Emu Plains resident Jill Huber’s independence was ripped away from her because she waited too long to seek help for a debilitating eye condition.
At 18-years-old Ms Huber was diagnosed with glaucoma, and her vision slowly disintegrated to the point she couldn’t cross the road on her own.
It wasn’t until her mid-30s that she contacted Guide Dogs to learn how to use a long cane, to enable her to walk without others.
“My vision varies, I’m totally blind in my left eye and have a small amount of vision in my right eye,” she said.
Ms Huber is one of 300,000 Australians who suffers from glaucoma, which slowly damages the optic nerves connecting the eye to the brain.
A Guide Dogs Australia survey revealed a staggering 26 per cent of respondents waited more than 10 years before contacting Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for help.
If left untreated, glaucoma can cause tunnel vision and lead to blindness.
Ms Huber is encouraging others to seek help before it becomes too late.
“It is confronting and, as a result in the past, I have been treated for depression, but I’ve found taking a keen interest in my community has helped enormously,” she said.
Ms Huber has been keeping herself busy through the Penrith Vision Impaired Support Group, and now has her guide dog, Cassie, who gives her confidence to go about her daily life.
“I try not to dwell on anything and keep as active as possible,” she said.
“The Penrith Vision Support Group has been fantastic. If anyone has any problems the group helps each other out, it’s a great network of friends.”
Guide Dogs Australia is launching their ‘Don’t Delay, Seek Help Today’ campaign on International White Cane Day on Saturday, October 15.
CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Dr Graeme White, said every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with irreversible vision loss, including nine who become blind.
“It is important we reach out to ensure those who are experiencing problems with their sight maintain their independence to live the life they choose,” he said.
Mr White said seeking help from Guide Dogs can help reduce the risk of falls, hip fractures and depression.