Losing your sight does not mean your life has to be over.
As Lynne Rennison’s vision faded to the point she could not work, she felt she had lost everything.
But she soon realised life had do much to offer and she is now working to make sure others know that too.
As one of RNIB’s most proactive volunteers, she is organising a celebration event to mark the charity’s 150th anniversary.
The 57-year-old from Adlington cannot wait to share her story with guests at the Lowry Hotel, in Manchester, on May 4 to mark RNIB’s 150th anniversary.
She has helped to organise the event in celebration of the work the charity and other organisations have achieved to help visually impaired people.
For her, the evening is important to showcase the challenges and accomplishments of a blind person.
Despite being born with retinopathy of prematurity, she felt she was able to achieve what she wanted.
Yet when her sight faded even further, she felt her life was over.
But a living with sight loss course with Galloway’s and Action for Blind enabled her to see ‘a light at the end of the tunnel.’
She explains: “My twin sister and I were born prematurely and one of us got too much oxygen and the other didn’t get enough. This is quite common in premature babies but at the time, not much was known about it. Sadly, my sister, Marie, died a few days after she was born.
“Because I was not treated at an early age, I had a lazy eye. My retina had fully burned out in my left eye and I only have limited sight in my right eye. I can’t see a person’s face or edges. I can only see outlines and light and dark. The only way to describe it is like being in a misty bathroom after a long hot shower has steamed the room up.
“I was able to go to mainstream school and I qualified in hotel and catering management. I was a restaurant manager but I had to give that up as my sight got worse.
“I did also drive for a while, but as time went on, my conditioned worsened. I am quite isolated in Adlington as there are only one or two buses a day to get into Chorley and when I get into town, it is hard to navigate.
“I have now developed cataracts and as I have an underlying eye condition, an operation would not be advisable.
“At the age of 52, as my sight got worse I felt my life was over. I was concentrating on what I couldn’t do any more.
“But attending a living with sight loss course I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. It made me realise I could have a life. It was not the same life I had before but I could still have a life.”
Lynne’s new enthusiasm led to her wanting to help others and she began volunteering with RNIB, facilitating living with sight loss courses and she is the vice chairman of the North West Network Committee for RNIB.
She adds: “This two day course helped people to come to terms with their sight loss as they were taught about technology and certain benefits and help on offer.
“One of the facilitators asked me if I could speak about my experiences. This really helped with my confidence as I was able to talk in a room full of people and be able to help them, But the biggest thing was that it gave me purpose to get up in the morning and do something.
“The volunteering is very therapeutic as I am helping empower other people who are newly diagnosed. I am giving them hope that they too can have a life.
“It also gives me more independence as getting out on my own is difficult, so without it I would be on my own at home.
Lynne, who relies on a white cane to get around, also founded Sightseekers, which meets once a month in Chorley.
The group organise social events and gives members a sense of normality.
She says: “When you have sight loss, sometimes family members care so much they are overbearing, but the last thing you want to be reminded of is that fact you have a disability. You just want to get on with your life.
“The last thing we want to talk about is sight loss, so we talk about books, music and TV shows.
“The members become your family as they understand you.”
Lynne hopes to highlight the obstacles visually impaired people have overcome and show what life is like, in a humorous way, by way of two comedians who live with sight loss.
Lynne, who lives with partner Michael Groves, 53, adds: “This will be an evening to remember with riveting entertainment from the talented comedian, actress and writer Georgie Morrell, who offers a very interesting take on living with a disability. You would not think she was visually impaired.
“Comedian James Connell, from Southport, is also hilarious and very talented and 15-year-old singer Ella Playford, from Leeds, who is also visually impaired will be performing.
“The evening, which is open to both visually impaired and sighted people, will also feature an award ceremony celebrating the achievements of amazing individuals.
“There is also a three-course meal and a display of accessible art produced by students of Manchester Metropolitan University after consultation and inspiration from the visually impaired community.
“This is a great opportunity for visually impaired and sighted people to come together to celebrate 150 years of a fabulous charity, which has made a vast difference to the lives of millions of visually impaired individuals with its many services.
“One of which is the invaluable ECLO service (Eye Clinic Liaison Officer) in the Royal Bolton Hospital eye unit, which helps people to understand their impairment, helping them move forwards, giving them advice and access to services, support and equipment.”
Tickets are £40 and can be obtained by ringing Alison Harman on 01772 320553.