The Sensory Impairment services changed my life for the better
Huw Davies’ story
Huw Davies suffers from type two Ushers Syndrome and was born with moderate to severe hearing loss. This has also led to him having an onset of visual problems related to Retinitis Pigmentosa as an adult.
“My hearing is very bad and whilst I have hearing aids, I also have to use a device that helps with amplifying sound and cutting out background noise. I have tunnel vision which means that I can only see things directly in front of me. This is also blurred so I can only see outlines of people when I look around and this gets worst at night when I am looking at bright lights such as street or car lights.
Around ten years ago, at a time when my hearing and sight were really deteriorating, I was finding things that most people take for granted very difficult. Because I could not read print I did not know how long to cook meals for and was unable to read my letters. Simple things like recognising money and making a drink were now a real problem. I could not hear people at my door and hearing people on the telephone was also very difficult.
Having no family in the area, not knowing anybody or how I would cope or what support was out there deteriorated my confidence. A big factor for me was because I could not hear myself speak I felt as though I had a speech impediment and people would not understand me. I started to feel depressed about the situation and this was the reason for contacting the Sensory Service.
I remember several people from the team visiting. Initially I had support from the rehabilitation officer. Little things like placing markers on my appliances and using liquid level indicator helped my confidence. When Rachel the worker who deals with hearing came, she provided equipment so that I could hear people at the door, rather than leaving my door open for visitors, a thing for the TV so that I can hear the TV without my neighbours hearing it, and a phone that I can use to make a phone call without any assistance.
Even with support I was going out less and having no family in Barnsley I quickly felt isolated. The rehabilitation worker had talked to me about training with a long cane to be able to get out on my own. Although initially reluctant to use the cane, once I realised what the training could do, my confidence started to grow. As the training was coming to a close I made a decision to apply for a guide dog. After passing their criteria and with further training, I was paired with my first guide dog called Owen.
In 2011 when I was having difficulties using my magnifiers and trying to find ways of reading my utility meters, I contacted the sensory service again.
Being isolated and comfort eating meant I had put a significant amount of weight and I was nearly 24 stone. This was putting a strain on my back and found that even after a short walk I was out of breath. I had tried exercise before but this turned out to be difficult. As the gym where I went was unsure what to do about my guide dog I stopped going. Mentioning that I wanted to lose some weight to my rehabilitation worker we looked at the practical difficulties. I needed to be able to get to the gym so would require some support with learning the route. Once there I would need the support of someone to help with advice about what I wanted to achieve and on the use of the machines. The rehabilitation worker had agreed to provide awareness training to staff at the gym if they felt that this would be required.
We approached a gym to ensure that they could accommodate my guide dog while exercising. Initially staff agreed to support me for one to two hour weekly session. I had support from the rehabilitation worker to learn the route so that I could travel to and from the Gym independently. With a change in diet and exercise, I quickly lost weight, losing one and a half stone in the first month. Staff at the gym have been excellent and over time they have increased the support to three sessions week. This has included a bit of support with being guided to the swimming pool and lane swim once a week.
Overall my weight loss to date is 9 stone and my body mass index has reduced from 33 to 25.4 I feel more confident and no longer have any problems getting up in the morning. I eat more healthily and walking is no longer a problem.
From a point where I felt really isolated and did not know where to turn I now have a lot more knowledge about technology and what can help me even when my sight and hearing has deteriorated. My weight loss has attracted interest from the media and I have been featured in the local newspaper pictured with my guide dog. Also before I did not know much about social media but now I have a Facebook account and have around 200 followers who have commented positively about what I have achieved.”