Preston Armed Forces veteran urges others battling sight loss to seek support
When army veteran David Hughes lost his sight, he feared there would be lots of things he would no longer be able to do.
But with the support of charities including Blind Veterans UK and Galloway’s, David regained his confidence and uses aids to help him do tasks.
David, 85, who lives in Walton Park, near Preston, joined the Army as a boy soldier in 1946 and trained as an apprentice tradesman with the Royal Signals.
He undertook vehicle maintenance training and was posted to Catterick, where he was tasked with ensuring the upkeep of Armed Forces vehicles.
David’s squadron was then transferred to Harrogate, where he joined adult Service at the age of 17 and stayed until discharge in 1950. David says: “I joined up at the age of just 14 and it was a steep learning curve, but I still value the years I spent in the Army and appreciate the comradeship of that time in my life.”
David began wearing glasses in his mid-20s for short-sightedness and astigmatism.
He developed double vision in his 30s, but initially this was easily corrected with the use of prisms.
David then had cataract surgery on both eyes which was successful and improved his vision, but the consequence was that the double vision could no longer be corrected with prisms.
In 2007, David had an operation to correct the imbalance between his eyes, causing the double vision.
Unfortunately, the needle slipped during the surgery and the retina of his left eye was torn and detached. It was repaired but left scarring, which severely distorted his vision.
The vision in his right eye was normal but David now suffers from glaucoma and macular degeneration in his right eye and wears UV shields to help protect his remaining vision. David was signposted to the support of Blind Veterans UK when he met a fellow blind veteran who the charity supports at a local community group.
David says: “When I lost my sight it felt like there were a lot of things I couldn’t do anymore. But since getting in touch with Blind Veterans UK I’ve regained my lost confidence and I feel a lot more positive about the future.”
David joined Blind Veterans UK early last year and has since attended an induction week at one of the charity’s rehabilitation centres to help him adjust to his sight loss.
David says: “The camaraderie of meeting other blind veterans took me right back to my time in the Army.
“I also had the chance to meet with rehabilitation officers who gave me some excellent advice on equipment that could help me. I was given special IT software, too, which means I can carry on using my computer.”
During his retirement, David studied for a degree in politics and history and began researching the social history of his local area.
However, as David’s sight began to fail, it became increasingly difficult for him to use his computer.
After hearing about David’s struggle, Blind Veterans UK gave David a screen magnifier which allows him to enlarge documents on his computer to a comfortable size and continue pursuing his interest.
David is married to Christine and has three children and six grandchildren while Christine has three children and three grandchildren.
He says: “It’s been brilliant. When I lost my sight I thought I’d have to give up using my computer because it was too much of a struggle.
“Thanks to the help of Blind Veterans UK, I’ve got so much more confidence and I’ve set myself the task of publishing some of the work I’ve been doing. I’d really encourage anyone battling sight loss to come forward and seek support.”