Joe Etherington lost vision in both his eyes within the space of six months.
He lost his job and had to readapt his lifestyle to accommodate his new disability.
He was just 55 and was looking forward to another 10 years at work.
Now aged 82, the widower told The Post about how he lost his sight.
He said: “I had no warnings, I had diabetes and my sight just switched off.
“The sight in my left eye went in January 1991. I was working at GEC on the machines and I had a bit of a cold. I went to the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics.
I went to work but I was sent home as I could not work the machines with one eye and I never went back to work again.
“Then my left eye switched off.
“I went to work but I was sent home as I could not work the machines with one eye and I never went back to work again.
“The sight in my other eye went in July.
“I had gone on a caravan holiday in the Lake District with my wife, Irene. I was legal to drive as I still had vision in one eye.
“But whilst on holiday the vision in my good eye went. I rang my son, David, and he drove up with my son-in-law to collect us.
“David took me to hospital and that was it. I was told I was blind.
“It was a frightening time for me. It was such a shock and it took me two years to get over it because I could not do anything.
“People kept telling me the weather was lovely but for me there was nothing there.
“My wife, Irene, had to put up with me for 15 years before she passed away in July 2006.
“She took me everywhere with her – she would not leave me alone.
“I have lived on my own since. I have rails fitted in the bathroom to steady myself and I use my fingers as my eyes – feeling around.
“My daughter, Susan, gets my shopping every week and she cooked for me every night. But now she is unable to cook for me, I use ready meals in a microwave. I use stickers on the microwave dial for a can feel how many minutes.
“I have no problems making a cup of tea. I pour one cup of water in the kettle so I don’t burn myself. I never light the cooker. I do my own washing but I never iron.
“I now have carers that come every two weeks to clean and three times a week for half an hour to help me out. They give me my insulin injections.”
Joe gets taken to places on occasion by his daughter and son, but the grandfather-of-five admitted his only feeling of true independence was being picked up by Galloway’s minibus.
He added: “I come to Galloway’s every Tuesday. I like the company.
“I have a big family around me but they are busy and I don’t always see them.
“I get lonely at night with no-one to talk to so it is good to come to Galloway’s.
“I get picked up by the minibus and it is great. The minibus is my freedom. I am happy with the routine of being picked up and being taken home.
“I can’t go out on my own - I can’t even take the bins out. I took the bin out once and a car was right by my side. I had walked into the road without knowing. The driver walked me back to my house. Everything is okay though. I can’t grumble. It is one of those things. I can’t see a thing and that is it.”
Galloway’s is one of Lancashire’s oldest charities.
Established in Preston in 1867, it has been supporting people living with sight loss for more than 150 years.
Today, the charity covers Lancashire and Sefton and supports more than 7,000 people every year.
As well as its main site in Penwortham, Galloway’s is located in 1 Farrington Street, Chorley; 12 Victoria Street, Morecambe, and 22 Wright Street, Southport.
The services offered are in seven key areas:
l Early reach support for newly diagnosed people
l Accessible information, advice and guidance
l Holidays and trips
l Social and community groups
l Audio services, including one of the UK’s largest Talking Newspaper services
l Seven independent living bungalows
l Equipment to enhance daily living
Galloway’s is a registered charity and has to raise £1m this year to maintain its services.
It now needs £50,000 for a new minibus to transport its service users to the centre in Penwortham and to social outings.
The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000.
To make a donation visit www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels;
Call: 01772 744148
Or alternatively you can send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to:
Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS.
l Are you holding any fund-raising events to support Galloway’s?
Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
l Galloway’s is hosting a sight loss conference for anyone needing support at Leyland Civic Centre on November 23, from 10am until 3pm.
To book a place call 01772 744148.