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Young West Lothian mum “panicked” when she began to lose her sight

A young West Lothian mum who “panicked” when she began to lose her sight has praised a charity that has given her vital support.

Amanda Whitfield (31), was diagnosed with Stargardt disease in 2016 – a hereditary condition which started impacting her sight in early adulthood.

With her vision deteriorating further she said she felt low about what the future held for her and so the mum-of-one reached out to the charity Sight Scotland through its new telephone support line.

The Sight Scotland Support Line, which was launched in Edinburgh and the Lothians in January this year as part of its newly formed Family Wellbeing Service, and has been launched nationally this month, offers someone for people with sight loss and their families to turn to for information, advice and support.

The charity runs a rehabilitation centre, Sight Scotland Veterans at Wilkieston in West Lothian.

Amanda, who stays in Linlithgow, said: “Getting a sight loss diagnosis at such a young age was a shock.

“I know I’m not going to wake up and be blind but the worry of how quickly my sight is going to deteriorate is there. I genuinely felt really low about it, and I was panicking.

!I got in touch with Sight Scotland because I can describe to others what my sight loss is like, but they aren’t going through it themselves, so it was good to speak to someone else who understands about sight loss.”

Sight Scotland’s community team has introduced Amanda to equipment options to aid her independence and provided emotional support too as she adapts to life with sight loss.

In addition to the telephone service, Sight Scotland’s Family Wellbeing Service also provides the option of face-to-face home visits for people based in West Lothian.

Amanda continued: “Debbie McGregor, one of the Sight Scotland community workers, has helped and supported me more than she knows. She’s understanding and she’s patient. It’s comforting.

The Sightloss Scotland Family Wellbeing team

“She continues to stay in touch to see how I am and keep me updated with advice about equipment and technology. The service has opened a lot of doors to me in terms of support. I don’t feel as panicked about what the future’s going to hold.

“It’s so important to have support for sight loss from a service like the Sight Scotland Support Line.”

The new service launches nationally as Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans publish findings from their latest research involving over 200 visually impaired people. Over 55% of participants said they hadn’t had enough information about where they could find support after their diagnosis; while over 80% said it was important to provide more support to family members and carers.

Almost 90 per cent said it was important they and their families received support to deal with the emotional impact of sight loss.

Chief Executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, Mark O’Donnell, said: “We are proud to officially launch the Sight Scotland Support Line nationally today.

“This new telephone service is there for anyone impacted by visual impairment so that no-one in Scotland has to struggle with sight loss alone. Our friendly, caring community team are here to provide tailored information and advice for blind and partially sighted people, as well as families and carers.

“Our research has shown that this is the kind of information that people want following diagnosis of an eye condition to help them find who can support them to live well with sight loss. We know it has been particularly difficult for people to access support due to the impact of Covid-19, and that it is particularly important to launch this national support line service now.

“We are delighted that the Scottish Government recently launched the Eyes.Scot website as an invaluable source of information and we are seeking to play our role in reaching more people with sight loss through the launch of our new community services.”

People impacted by sight loss can call the Sight Scotland Support Line on 0800 024 8973, Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm or visit SightScotland.org.uk for further information.

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