A veteran has led his ‘Daredevils’ team on a 22.7 mile walk to say thank-you to Sight Scotland Veterans for all the life changing support they provide.
Tom Smith, aged 34 from Renfrewshire, a former Submariner in the Royal Navy, went for a routine eye test in 2020 which highlighted a retinal degeneration problem, further investigations throughout the year resulted in Tom being diagnosed with a genetic condition that would leave him blind in a few short years. Tom has retinal dystrophy, a group of rare, inherited diseases that damage the retina, causing progressive and severe loss of vision.
Since 2020, Tom has been medically discharged from the Navy, and has also lost his driving license due to his vision impairment and with that a lot of his independence. Tom has been supported through all this change by Sight Scotland Veterans, whose support Tom describes as ‘life changing’. Tom and his Kilt Walk team have so far raised over £1700 for Sight Scotland Veterans.
Tom Explains: “I cannot thank Sight Scotland Veterans enough for everything they have done for me, the support they have given to both my wife, and I has been quite literally life changing and I honestly do not know where we would be without it. My diagnosis obviously came as a big shock, and there was a huge number of adjustments to be made as our life was going to change dramatically. It was difficult to come to terms with it, and we were both a bit lost and in shock.
“We were told about Sight Scotland Veterans and got in touch with them in January 2021, and the support we have received has been amazing. They talked us through everything that was happening to me, and what to expect, and made us realise that life does not end with a diagnosis of sight loss. They helped me with work, travel, adjustments to our home, plus new technology that will help me as my sight gets worse.
“However, I think the biggest thing the charity helped us both with was our mental health. The diagnosis came as a big shock, and we initially felt very isolated and alone, and didn’t really know what to do. I was forced to retire from the Navy, give up driving and a lot of my independence, and suddenly I had to rely on other people’s help much more. This was also very hard for Katie, as her life was changing as well, and we both did not know what the future held. But Sight Scotland Veterans were amazing. They talked us both through everything that was happening, told us what to expect and what changes would occur. They let us both see that everything would be alright, yes it would be different, but we could still do the things we enjoy the most. Maybe most importantly they showed us that we were not alone, and that life goes on. We still enjoy regular home visits from Ann, our Independent Living worker, and they are just so helpful.”
Tom adds: “The idea for the Kilt Walk came from wanting to give something back, to show our appreciation for all the great help we have received. Our team, the Daredevils, which is made up of myself, Katie and our friends Joanne and Jason Botterill, want as many people as possible to know about Sight Scotland Veterans and all the fantastic help they have given me. None of us are big walkers, so it was quite a challenge and we managed to lose some weight with all the training, but it was all worth it. The money we have managed to raise for the charity has been fantastic, we blew our initial target out the water!”
Sight Scotland Veterans supports veterans living with significant sight loss. Our support equips people with the skills to rediscover and maintain their independence and to improve their quality of life.
If you would like to back the Daredevils and donate to Sight Scotland Veterans please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/team/thedaredevils
For more information on Sight Scotland Veterans please visit sightscotlandveterans.org.uk or call our support line on 0800 035 6409.