Working for People with Sight Loss

Living The New Life She Has, Independently and Happily

Image is of a smiling Sharon Byrne as she knits a garment

Sharon Byrne is living proof that one never knows what’s around the corner.

The 52 year old, of Irish and Zambian parents, was working on her family farm in Zambia when she got a brain tumour and lost her sight.

She recalls that everything changed from that moment on.

“It was horrible; I thought it was the end of the world. I stayed in the house for the next three months and didn’t move, I was terrified. I just couldn’t get used to it and I was devastated”.

“My head was spinning, I was in a terrible state. It was funny how things came into my head. I remembered   a man who lived in my village in Zambia when I was younger. He used to walk around looking for food and looking for people to help him. I thought to myself, God now I know how he must have felt. Ok, I had lots of support and everything I needed but I understood the helplessness and vulnerability that man must have felt. I had never had that feeling before, it shook me”.

At that time Sharon’s Sister was living and working as a Nurse in Dublin, so in 2005, after careful consideration, Sharon decided to move here too.

“Life was pretty bleak for me at that time, I was scared no matter where I was, either in Zambia and then in Dublin. I just went from my bedroom to the kitchen, to the bathroom.   I had no freedom”.

“I met a Consultant in the Mater and she was wonderful but said “Sharon, there is nothing we can do, your sight is gone”. “ To be honest though at that stage I was on a journey of acceptance so I wasn’t too surprised”.

“However that Consultant recommended that I contact the Social Welfare and a lovely man there put me in touch with the NCBI and I haven’t looked back since”.

“I underwent quite a lot of Counselling with the NCBI as I had been very traumatised by what had happened.  I think this is totally normal. This counselling  was vital to my future, it helped me really accept what had happened. I was able to say to myself, I’m blind now, what’s the next step. The fact that there was somebody there who listened while I cried, raged and just talked was so incredibly important to me. I would advise anybody who is facing any challenging situation to go for counselling. It lays the foundations for a happy future in my opinion. Once you accept your situation you are ready for anything”.

Sharon says “I went for the NCBI’s mobility training and independent living skills which gave me the confidence to move around, push myself and learn to live again. Differently yes, but live”.” I went from essentially being a prisoner in my home  to somebody who was able to travel from Smithfield, where I was living at that time ,over to Drumcondra and to the  Iona Centre in Glasnevin”.I learned how to cook safely and  do my bits and pieces around the house like hoovering , cleaning and dusting. Some people are amazed that I can do all this and I do understand where they’re coming  from, but I love doing all that myself, it gives me independence  and autonomy ”.

“I have met the most helpful, caring, kind and professional people in the NCBI who used  their  training and skills to essentially transform the life that I was living at that time.  I have the wherewithal now to get out and about freely and that to me is priceless .I have received so much confidence from the NCBI; it was like an injection of confidence. I have made lots of new  friends. I felt rooted and connected  and at peace with my new life. It is the only one I am ever going to have so I am going to make the most of it ”.