daughter’s wedding photos for the first time - and learned to ski. And it’s all thanks to the national military charity, Blind Veterans UK.

Alan, a former serviceman from Hassocks, turned to them for help after being diagnosed with the rare eye disorder pneumococcal disease which robbed him of his sight.

“It was the most terrifying thing to have ever happened to me – a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from,” he said.

Alan received the shock diagnosis in 2012 and a year later was put in touch with Blind Veterans UK - who support all vision-impaired veterans, no matter when they served and how they lost their sight - after realising that he had to do something to help himself.

At the charity’s rehabilitation centre in Brighton, Alan was shown how to use a range of special equipment to help make the most of the fractional sight he has left.

He was given a desktop magnifier, meaning for the first time he could look at the photos from his daughter Tracy’s wedding - an incredibly emotional moment for both Alan and his wife, Shirley.

And in January Alan, who served in the Army from 1976 to 1990, joined 18 other vision-impaired former servicemen from Blind Veterans UK on a trip to the Italian Dolomites mountain range where he skied for the first time. “Honestly, this was one of the best weeks of my life,” he said.

And he added: “I can’t speak highly enough of everyone who helped make the trip so great, but especially my guide Chris Butler. I had complete faith in Chris and he made me feel very relaxed at all times.”

Alan and Chris were affectionately dubbed Hinge and Bracket on the trip because they were inseparable.

Alan added: “I could never have imagined myself skiing at 58, thanks to Blind Veterans UK I’ve managed to achieve something I never thought I’d do.”