I just remember going home and breaking down

Katie Berrill outside

At the age of 31 Katie Berrill never had any reason to think there was anything wrong with her vision.

But at a routine eye test last year, she received a diagnosis which changed her life instantly.

Katie’s optician spotted something wrong at the back of her eyes and she received an urgent referral to hospital. Four days later she was told she had Stargardt disease, a juvenile macular dystrophy.

She said: “I just remember going home and breaking down, I cried so much I literally couldn’t breathe. I went into shock for a few days, I couldn’t eat or sleep and was really shaky. My mind was in overdrive, I was terrified and felt sick constantly. I sometimes wonder when I think back, how I got through those few days.”

As a mother of a young seven year old Katie was frightened about what her future might hold.

She said: “My whole life had changed in a day and the life I thought I was going to have wasn’t going to happen.

“My biggest fear when I was first diagnosed was not being able to see my little boy’s face. I thought I was going to lose all of my vision completely and that blindness meant complete darkness.”

She added: “I worried about not being able to see my loved ones, losing my independence, not being able to drive and being a burden to everyone.”

Katie was put in touch with the Society’s counselling service, which helped her deal with the emotions she was going through.

She said: “The counsellor calmed me down every week, listened to me cry, cheered me up, made me realise life will carry on and I’m so grateful for having her to talk to at that early stage. It gave me someone other than family to pour my heart out to.”

“Without the counselling service I really don’t know how I would have got through those first couple of weeks after diagnosis. The counsellor Suzanne kept me calm and positive every week and listened without judgement. I am very grateful to her and always will be.”

To find out more about the counselling service, or to get in touch, contact our Helpline on 0300 3030 111.