Running so others can see
JOCELYN Bunch was on the verge of losing sight when life-changing surgery helped her see again.
The 31-year-old hopes to cross the adidas Auckland Marathon finish line on Sunday to help others like her by raising money for the Fred Hollows Foundation.
Doctors found Ms Bunch had retinal detachments in both eyes after complaining of flashing lights and blind spots in her peripheral vision about five years ago.
‘‘It happens to 1/10,000 people so somebody’s got to get it,’’ she says.
‘‘It was just unlucky it was me but lucky it got such prompt attention by the doctors.’’
Multiple surgeries saved her sight but left her with a cataract in one eye.
‘‘It was quite scary really. You do realise how much you depend on being able to see,’’ she says.
‘‘You have that fear of losing your sight.’’
It wasn’t until cataract and laser surgeries last month that she was finally able to see clearly again after living with impaired vision for half a decade.
‘‘To have that fixed, I can now wake up in the morning and open my eyes and be able to see – it’s an amazing feeling. It’s like magic.’’
The surgery has changed the way she experiences the world, she says.
And it prompted Ms Bunch and her anaesthetist husband George Gorringe to want to make a difference to the thousands of people in developing countries with avoidable blindness.
The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ works to restore sight in the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste where four out of five people who are blind don’t have to be.
It can cost as little as $25 to give someone the gift of sight.
The foundation trains eye health workers to deliver high quality services in their own communities.
‘‘I just love the thought of being able to share this feeling with people who otherwise wouldn’t get it,’’ Ms Bunch says.
‘‘There are people who are no longer able to support their families because they’re blind and they don’t need to be.’’
They have never ran a full marathon before but have been committed to their goal since January.
Ms Bunch says she was unable to even reach the end of the road before getting out of breath but went on to complete her first half marathon two weeks ago.
The cause and support they have received will be what sees them across the finish line, Dr Gorringe says.
‘‘To see how happy Jocelyn was over the last few weeks since the surgery has just been amazing.
‘‘It was a nerve-racking time but such an awesome result,’’ Dr Gorringe says.
The pair will be joined in the marathon by friend Chris Duncan who will run straight from a night shift at Auckland Hospital’s Emergency Department to the starting line.
Dr Gorringe hopes to finish in under four hours, while Ms Bunch says she will be happy just to cross the finish line.
Gift of sight: George Gorringe and Jocelyn Bunch are running the addias Auckland Marathon to raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation. Looking forward: Skolastika, who was blind from an early age, had her sight restored by the Fred Hollows Foundation in Fiji.