Run­ning so oth­ers can see

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

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.

Photo: JESS LEE

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.

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