Case Study – Sybil Tothill

If she'd had an eye test in time, Sybil would just be walking the dog

Sybil Tothill adores Fred. The lovable guide dog is not only her companion but also her eyes. But if she'd had a simple eye test she might never have needed him.

Sybil was blinded by untreated diabetic retinopathy and subsequently, age-related macular degeneration. But to make matters worse, she now knows that her diabetic retinopathy may have been preventable or treatable if it was detected earlier.

"If I had sought treatment earlier, or had more regular eye tests I might not be blind today," she said. "When I was first told I would have to learn to live without my sight, I experienced absolute disbelief. I could not believe that I was going blind and there was nothing I could do. I begged the doctor for glasses – anything. But it was too late."

She had always led an active life since retiring from teaching, but when she started losing her sight seven years ago, everyday life became difficult. Tasks such as filling out a form, reading a book and leaving the house to go shopping or to the bank became impossible.

Now in her late 70s, Sybil has maintained her independence thanks to the support and services of Vision 2020 Australia member Association for the Blind of WA.

She borrows audio books to indulge her passion for reading and uses adaptive technology to access the internet, e-mail and do her banking on-line.

Two years ago, Fred came into her life. Fred can't give Sybil her eyes back but he has helped her get her life back. She is now even more independent and mobile.

"Life has become truly marvellous in the past two years since Fred has come into my life," said Sybil.

"It may not have been the life I imagined, but with Fred by my side, it's still a marvellous life. We try and master a different challenge each week, no matter how minor and having Fred has restored my confidence so I don't feel that I am stuck at home alone anymore."

This year for World Sight Day Sybil is encouraging other older Australians to take care of their vision and access assistance and support from organisations such as the Association for the Blind.

The MD Foundation offers a range of information for people interested in finding out more about macular degeneration. Visit (external link).

To find out more about low vision services in Western Australia visit The Association for the Blind of WA's website at link)