Sights set on AUT de­gree

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Heather McCracken

The dis­ease that stole Sarn­dra Tamepo’s sight went un­no­ticed for years.

It was fi­nally di­ag­nosed seven years ago when the mother of three bent down to reach some­thing and her vi­sion went blank.

“There was noth­ing, blind as a bat,” she says.

“I sat down and shut my eyes and said: ‘Please, when I open my eyes, let me be able to see’.”

Some vi­sion re­turned at first, but within months Miss Tamepo was per­ma­nently blind.

Spe­cial­ists con­firmed she suf­fered from di­a­betic retinopa­thy, a com­pli­ca­tion from di­a­betes and one of the most com­mon causes of blind­ness in New Zealand.

Miss Tamepo had de­vel­oped ges­ta­tional di­a­betes eight years ear­lier while preg­nant with her youngest daugh­ter.

But she thought the con­di­tion had gone af­ter slowly los­ing 65kg, drop­ping from 130kg.

“I just thought it had gone away, but I had all this stuff go­ing on that I wasn’t aware of,” she says.

The 43-year-old says in her first year of blind­ness she felt like her life was over.

“I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t do any­thing,” she says.

“I just went into com­plete de­pres­sion. But then I thought there are other blind peo­ple out there. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last.”

In 2003, Miss Tamepo moved to Auck­land from the Bay of Plenty and sought help from the Royal New Zealand Foun­da­tion of the Blind.

She learned to use talk­ing com­puter pro­grammes, get around with a white cane, and be in­de­pen­dent at home.

“I don’t know how many loaves of bread I went through be­fore I fi­nally got the first sand­wich right,” the Three Kings res­i­dent says.

“I sat down and cried and cried when I’d fi­nally done it.”

She has been study­ing at AUT for the past three years, and is now work­ing to­wards a de­gree in health stud­ies.

The for­mer bank worker has been in­spired to be­come a coun­sel­lor to help oth­ers cop­ing with blind­ness, par­tic­u­larly other Maori women who have a high in­ci­dence of di­a­betes.

Foun­da­tion coun­sel­lor Del­wyn Lopez says deal­ing with feel­ings of anger, de­pres­sion and iso­la­tion can be as im­por­tant as learn­ing prac­ti­cal tools.

“Along with a loss of vi­sion will of­ten come a huge drop in con­fi­dence,” she says.

“Usu­ally they’re the only one in their net­work of friends that has the con­di­tion, so they can feel to­tally iso­lated.”

She says older peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar can of­ten feel vul­ner­a­ble when go­ing out and strug­gle to en­gage peo­ple in con­ver­sa­tion.

Coun­selling helps peo­ple work to­wards goals, such as be­com­ing more con­fi­dent, or get­ting a job.

“And it helps them feel like they’re not alone,” she says.

This week is the an­nual ap­peal for the Foun­da­tion of the Blind.

Money raised will help pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion and sup­port ser­vices to more than 11,000 blind, deaf­blind and vi­sion­im­paired New Zealan­ders.

Vol­un­teers in flu­o­res­cent or­ange vests will be col­lect­ing on the street from Fri­day to Sun­day.

To make a $3 do­na­tion text BLIND to 469.

Cane-do at­ti­tude: Sarn­dra Tamepo had to learn how to cope with be­ing blind af­ter los­ing her sight seven years ago as a re­sult of di­a­betic retinopa­thy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.