CategoryStory Case Study
- Guide Dog services
- Guide Dog
- Programs for young people
- Support for adults
When she was just 12 months old, Bec was diagnosed with Retinopathy of Prematurity – permanent damage to her eyes resulting from the higher levels of oxygen she needed to keep her alive as a premature baby.
More Queenslanders like Bec and waiting for their perfect match, but they need your help.
Through school she had a small amount of usable vision and she was determined to do things like any other kid her age. Bec was able to manage with just basic items to assist her vision, like a magnifying glass with a light and a computer with high contrast settings.
She also developed a passion for martial arts – particularly Karate – and rose through the ranks to eventually achieve a black belt. Bec studied a Certificate IV in Fitness at TAFE to support her passion for martial arts teaching and training.
Despite her low vision, life was going well for Bec and she was immensely proud of her achievements. But when Bec turned 25, things rapidly started to change for the worse.
“The first thing I noticed was that my computer screen was constantly flickering. But then I started noticing that other light sources did the same,” she said.
Nevertheless, Bec continued pursuing her passion for martial arts, even taking part in her first national Judo competition, representing Queensland in the state team. She felt a sense of total elation about being able to compete without any problems.
But on her flight home from the competition, tragedy struck. Bec’s retina had detached during the flight and despite having intensive eye surgery, her vision didn’t improve. Her vision had deteriorated to the point where she could see no more than a smoky haze.
“It was a big kick in the guts and I just crashed,” Bec said.
Almost instantly, Bec sank into a deep depression.
“I wasn’t coping because I’d never done the whole ‘no vision’ thing. I’d spent my whole life developing strategies to work with what vision I had,” she said.
“Now even trying to walk would make me feel dizzy and disoriented. Even in my own home I’d often think I was walking to one room but then I’d find I was on the total opposite wall. It was like starting from square one all over again.”
The biggest blow for Bec was being forced to stop her martial arts training. After years of living an active lifestyle, Bec spiralled into deeper depression. Gradually, she gained 30 kilos. She now stayed at home, alone.
“I was devastated and my mum would hear me crying all the time. I thought I’ve got to get back up. I can’t let this beat me, I’ve got to keep going,” Bec said.
It was at that point I realised I had to do something about it. So I got in contact with Guide Dogs Queensland.
Bec first learnt how to use a long cane so she could navigate outside her home. She completed both beginner and advanced level cane training at our centre in Brisbane before undertaking a personalised program in her local area on the Sunshine Coast, with Melissa as her Mobility Instructor.
“It took a while to learn how to travel independently at the stage I was at. It’s scary to go outside with such little vision because your imagination just goes into overdrive,” Bec said.
“I spoke to some counsellors through Guide Dogs and gradually as my confidence with my cane and knowledge of the routes I was taking grew, that disoriented feeling and anxiety went away. I actually got some confidence back.”
Bec has progressed so much and is back to living an active lifestyle. After realising what a difference technology can make to people who are blind or have low vision, she is studying Technology at university. She wants to be able to teach others and help people who find themselves in the same situation she was once in.
Every young person deserves the opportunity to experience all that life has to offer. With Guide Dog ‘Steffi’ now by Bec’s side, a world of possibilities will open up again.