For Toowoomba’s Michael Cooper, coming to terms with his vision loss has been a journey, but thanks to the National Insurance Scheme (NDIS) package he believes he's on the right track.
The 45 year-old was diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition that causes vision loss the centre of the cornea thins and then bulges outward, in his mid-teens and now is legally blind with only a small amount of vision in one eye.
Michael’s initial diagnosis came as he was preparing for his year 10 exams and his initial reaction was one of disbelief.
“Just before the exams I started to get really bad migraines. To begin with it was thought I might have a tumour on my brain or something like that so I had some MRIs and that sort of thing and it turned out it was my eyes and I was given a six month diagnosis until I would lose my vision,” Michael said.
“When you’re 15 or 16 being told you’re going blind isn’t really something you expect. I defienitely went through a period where there was some grief and those sorts of feelings,” he said.
Upon diagnosis, Michael tried glasses and contact lenses and then turned to surgery including corneal transplants in an attempt to restore his vision. While he underwent eight surgeries in total, none proved to be ultimately successful and his vision continued to deteriorate.
“The last surgery I had was in September 2015 and unfortunately my body rejected the cornea again. After that I decided that was it for me in terms of anymore surgeries.
“I guess you could say that’s when I finally came to terms with it all and that’s definitely helped. I’ve decided that I would start to put some plans in place so I could go on and continue to enjoy life.”
Those plans included applying for a NDIS package, which Michael received earlier this year. One of the first people in the Toowoomba region to do so, Michael had no second thoughts about using his package to access support from Vision Australia.
“When my vision first started to deteriorate I became a Vision Australia client. To begin with I got some cane training and support with touch typing and I’ve been a client ever since.
“Vision Australia has been great in the support they’ve given me in the last 30 years, so when I got the NDIS package I didn’t even think about going anywhere else to get support for my vision issues.”
Through his NDIS package, Michael has accessed a number of different services from Vision Australia that have supported him in a number of areas including getting out and about and staying in touch with his family.
“I use a white cane to get around and working with a Vision Australia orientation and mobility specialist I’ve really noticed a change. I feel a lot safer and more secure when I’m walking around town. I’m walking around town so much that I’ve lost track of the number of cane tips I’ve had to replace.
“I’ve had some help with different pieces of technology and that lets me keep in touch with my children who live all over the place which I really enjoy. I’m also learning to use JAWS and I’m doing more touch typing training to help me use with using my computer.”
Michael’s NDIS package has also allowed him set up his apartment so he can live independently, with it providing funding for cleaners and similar support services.
Vision Australia's Vision Van will be in Toowoomba this week to provide people who are blind or have low vision vith information about the NDIS and more. Find out more about the visit here.