Grant and Donna's story
"About eight years ago, I thought I just needed new glasses, but my optometrist told me I was going blind,” says Grant from Hawkes Bay.
“I was very upset. I enjoy life so much, and here I was being told I would lose my central vision. The ophthamologist said it could be 15 years, or it could be less. No one knew. I was very depressed for several months."
Grant began doing research, and spoke to other people with MD. It made him feel better to meet others and hear their story, so he began speaking about his own experience.
"People were coming to me, asking me questions," he says. "I've got piles of books and papers on the subject. I've become a bit of a non-medical expert. I like helping others who have had a similar diagnosis."
One person Grant didn't think he'd need to support was his daughter. One of three children, Donna is very close to Grant and regularly visits.
"I came over one evening and dad got his Amsler grid out and wanted to check me," says Donna. "I'd been having blue flashes in front of my eyes. The lines on the grid were wobby, so I went to see the ophthomalogist. It was my 49th Birthday and he said I had MD. It was not a very nice gift."
Grant, too, was devastated.
“It was worse for me, her diagnosis, than my own. It really hurt me that she had it too.”
“Stress is one of the risk factors,” Donna, a carer, explains. “I’m a support worker, and I’ve also worked in palliative care. It’s hard, emotionally, plus I was regularly doing 12 hours shifts. I’ve cut back a lot.”
Grant on the other hand feels life hasn't changed for him much.
“I’m still driving. I read more than I’ve ever read before. I play table tennis and tennis, walk and bike and do a lot of gardening,” says Grant. “I’m very active. There’s not a lot of difference between me now and me eight years ago.”
Both Grant and Donna’s message is the same – look after yourself, visit your optometrist regularly, use an Amsler grid once a week if you’re over 50, and if in doubt get a second opinion.
“MD is the biggest cause of blindness in New Zealand, and yet it can be treated if caught early, and you don’t have to lose your sight,” says Grant. “I’ve worked as an ambassador, speaking at events to help others understand it’s nothing to be afraid of. I tell everyone to get an Amsler grid and use it – no one visits our house without having their eyes checked on the grid! There’s no need to be afraid.”