Campaign aims to help blind Aberdeenshire woman regain sight

Diane Ralph tests the glasses which will give her sight. Picture: Supplied
Diane Ralph tests the glasses which will give her sight. Picture: Supplied
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THE family of a blind woman from the fishing village of Sandhaven has launched a campaign to raise £11,000 to fund the purchase of a pair of electronic glasses which will help her win her sight.

Diane Ralph, 50, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease in 2004 and has been registered as medically blind for the last 13 years.

Miss Ralph originally worked as a nurse in Aberdeen before retiring on medical grounds, aged 26, in 1994 due to degenerative spinal discs and arthritis.

Later, while studying for an Open University degree in Arts and Humanities, she began to see flashes in her vision which didn’t go away and were later diagnosed as Stargardt disease.

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Stargardt disease is a rare inherited disorder of the retina which causes progressive damage to central vision in both eyes which is responsible for the detailed vision necessary for such every day activities such as reading, driving and watching TV.

Typical symptoms of the disease include a loss of detailed vision and colour perception, wavy vision, blind spots, blurriness and difficulty adapting to low light levels.

Miss Ralph said: “While I was studying for my Open University degree I found I was having trouble reading my textbooks and magazines. My eyes wouldn’t focus and I had bright sparkles, like fireworks, in my vision.

“When I saw an eye specialist my central vision had deteriorated to the point I only had a small amount of peripheral vision left. After more tests, I was subsequently diagnosed with Stargardt disease which was devastating.”

Although there is currently no cure for Stargardt disease, modern technology is now available to help those with the condition to regain their sight.

Electronic glasses have been developed by Canadian company eSight which communicate what they see through a camera and enhanced video system which can then be interpreted correctly by the optical nerve, giving back sight.

A high-speed, high resolution camera in the middle of the eSight electronic glasses captures what a user is looking at in real time. Enhanced full colour video images can be clearly seen by the person using the glasses with visual clarity and no perceptible delay.

Miss Ralph said: “I couldn’t believe it when I tried on the electronic glasses, it was like coming out of darkness in to the light. I could see again and was easily able to read a newspaper, see cars and road signs and I also got to see my family for the first time in years which was very special.

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“The glasses will completely change my life but are out of my reach financially. My family and friends have launched a fundraising campaign to raise the £11,000 we need to buy the glasses and the work has already started.

“We don’t know how long it will take to raise the money but I really hope we reach the target as the glasses will make an enormous difference to me and how I’m able to live my life.”

The electronic glasses were developed by eSight in Canada and are available to purchase in the UK via distributor Associated Optical.

The family first became aware of the glasses when a video for the US talk show Rachael Ray appeared on the Facebook page of Diane’s brother-in-law, Grant McLean.

Recognising the condition, he made enquiries with eSight and Associated Optical before passing all the information onto his wife Alison, Miss Ralph’s sister, who made further enquiries and set up the initial consultation and trial in Glasgow with Ian Hughes, Area Manager with Associated Optical and Craig McArthur at Peter Ivins Eye Care in Bearsden.

Mr Mclean said: “We couldn’t believe it when we saw the video on Facebook which seemed to offer a solution to Diane’s sight problems. After seeing what an impact the glasses had on her during the trial we are determined to raise the £11,000 needed to buy her a pair and will be doing everything we can to reach the total.”

For more information and to support the campaign to fund the purchase of a pair of electronic glasses for Diane, please visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/helpdianeseeagain