"It's only now that I have seen the impact macular disease has on people"

Posted: Friday 20 January 2023
Denise Lewis smiling at camera

A retired ophthalmic nurse said it wasn’t until she began to volunteer with her local support group that she realised the true impact macular disease has on many people’s lives.

Denise, 60, treated countless patients in her 13 years at the Cardiff Eye Unit, University Hospital of Wales. After her retirement, she initially signed up as a support group volunteer after responding to a local Macular Society newspaper advert, but soon found herself running her hometown group in Caerphilly.

She said: “When I was a nurse around people with macular degeneration, you didn’t take on board the person’s life with the condition. The group has shown me what life is like with macular degeneration and there are people with different conditions at different stages. They are an absolute inspiration, the way they carry on and make the most of what they can.”

Through the monthly support group, Denise brings people who are going through different stages and severities of sight loss together, for a chance to socialise, hear from guest speakers and seek support from others affected by the condition.

The group leader had been working in the hospital environment for more than a decade before she took early retirement, and said the emotional impact of sight loss wasn’t considered.

She said: “That wasn’t alarming for me at the time. It sounds blunt but you’re just doing your job. It was getting people’s injections done. You would see one person then get the next one in. It was like a conveyer belt system so you didn’t get involved in the emotional side of things.

“It’s only now I’m outside of the hospital environment and working with people through the group that I have seen the impact macular disease has on people.”

Now Denise does all she can in her volunteer role with the Macular Society to ensure people have the information they need, from handing out information packs to helping people sign up as a members.

She said: “It gives you a sense of purpose and belonging. You can share so much with people and that works both ways, every day is a learning environment and the people in my group have just taught me so much.”

Denise added that “making friends with people,” was the best part of volunteering, as she helps fight the impact of isolation. “Our members are increasing all the time, some people there pre-date me but I address them as my macular family. They are friends, such a lovely bunch of people and I think it’s the friendship and connection and doing my best I can for them to bring them together once a month.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from joining their nearest support group, or to become a volunteer, call the Macular Society’s groups admin team on 01264 560 259 or email groupsadmin@macularsociety.org

Find your local group.

Our services in Wales are generously funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.