My condition makes people think I am drunk
Living with a rare eye condition has never stopped Matt Bagot from having a normal life but now his health is starting to deteriorate
When people notice Matt Bagot’s eyes moving quickly from side-to-side, they think he is drunk.
But the 50-year-old has nystagmus, where the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. It is a condition Matt has had since birth, yet he admits not many people know of its existence and ask what is wrong with his eyes.
So as part of Nystagmus Awareness Day on June 20, he wants to share his story to help more people understand the condition.
He says: “When I was a few months old, doctor told my parents I had infantile nystagmus. I also had cataracts, which I assume I had from birth.
“I didn’t really think about it, as I just got on with it. I went to a primary school in Euxton for one term, but I was struggling to see the blackboard, so I went to the Derby School for the Partially Sighted in Fulwood.
“For me, it was just like going to a normal school, where the teachers helped me with visual aids. I don’t see my eye pattern moving, but people notice it and ask why my eyes are going from side-to-side. They think I am drunk, as not a lot of people have heard of nystagmus.”
Matt, who lives across the road from his parents in Euxton, says his vision has never held him back, as he found work at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service as a gardener and handyman.
But he admits his eyesight has deteriorated in recent years, meaning he had to retire earlier this year under the grounds of ill health.
He says: “I had worked for LFRS for 28 years as a gardener and handyman. I have been quite lucky as I have been able to lead a normal life up until recently.
“But my eyesight has deteriorated now. In my left eye everything is hazy because the blood vessels are dispersed in my eye, so I have to take blood serum drops to clear my vision.
“If I close my left eye, my sight is clear, but for some reason I seem to look out of my left eye to see things.
“But as my eye sight is getting worse, it is making me do things I would not have done before, like tripping over things, so I am more conscious of that.
“My cataracts cannot be treated with a laser as it would be normally because of the rapid eye movement, which affects the nerves at the back of my eye.”
Matt has happily retained his independence and has been supporting sight loss charity Galloway’s for several years. He took part in its annual Morecambe Bay Walk in 2018, to raise funds.
He said: “I have done quite a lot of charity work over the years. I received a lot of help from Derby School when I was a child and so I want to give something back to the blind and partially sighted community. There are many people with severe sight problems and it is good to know that Galloway’s is always there for people when they need support.
“Now I am retired, after lockdown, I would be interested in taking part in the social activities and becoming more involved.”
Galloway’s, which has sites in Penwortham, Chorley, Southport and Morecambe, supports more than 7,000 blind and partially sighted people across Sefton and Lancashire. If anyone would like to receive more information on the support Galloway’s offers, call 01772 744148 or email [email protected]
As the annual Morecambe Bay Walk cannot go ahead this year, the charity is asking people to take part in Not the Morecambe Bay Walk instead.
Participants are encouraged to walk eight miles in any way they can during June and get sponsored. This can be done in the garden, in the house, on the treadmill or during daily exercise outdoors. To sign up, visit www.galloways.org.uk/not-the-bay-walk