Health Stories

Blinded at work – but I have my very own hero

Pooch love!

Alison’s life changed forever, but a furry friend means she’ll never be alone.

Here, Alison Jones, 24, from Kilcoy, Qld, shares the story in her own words.

As the machines hummed, I glanced at the clock.

Not long left, I thought.

With only a few hours to go, I asked one of the new guys to clean the machine I was on with a high pressure air hose.            

When he finished, I went over to check.

But peering through the bars of the machine, I saw that it was still covered in mess.

‘I think you need to do this again,’ I told him.

With my head still over the machine, the bloke suddenly pointed the nozzle of the hose right in my eyes.

Despite wearing safety glasses, I could feel bits of debris flying into my eyes.

‘What the…?’ I gasped.

Rushing to the first-aid kit, I rinsed my eyes with a special wash.

I could see out of them fine, but at home later they felt scratchy.

When I woke up, they were worse, so I went to hospital where a doctor cleaned them.

I couldn’t believe it when he pulled whole cotton seeds out of my eye.

‘They should be fine now. Just monitor them,’ he told me.

Back at work, I was relieved to hear the man had been sacked.

But my eyes were still irritated, so my manager took me to an eye hospital.

There, a specialist cleaned them again and gave me antibiotic eye drops.

When there was still no improvement, I went back to hospital and doctors discovered I had a hole in my right eye. I winced in pain as they pulled out tiny fragments of metal.

My seeing eye dog, Ashton

When there was still no improvement, I went back to hospital and doctors discovered I had a hole in my right eye. I

winced in pain as they pulled out tiny fragments of metal.

By now, the vision in my right eye was also blurred, and five days later, doctors found it was infected.

Staying over in hospital, I was given regular eye drops. By this point, my vision had gone completely.

It will come back, I told myself, trying to stay positive.

But then I had a vision test.

‘Your eyesight isn’t coming back, kiddo,’ the doctor told me gently.

I was heartbroken.

The fact that I still had sight in my left eye kept me going, though.

Returning to work, but this time in the office, everyone supported me as I adjusted to my situation.

Despite my positivity, the pain in my right eye was still agonising.

At another hospital visit, I was given even more devastating news.

‘The only way to get rid of the pain is to remove your eye,’ the doctor said.

It was a lot to take in, but I clung on to the silver lining – I still had my left eye.

The op took place a few months later and, for a while, things seemed good.

But then I experienced blurred vision in my left eye.

Tests showed this eye was now infected.

Once again, doctors tried various treatments.

But nothing worked.

‘I’m sorry to tell you this, but you won’t ever see again,’ the doctor said.

Shattered, I decided the man who did this needed to know, so I called him.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said.

Ashton and Alison walking
With Ashton, I am free

‘I don’t want your apology. I want you to live with this for the rest of your life, like I have to,’ I told him.

I didn’t want to take any further action.

But I was crushed again when my left eye also had to be removed.

Afterwards, I was plunged into a world of darkness.

I’d loved playing sport and driving. Now it felt like I was losing my independence.

But, determined, I decided I didn’t want a life where people were doing stuff for me. I wanted to do things for myself.

Spending months in rehab, I learned how to adapt to life as someone without sight.

When I was discharged, it felt very daunting. I got my own apartment in Brisbane and my occupational therapist put

markers on the stove controls.

Navigating the world in the dark was scary but I pushed myself to get out of the house with my cane.

At the supermarket, staff were happy to help me out.

The manager of Vision Australia had told me about the charity Seeing Eye Dogs, which provides pooches to help the blind.

So, I registered and was put on a waiting list.

Then, one day, I got a call saying they had a match for me, a golden retriever called Ashton.

Overwhelmed with happiness, I couldn’t stop crying.

Meeting Ashton for the first time was like a dream come true.

‘Hey buddy,’ I said, patting his silky coat.

We had a few weeks of coaching together with Ashton’s trainer, before we were left to go it alone.

Having Ashton guiding me instead of using a cane was incredible.

It felt like I was flying!

Everyday things, such as crossing a road or taking public transport, became a breeze with Ashton.

Alison and Riley
Me and Riley

I even returned to the gym five days a week and joined a goalball team, a sport designed for athletes with a vision impairment.

Then a few years ago, I decided to start online dating. Chatting to a man called Riley, I got my friend to check out his pictures.

‘He looks nice,’ she said.

My blindness didn’t faze him and he treated me just like anyone else.

We soon fell in love and this year, we got engaged.

I’m also now at university, pursuing my dream of working in the health sector. Loyal Ashton accompanies me to my classes.

It’s been three years since he’s been by my side, keeping me safe.

I couldn’t imagine life without him. He’s given me back my freedom.

Dogs with a job

Every year, the Petbarn Foundation raises money to support Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs.

This year, kind Aussies donated a record $775,000 to the charity, meaning
15 puppies can start their two-year training process.

These clever canines will go on to help those who are blind or have low vision gain more independence.

Since the appeal first started in 2014, 85 Seeing Eye Dogs have been trained and 85 lives changed for the better.

For more info and to help, visit here

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