Our Editor Rowena’s May letter. Find out about her bizarre eye problem and why Macular Degeneration Awareness Week is important – especially if you love reading!
Eyes are so precious. I know that’s an obvious statement, but if your eyes are working perfectly then you probably don’t think about them all that often. But recently I arrived home from work when a strange flashing started around my right eye. It gave me a considerable fright and I wondered if something terrible was happening to me. The flashing lasted only 10 minutes or so, but it left me with what I can only describe as a big fuzzy blob, which flicks around my right eye whenever I look around. All is fine, but the blob will take many months to sink from my sight. It sounds terrible, but it’s really more annoying than sinister.
Incidents like this remind me about how important our eyes are. And how we can tend to take them for granted. I suppose like all our senses, if they work from birth then you just accept that they are there – and always imagine they will be.
But that’s not the case for many people. Glaucoma runs in my family, so I have regular check-ups and sit in the ophthalmologist’s waiting room, surrounded by people with patches over their eyes as a result of cataract operations.
Macular Degeneration Awareness Week is taking place this month from 22 to 28 May. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. One in seven Australians over 50 has some evidence of macular degeneration and what can make the problem worse is that you may have the early signs of macular degeneration but not even know it.
I know that some of our readers suffer from this terrible disease, which can be frightening and soul-destroying. The frustration, fear and sadness that I hear in people’s voices and read in their emails is very real. Anyone who is a book lover can, I’m sure, empathise. So I encourage you to head off for an eye-check in that week – if you haven’t had your eyes checked in the last year or so.
For those who have vision problems there are books available with extra large text. A company called ReadHowYouWant can print a book with text in whatever size you need. You can have monster-sized 48 point if you want. They are a little pricey, as they print on demand (meaning that they print that just that one copy especially to your requirements) so the production costs are high.
But there is another option. Your local library! Just ask your friendly librarian, as they can order large-print books for you if they don’t already have them. So if there is a book you’d like to read, let the librarian know, and you’ll not only enjoy reading the book yourself but others with vision impairment who use your local library will also appreciate borrowing the large-print book.
And it’s not just ageing adults who suffer vision from impairment. Finding a book for a younger reader that is suitable for their age, with sufficiently large print, is really difficult. But again your library is there to support you.
I’m lucky, as I have healthy eyes. I wear glasses but I can read a book without them – and not even squint. But I will be getting my eyes checked in May. I hope you’ll all join me.
and Baxter, who can see a courier coming from a mile off!
PS I am reading Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall right now.