Neil Walker – Sidcup, Kent
“I just wish I’d known about the mask earlier before the damage to my eyes happened.”
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 12 and was told five years ago during a routine eye examination that I had developed eye disease.
It’s terrifying to be told you have retinopathy. A million scary thoughts go through your head about losing your sight. I’m only 40 and I have children; Libby, 11, Jake, 14 and Connor, 16. I want to be able to see them grow up; to see their wedding days.
I was diagnosed with diabetes after displaying the classic symptoms of needing to visit the bathroom more often and I had a raging thirst.
I would buy drinks from other pupils in the playground for extortionate amounts because I was so thirsty. I was tired and had no inclination to go out. It was coming up to a school trip and my mum took me to the doctors as I’d been under the weather. I ended up being in hospital for two weeks learning all about diabetes control.
There’s always an awareness there but I still do everything everyone else does. If you never had a drink or a burger, life would be pretty boring.
A check-up picked up some issues at the back of my eyes when I was 35. Since then I’ve had several bleeds in my eyes and at least five laser treatments. Every time I went back, I was told I needed more surgery.
It’s not pleasant. The first time isn’t too bad but once you have scaring from previous treatments, it becomes very painful. The laser treatment is designed to stop the bleeds, but it also burns off part of the retina and, if they make a tiny mistake, you could lose your sight.
I wasn’t happy about the amount of laser surgery and I ended up being transferred to Moorfields Eye Hospital. After doing some research, I made the decision to use the Noctura 400 mask.
After three months, my consultant at Moorfields said he’d seen a regression. There’s been no new growth and I haven’t had to have any more laser treatments.
I enjoy motorcycling as a hobby and I drive for work as a roofing manager, so you worry about your livelihood. I want to see my three kids grow up, live their lives and get married.
When I was first diagnosed with retinopathy, it was very much doom and gloom. No one could tell me that I would definitely still be able to see my children in 10 years’ time. Now, I finally feel hopeful again. I just wish I’d known about the mask earlier before the damage to my eyes happened.