A 73 year old who had given up on reading, sewing and even watching television has found a new lease of life through the help from local eye experts, optical support specialists and the Portsmouth CCG.

A year ago, Vera Henning was struggling with independent living on a daily basis. Diagnosed with Macular Degeneration in her thirties, she had received support, magnifiers and more complex visual aids from hospital in order to live her life with fewer restrictions. Over ten years ago, the hospital could no longer provide its low vision service, leaving Vera with a single pair of spectacles that soon became inadequate for her needs.

‘After I was told the hospital would no longer able to look after me, I had no idea where to go, and so just continued to cope on my own,’ says Vera. ‘I have been fortunate to have guide dogs for the past 33 years, become quite experienced in handling them, and that has been my lifeline to independent living.’

It was in the Spring of 2017 when Vera heard about a talk on sight loss and low vision aids for the residents of The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth’s Coronation Homes in Northern Parade where she lives. Well-known local optician, Anne Gill, shared her professional experience of 40 years and demonstrated equipment such as magnifiers to help those with poor or failing eyesight.

‘It was a revelation,’ recalls Vera. ‘Anne gave me fantastic advice and I went to my GP to get a referral for a full assessment.’
After a thorough examination with optometrist Julie Wadey at Anne Gill Eyecare in North End and assessment of her existing magnifiers and their limitations, Anne herself was able to give Vera a personal magnifying aid covered by the Low Vision Aid Scheme of Portsmouth CCG and arrange a one-on-one meeting with Ian Hughes from Associated Optical, a specialist provider of visual aids.

‘After eye tests and assessments, in addition to the magnifier from the CCG, we were able to organise binocular glasses, tailored to Vera’s sight so that she could read and sew again, and order a special lamp to improve the light for these activities,’ says Anne.

‘My life has completely changed,’ says Vera with a smile. ‘I have been able to finish the three books I started before I found reading too difficult, sew the hem of my favourite trousers, read and pay my bills, and my family have told me how much happier I am. My grandson asked to see all my new equipment, told me how thrilled he was for me and that meant everything.’

‘I wish everyone in my situation had such good fortune, because you just don’t know all that is out there. My message for people in Portsmouth who are worried about their sight is to go to an opticians or get a referral from the GP and keep asking the experts to find all that is available.’