REAL LIFE

Going blind found me love

When Chloe lost her sight it was devastating, but love brought her out of the dark

Here Chloe Pertzel, 24, tells the story in her own words.

Squinting, I made sure each piece 
of silver was perfectly buffed and a finger space apart.

On my university internship at a luxurious hotel, I loved learning the tricks of the trade.

But slowly over the course of my studies the cutlery became blurrier and I started to worry.

So an optometrist sent me to a cornea specialist.

‘You have a condition called keratoconus,’ she said.

It’s where the clear tissue on the cornea – on the front of the eye – bulges outward.

‘I’m afraid you’re losing your sight,’ she explained.

There was a special light procedure to help slow down the condition.

But while I waited for the appointment, my sight deteriorated quickly and I had to stop driving.

It was terrifying. I was just 20 and everything was blurry. I was unable to make out individual leaves on trees and number plates were impossible.

Breaking down, my mum, Maxine, embraced me and we cried together.

I’m really going blind, 
I thought.

When the day of the appointment arrived, I raced in to see the specialist, eager to have the light treatment.

‘You have significant scaring on your corneas,’ she said, explaining the procedure wouldn’t give me my sight back. ‘Your only option is a double cornea transplant.’

Someone else’s corneas in my eyes? I worried.

But it was the only way I would see properly again.

‘Sign me up,’ I smiled, hopeful. 

Waiting for my transplant, I started chatting to people online about my condition.  

I was drawn to a friendly stranger named John and after talking for days we decided to meet.

‘I’m not looking for anyone,’ I told Mum as I left for a cafe.

I just wanted someone to talk to.

When we met, I could only make out a fuzzy outline and light red hair. But I learned John was 
23 and worked as a dog behaviourist.

He was such a good listener, he barely got a word in edgeways as I told him about my condition!

Then he leaned in and kissed me.

I couldn’t see his features, but I didn’t care.

He could look like a feral pig and I would still fall in love with him! I thought, completely taken with his personality.

John and I
Me with John (Source: supplied)

A month later, I underwent a full cornea transplant on my left eye. When I woke, Mum, my dad Robert and John were all there.

I needed an eye patch and was warned that for the rest of my life I would suffer from light sensitivity.

But as I slowly gained sight back in my left eye, I was in awe of how handsome John was.

Sadly, as I waited for my second transplant, I almost completely lost my eyesight in my right eye.

And when I developed cataracts in my new left eye, and had to undergo surgery again, I started to think I’d never have normal vision.

Miserable, I sat with the blinds drawn and lights off.

‘I am officially legally blind,’ I cried to John.

‘I think it’s time you came to my work,’ he replied.

During my eye surgeries, he’d got a 
new job with Guide Dogs Australia.

Taking me by the arm, he led me around the centre, telling me about all the amazing things that guide dogs do.

And then John taught me how to be blind.

‘I want to give you your freedom back,’ he said, handing me a cane as we stood at the bus stop.

‘Hold it out,’ he said, coaching me.

Following his instructions, I listened as the driver told me his route, before I climbed carefully on board.

‘You’re a natural,’ John whispered.

Amazingly, he gave me the confidence to go out alone.

Then, after I was fitted with special black-out glasses, he encouraged me to get a hobby.

The glasses meant I could stay outdoors for an hour at a time, so I planted my very own vegie patch.

John even helped me train my own guide dog, a black Labrador, who I named Shadow.

‘She brings me out of 
the dark,’ I said, explaining her name. 

John also continued to 
be my eyes for me.

John took me to his work.
(Source: Supplied / Guide Dogs Australia)

 ‘Stand right there,’ he said one day. ‘You’re surrounded by the snow of jacarandas.’

Another time, when I was feeling particularly down, he forced me out of my pyjamas and through the door.

After he led me into a 
yard full of guide dog puppies, I stood, stunned, hearing all the pups yapping.

‘This will cheer you up,’ he said.

Then I was licked from head to toe!

‘I love you,’ I told John.

What an incredible date! I thought afterwards.

Now, everything is blurry and my eyes get tired easily, but that’ll hopefully change after my next transplant.

I still have good days and bad, but I distract myself with gardening and Shadow cuddles.

Losing my sight stole my independence and was completing debilitating, but 
it led me to John.

‘You have made my life so much brighter,’ I told him.

With my last transplant booked in for February, I can’t wait to see again, with him by my side.

Shadow and John truly brought me out of the dark.

Guide Dogs are currently looking for puppy raisers! Visit Guide Dogs for more information. 

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