CJ’S Road To Recovery
My name is CJ and I used to be a software engineer travelling around the world, developing and installing AI systems in the manufacturing & science industry. In 2021 I experienced a sequence of TIA (mini strokes) and bleeding at the back of the eye (RVO). As my sight deteriorated I was unable to return to my role and focused on supporting my wife Chanel with her hypnotherapy services. We were living in an isolated village near Holmfirth and I was becoming less mobile. I received long cane training from the RNIB (Mary) but found it difficult to adapt to the challenges of sight loss. Despite this setback, and lockdowns, Chanel made sure our wedding was amazing, our honeymoon perfect and that I was safe. She suggested we make use of a support dog, such as a Belgian Malinois (Enki) to help get me out more, go for walks, take up photography. My recovery (physically and mentally) was doing well so we adopted a friend for Enki, another Malinois called Inanna.
We had been renting for 9 years and now married looking for our place to call home. We found a great place near Newsome and moved here in September last year. I became extremely unwell in October following surgery at Barnsley hospital and rushed to HRI for emergency treatment. I was in hospital for 25 days and had drains attached for 48 days, an emergency blood transfusion and several procedures. I was in very poor health, underweight and suffering with cardiovascular issues and Chanel retired from her day job to take care of me (and two dogs) at home whilst running her hypnotherapy business from home.
During my recovery from surgery I experienced increasing loss of central vision and more bizarre symptoms of Charles Bonnet Syndrome. I was also becoming more sensitive to light, display screens being most uncomfortable. I was having major problems using my camera and finding it increasingly difficult to read even large print. I was struggling to judge distance, see outlines, see faces, follow objects. My mental health took a nose dive and I was referred for psychiatric help. Together with Folly Hall Mills and Kirklees Wellness Team I was encouraged to attend the Huddersfield Town Hall event where I found Outlookers and Blind Veterans. I initially went to enquire about technology for partially sighted people (specifically AR goggles to increase contrast, highlight/track objects, speak what can be detected, etc). I didn’t find anything useful but was warmed by the friendly reception of the Outlookers team and was keen to visit the support group on the following Friday.
It was a perfect reason to practice using the bus, as I’d not caught a bus since being a teenager 😊. I wanted to learn about the tandem bike trekking, canal trips and walks to the park. I have met lovely people at Brian Jackson house and in particular Sam, who helped me get my tech gear talking to me. I had some training from RNIB tech on Voice Over for Apple but hadn’t really used it or was interested in my gadgets anymore. Now I was flying, with bone connection headphones, assistive smartware and a new cane. I met a fellow Huddersfield group member called Dennis and after a mornings chat about music he invited me to a try out at his choir at the Lawrence Batley Theatre. I went and thoroughly enjoyed it, I used to be nervous about these things but now I had a new found confidence to sing my heart out. A few weeks on, I was with Dennis and the rest of the choir for an afternoon performance in Honley at the open gardens event this year: https://youtu.be/Bry1_yv1xiw
I have found a new passion for music and have been practicing piano far more than I ever did.
Through Outlookers, I have been able to connect with amazing people in our community and receive a helping hand, through advice, support and training to get back on my feet and living again. Chanel is now also receiving wonderful support and able to provide what I need to become more independent. I have recently been inquiring about getting back into employment with a strong desire to work in a support role, helping others adjust and adapt to the changes to daily life of living with sight loss.
I have attended several of the peer group sessions at Brian Jackson House and attended the Living Well with Sight Loss workshop. I have gained a huge amount of technical knowledge, tips, guidance and emotional support from the team of volunteers and staff at Outlookers and this has given me the confidence to engage with things I had given up on. I have learned how to make technology work for me, and quickly realised (based on my previous work experience of AI) that assistive technology was far more than useful and that cutting edge science applications such as LiDAR (used in digital cameras too; wearable equipment, stabilisers, trackers etc meaning I can still engage with my hobbies) can be life transforming, especially combining many linked gadgets. With the continued development of assistive tech and the important work of charities such as Outlookers and the people that support and drive this work forward, I believe that smart technology does make a huge positive difference to the lives of people living with sight loss. From keeping track of bus times, to chatting with friends, remote meetings and assistance, hobbies and lifestyle entertainment and home automation; Smart technology and AI is giving me a whole new outlook on life.
I’m planning on singing at the Cowshed in Meltham on 9th July, see poster if you’re interested in local folk singing. You can experience all of my digital media artwork and wife’s hypnotherapy online at: