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“Because of ‘Sansa’, I feel free”

Jacinta was born with moderate to severe hearing loss. Thankfully, her other senses all seemed fine, but as she got older, she started to notice her eyesight was getting worse.

 “One night I was out with my mum and my brother and I walked straight into a pole. That’s when my mum knew it wasn’t just a case of me not being able to see very well.”

The optometrist that Jacinta saw at the time wasn’t able to identify a major problem, so it wasn’t until she was 14 that she was diagnosed.

 “Another optometrist tested my eyes and realised that nothing was happening in them when the room went from light to dark. That was the first time someone had been quite sure about what they thought it could be. Then I was sent to an ophthalmologist, who confirmed it.”

After years of thinking her sight was nothing to worry about, Jacinta was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in the progressive loss of both hearing and vision. At only 14 years of age, Jacinta struggled to cope under the weight of this new diagnosis. For a long time, she ignored her deteriorating vision until her usable vision was down to a mere 5%.

Eventually, Jacinta reached out to Guide Dogs Queensland. Our local instructors on the Sunshine Coast helped Jacinta increase her confidence using a cane. Because a great deal of Orientation and Mobility Training relies on sound, they tailored her program to compensate for her hearing loss too.

“As soon as I received the training I felt a lot less scared going out. It gave me more confidence to know I could handle it and rely on the hearing that I do have,” Jacinta said.

Thanks to generous donations from people like you, Jacinta was able to access the support she needed to regain her confidence and independence.

While learning how to use the cane properly helped her to become more confident, Jacinta still felt like something was holding her back from being totally independent and reaching her full potential.

That’s when she tried a test walk with a Guide Dog.

“The first time I tried walking with a Guide Dog, we went to a shopping centre and suddenly the dog and I were weaving through crowds of people.

“I can’t even explain how incredible that feeling is when you haven’t done it for so long. Instead of trudging through clumsily with my cane, I felt like I was flying.”

When Jacinta got a call from her instructor Jason, letting her know that she had been matched with a Guide Dog named ‘Sansa’, she was over the moon.

After only two months of working with ‘Sansa’, Jacinta’s life and her perception of herself changed drastically for the better.

 “I’ve gained a real sense of freedom and independence and confidence. I’ve always been a really quiet person and now I get on the bus with her and I’ll happily shout out ‘Find the seat’ and I don’t even think twice about it.

“I realise now that I think a lot of the feelings of shame I used to have were my perception of myself more than anything else. Now I’m not just relying on myself, I’ve got someone else I can rely on. Having ‘Sansa’ is like always having my best friend with me.”

‘Sansa’s’ training is only made possible by generous community support. We need your help to support our 36 new puppies on their journeys to change the lives of Queenslanders like Jacinta.

For Jacinta, being matched with ‘Sansa’ has been the best Christmas gift she could have received. ‘Sansa’ has enabled her to live life on her own terms.

She recently completed a Masters in Counselling and has set her sights on getting a job where she can give back.

“I used to think of the future and get a bit frightened. But now that I’ve got ‘Sansa’ by my side it’s not as scary.”

Will you help our 36 new puppies on their journey to become fully qualified Guide Dogs?

Your generosity this Christmas will help us to raise and train these pups, so more Queenslanders in need of a Guide Dog can spend less time waiting and more time living.

Thank you for sharing the spirit of giving. Your support will help many more people like Jacinta receive the ultimate gift of a Guide Dog.

Jacinta would try so hard to be a different person, so much so that she forgot what it felt like to be herself. ‘Sansa’ has made her feel like herself again.