Retina NZ Inc
Summer Newsletter, February 2005, No 24
In this issue:
1 Editorial from Susan Mellsopp
2 From the President's Desk from Kaye Newton
3 Retinal Detachments
4 Research – Studies of Retinal Detachments
5 Stem Cell Research Rescues Cones
6 Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration:
7 Report of World Blind Union General Assembly
8 National Eye Bank Trust:
9 Achieving Equity
10 Coping - Managing Your Clothing
11 Coping - Equipped For Living
12 Book Reviews
13 Branch News
1 From the Editor
My name is Susan Mellsopp and I have recently been appointed the new editor of the Retina NZ newsletter. June Ombler has done a wonderful job for fifteen years editing this newsletter in an informative and professional manner. I wish her well for her retirement and am sure she will continue to support people with retinal disorders.
I would like to tell you a little about myself. I live in Hamilton and I have four children. My eldest son is a farm manager, my eldest daughter also lives in Hamilton and has an intellectual disability. My youngest daughter lives on a farm with her partner and they are the parents of 18 month old twins. My second son died in 1997 leaving a daughter who is now nine.
I am very busy completing my Masters thesis as an extramural student at Massey University. I hope to submit it for examination sometime in March. I have a BA majoring in Sociology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts researching disability issues. I hope to continue doing disability research and begin a PhD later this year.
My other interests include theatre, listening to music, cooking, gardening and travel. I am a member of Waikato Graduate Women and the Women's Studies Association. I have spent many years involved with Pony Club, Horse Trials and show‑jumping. House hunting for a new home is absorbing much of my spare time at the moment.
I joined Retina New Zealand when I was diagnosed with bilateral degenerative myopia. I recently had surgery for a rare and complex retinal detachment and will have cataract surgery in April.
Several requests for information about retinal detachment prompted me to include both information and research about this condition in the newsletter. Allen Little attended the World Blind Union Conference in South Africa and has provided a very interesting report. Information about donating corneas to the New Zealand Eye Bank, MD and smoking and a review of the 'Achieving Equity' policy is included in this newsletter. I have a new section, a book review, and hope to include book reviews in future newsletters.
As the new editor I welcome feedback about the newsletter, suggestions for topics to include in future newsletters, and please remember to send in queries for 'your questions answered'.
My contact details are:
16 Riverview Terrace, Hamilton.
Phone 07 8533 612
2 From the President's Desk
Greetings for 2005. We welcome Sue Mellsopp aboard as our new editor. I am sure she will be pleased to get feedback on what you like to read in the newsletter. I enjoyed a complete break over the Christmas ‑ New Year period, both from work, and my computer at home. However, Elizabeth East was still manning our peer support telephone right throughout, and I know she received some calls during that time. For retired people, or people living on their own, that time of year can be very quiet indeed when everything shuts down ‑ except for the shopping of course. However, I believe a couple of callers suffered acute symptoms during the Xmas break and were advised to get urgent assistance from eye specialists.
The tsunami provided an incentive to watch TV more than I usually do. However, I have been particularly interested in the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. I was privileged to visit it last year during their summer. Seeing the ceremony recently on TV with the survivors and leaders all sitting in the thick freezing snow, brought home the enormity of what happened. The tsunami has killed maybe 260,000 and the world has responded with help and donations. 1.5 million people were deliberately exploited then killed at Auschwitz and neighbouring Birkenau camp. What has this got to do with eyesight? Nothing. But it helps to realise that there are plenty of people living with horrors and tragedy that we can only imagine. Yet the survivors consider themselves to be the lucky ones.
June Ombler has not been idle since retiring from the Retina executive and editorship. She has joined a choir, and plans to join a genealogy society. June has offered to write letters for people in her retirement village and hospital who are unable to write their own through stroke etc. It strikes me, that this is such an effective and practical way to show what a blind person CAN do with today's technology.
Camille Guy, our vice president, was recently featured in a television documentary on TV3 during their open door slot one Sunday. This featured four blind women, some of them quite young. They talked about what happened when they started losing sight, and how that affects their lives now. They have all adapted, which meant making changes, and coming to terms with the loss over a period of time, then getting on with living. All of them seemed reasonably happy with their lives now, though that process of change and adapting cannot have been easy at the time. Our coping strategies pamphlet defines coping as finding new ways to do familiar tasks. It is not about fighting, nor about giving up. Some small changes can make a big difference. We could arrange to make copies of this programme if anyone particularly wants to see (or listen) to it.
Kaye Newton 03 3795 807
3 Retinal Detachments:
A retinal detachment can occur at any time with little or no warning. Those with moderate or high myopia are at the greatest risk. Several symptoms occur during or after a retinal detachment.
Floaters ‑ When a considerable portion of the vitreous becomes liquefied tiny remnants of vitreous fibrils will move around in the eye as eye movements occur. This results in the appearance of floaters which look like bacteria on a microscope slide. They are impossible to catch, if you try to look at one it quickly floats away.
Vitreous Detachment ‑ Once the vitreous humor becomes liquefied, the vitreous membrane may suddenly pull away from its ring of attachment at the back of the eye. When this occurs tension is placed on the nasal side of the vitreous attachment at the front of the eye. The sudden traction stimulates the retinal rods and cones causing the appearance of an arc of flashes. For a day or two after a vitreous detachment the flashes are likely to be repeated whenever sudden eye movements are made. An additional symptom may be the appearance of a floating black ring, a shadow of the now detached pigment ring at the optic nerve entrance. This may reappear for several days. The possibility of a retinal detachment is greatest four or five days after a vitreous detachment.
Other commonly reported symptoms are that of a curtain suddenly coming down over the eye which may completely or partially block the vision. There may be a dark spot located close to whatever a person is looking at. The above symptoms all indicate the need for an emergency eye examination.
The above information was extracted from Vision After 50 Preventing Age‑Related Vision Loss with the kind permission of the author Theodore Grovensor. Further extracts from the book will be published in later newsletters. Information on purchasing this book can be obtained by contacting the Editor.
Retinal Detachment Surgery:
Outlook for good vision after surgery depends on several factors, including the status and integrity of the macula. Three types of surgical reattachment are available.
A gas bubble is injected into the vitreous cavity which acts as an internal splint to hold the retina against the outer wall of the eye. This injection is inserted in the safe zone of the wall of the eye that lies between the anterior limits of the retina and posterior limits of the lens. The size and location of the retinal breaks, the extent of retinal detachment, and the lack of traction by the vitreous gel on the retina are important considerations in choosing this treatment. For this technique to be successful the retinal breaks should be relatively small, located in the upper half of the retina, and be spread within an arc of 60 degrees. The permanent closure of the retinal breaks is obtained by placing the freezing probe over the external surface of the eye in the area of the breaks. A long lasting gas is then injected in the vitreous cavity. As the gas bubble swells it keeps the retina against the upper wall of the eye. To assure constant contact between the retina and the outer wall of the eye the patient's head must be properly positioned, usually for a week to ten days.
This operation is carried out in three steps. Step one creates an adhesion between the area that surrounds the retinal tears and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Such adhesion is obtained either by burning or by freezing the external wall of the eye in the correct location. Step two creates a permanent reduction of internal traction by the vitreous on the retina by indenting the outer wall of the eye. This is carried out by placing a silicon rubber implant on the external wall of the eye over the location of the retinal tears. This area is located over the burn or freeze. Step three consists of releasing the fluid located between the detached retina and RPE by making a drainage hole in the outer wall of the eye. When this fluid is removed the sutures that hold the silicon rubber implant in place are tightened and a permanent indentation of the globe results.
This operation consists of removing the shrinking vitreous gel from the eye and peeling the newly formed tissue that may be present on both surfaces of the retina. This tissue is prone to occur in long standing retinal detachments. A vitrectomy instrument is introduced into the eye and slowly sucks the vitreous gel out of the eye. Replacement fluid is gradually injected in order to maintain normal eye pressure. The peeling of vitreous and abnormal tissue from the retina occurs next and in some cases tissue has to be removed from the underside of the retina. This is carried out after making an incision in the retina. When the retina is free from all adhesions to abnormal tissue the fluid that keeps the retina elevated is sucked out through the tears in the retina. Air is then injected into the vitreous cavity to push the retina toward the eye wall. Laser is used around the retinal tears in order to create an adhesion between the retina and the RPE. Finally a long lasting gas is injected to replace the air. The bubble of gas expands in the eye and does not absorb fully for about three weeks. Plane travel is to be avoided until the gas bubble is absorbed.
This and other information on the retina can be read or downloaded from www.schepens.com
4 UCSB Makes Important Advances in Studies of Retinal Detachment:
Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara Neuroscience Research Institute are reporting significant advances in their studies of retinal detachment. They have discovered that cellular changes that occur in retinas of animals with retinal detachments also occur in humans. This implies that experimental therapies that reduce cellular damage in animals have a high likelihood of being successful in humans. They have determined that oxygen therapy for retinal detachment, which they pioneered, can be highly successful in animals even when it is delayed, suggesting that it should be successful in humans as well.
In the January 2005 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science the international team of scientists describes changes that occur in detached human retinas. In this study Steven K. Fisher, Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Geoffrey P. Lewis, research scientist headed the UCSB effort, collaborating with colleagues at the Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London. Understanding the "glial" response is the key aspect of this study. Glial cells are known as the "supporting cells" of the nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) consists of both neurons and glial cells. Glial cells outnumber neurons in the CNS but their functions are poorly understood. The reaction of the glial cells to retinal detachment is critical to the success of surgery to correct retinal detachment. The glial response is part of an important medical condition called "proliferative vitreoretinopathy" (PVR). This condition is characterised by the growth of glial cells on the retina. In response to unknown stimuli these cells begin to contract and can cause the retina to re‑detach. In humans PVR is the most common cause of failure of retinal detachment surgery.
Glial cell remodelling can play a role in the return of good vision following successful reattachment surgery. The extent of this neuronal remodelling has surprised researchers. Because the UCSB researchers decided to test the use of extra oxygen to help maintain the cells after a retinal detachment the therapy has proved remarkably effective and is now being used by some ophthalmologists prior to surgery.
Recently the UCSB team reported refinements to these results. Elevated oxygen was administered 24 hours after creating a detachment. Neuronal cell death and nerve remodelling was greatly reduced by comparison to the animals breathing normal room air, although the glial cell response was less affected than in experiments with the delivery of immediate elevated oxygen. Assuming that it is desirable to reduce cell death and prevent the remodelling of nerve cells in detachment patients, the simple administration of elevated oxygen between the time of diagnosis and surgical repair may result in more rapid and improved recovery after reattachment surgery.
Future research will include determining the effectiveness of the hyperoxia therapy when administered both before and after reattachment surgery, and methods for better inhibition of the undesirable cellular effects that lead to PVR. This research has broad implications since the cell types involved (neurons and glia) are the same as those in the brain and spinal cord.
Downloaded from www.nri.ucsb.edu Medical News Today.
5 Stem Cell Research Rescues Cones:
Injecting stem cells that normally form blood vessels into the vitreous of the eye might sound an odd way to rescue dying photoreceptor cells, but in eyes with retinal degenerative disease the retinal blood vessels also deteriorate. Scientists thought the vessels probably die because remaining photoreceptor cells didn't need as much of the nutrition supplied by the blood as a healthy retina would.
Researchers now feel that the blood vessels may have a different or additional role. Their new thinking is based on the following: when scientists injected blood vessel producing stem cells from adult bone marrow into the vitreous of young mice with retinal degenerative disease the number of blood vessels and a dramatic rescue of cone photoreceptor cells occurred. Electroretinograms showed that some vision was preserved.
Injected blood vessel stem cells prevented retinal blood vessel degeneration. In this mouse model many retinal cells that would ordinarily have died of retinal degeneration remained alive. The mouse retina is composed mostly of rod photoreceptor cells, but the spared cells were nearly all cones. This is significant because cones are the predominant cell type of the macula in humans.
The effect of the stem cell injection is viewed as a dramatic neurotrophic rescue. Additional findings showed that genes of the retinal cells in the treated mouse eyes turned up their production of certain neurotrophic factors that are involved in protecting cells from apoptosis. This refers to the many stepped process of cell death. In the mice the rescue effect lasted for up to six months. Neurotrophic factors are proteins required for the development, growth and maintenance of nerve cells. They can also help damaged neurons to recover.
The researchers concluded that their findings indicate that the blood vessels of the retina have a role that goes beyond carrying blood derived nourishment to retinal cells.
This research is not ready to be tested on humans, but the researchers believe that if the effects are similar to mice a slowing of the rate of photoreceptor cell degeneration could provide additional years of sight to people with certain types of retinal degenerative disease. Another interesting finding of the research was that the treated mice and the stem cell donor were sometimes one in the same. This suggests that individuals could possibly be their own stem cell donors, thereby eliminating the problem of cell rejection caused by foreign tissue.
More research is required to fully understand the implications of these new findings. This is one of several areas of stem cell research being undertaken for retinal degenerative disorders. Other recently published research describes the transformation of stem cells in cell culture into retinal pigment epithelial cells. This research also offers exciting possibilities for reversing degenerative disorders of the nervous system.
Sourced from www.blindness.org/research
6 Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration:
Scientists in Great Britain recently drew a link between smoking and age‑related macular degeneration based on an analysis of data from three studies and a total of 12,468 subjects. A similar study of women smokers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found an increased risk of AMD in current and past smokers compared with women who had never smoked.
A probable cause is oxidative damage to the retina. Cigarette smoking is known to interfere with the protective effects of anti‑oxidants which significantly reduce the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss. It also reduces macular pigment density. Researchers estimate that about 54,000 residents of the United Kingdom older than 69 have visual impairments because of AMD attributable to smoking and that about one third are blind. They report dose‑response relationship too. The risk of early disease rises along with the number of packs smoked.
Current treatment options are of only partial benefit to selected patients. Observational studies show a protective effect of smoking cessation on the development of AMD, former smokers have a slightly increased risk compared with non-smokers. The reversibility of this association in smokers with AMD in one eye has important implications for prevention of late macular involvement in the second eye. Continued smoking is associated with poorer outcome after photocoagulation with argon laser. It could possibly have an adverse affect on the long term response to newer treatments such as photodynamic therapy.
The finding that smokers develop age related macular degeneration around ten years earlier than non‑smokers is a potent message.
www.blindness.org The full article can be read at www.bmj.bmjjournals.com in the March 6th 2004 issue p537‑8.
7 Report on World Blind Union General Assembly
By "Retina NZ Member" Allen Little QSM, JP
World Blind Union Representative
Cape Town South Africa and the 6th General Assembly of the World Blind Union from 3rd till 10th December are fast becoming a memory. Even though the world has moved on, the people remain. The WBU is the only organisation entitled to speak on behalf of blind and partially sighted persons of the world. It represents some 180 million blind and visually impaired persons from about 600 different organisations in 158 countries. The WBU is a non‑political, non‑religious, non‑governmental and non‑profit‑making organisation with consultative status within the United Nations and ECOSOC. It's a large body divided into six regions each with their own constitutions. New Zealand belongs to the Asia Pacific Region and has two country representatives, myself and Maaka Tibble.
The 6th General Assembly was held in a huge, very modern convention centre from
6th ‑ 10th December. There were delegates and observers from 119 countries. Those attending included 290 women and 311 men. 388 of whom were blind or vision impaired.
Following an opening address given by Jody Kollapen, Chairperson South African Human Rights Commission the Assembly was pleased to have Dr William Roland from South Africa elected as the organisations new President for the quadrennium. The 1st Vice President is Mary Anne Diamond from Australia. Sadly Dr Geoff Gibbs was not returned as Treasurer but he was appointed an Honorary Life Member of WBU.
For many a highlight would be Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa, who addressed the assembly on its final day.
Attending the General Assembly was a worthwhile undertaking.
It was an amazingly inspiring and enlightening occurrence from which I learnt much. Blind and vision‑impaired people around the world are achieving great things despite adversity and incredible challenges. The drive which keeps blind people going and achieving in the face of adversity and difficult circumstances is something powerful to witness.
Special mention should be made of our own Paula Daye (CEO‑RNZFB) who was present throughout as an observer. I was most impressed with her genuine up front active participation, mixing and mingling with participants. Her warm friendly disposition let her connect in meaningful ways with diverse peoples then succeed in being elected to the Asia Pacific Regional Committee of WBU.
I was particularly conscious that we had no women's representative present at the WBU Women's Forum which I was honoured to observe on 3rd and 4th December. Topics covered at the forum included, leadership, discrimination, equity, parenting, violence, abuse and economic participation. About 180 blind and vision impaired women from 83 different countries plus observers and friends attended the forum. The women engaged in much soul searching discussion determining the future was about taking control and speaking for themselves with confidence and pride. There seemed to be a spirit of good will which encouraged the women to walk forward "doing it for themselves" working together, sharing ideas or knowledge and taking advice from those who had gone before....
It occurs to me that passing verbose resolutions in global forums is one thing and ensuring practical outcomes from those resolutions is another. As I was attending the General Assembly on behalf of ABCNZ, prior to going I sought to hear the concerns of other Consumer groups such as Retina NZ, PVI and Blind Sport.
8 National Eye Bank Trust:
Their aim is ensure the regular supply of quality corneal and other human ocular tissue to all New Zealanders who require such a transplant.
The Eye Bank's goals are to provide: maximum safety and quality of tissue with minimum risk to the recipient; respect and dignity to the donor and donor family; optimal efficiency of service at all levels.
The New Zealand National Eye Bank is responsible for the supply of donated human ocular tissue for allograft transplantation purposes to all people in New Zealand who require such tissue for sight restoration (corneal transplants) or reconstructive procedures. Over 250 New Zealanders of all ages require a corneal transplant each year to prevent blindness caused by acquired disorders, disease or injury.
Founded in 1987 by Auckland ophthalmologist Gillian Clover, the Eye Bank is an autonomous entity within the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Auckland. It is a non‑profit organisation governed by Trustees representing the major ophthalmic centres. It is funded by partial service charges to hospitals, a contract with the Ministry of Health, charitable donations and sponsorships.
Eye donors can be aged from 10‑85 years. Many common medical conditions and poor eyesight do not preclude donation, although the list of contraindications includes infectious and neurological disease, as well as eye disease or having had certain surgical procedures. Tissue must be collected within 24 hours of death to preserve the viability of the corneal endothelium which is vital to maintain the function and clarity of the cornea. The donor families are provided with grateful thank you letters and general information on the outcome of the transplant.
With appropriate consent tissue of unsuitable quality for transplantation is provided for collaborative research projects in conjunction with the university department.
The efficient acquisition, processing, storage, testing and distribution of tissue require strict attention to detail and consistency in every area of operation. A staff of three maintains an on‑call rostered twenty four hour service 365 days a year.
In addition the Eye Bank manages the transplant booking schedules for the 45 surgeons who perform corneal transplants in 12 centres from Whangarei to Dunedin. They supply an average of 5 corneas per week. The Eye Bank operates a national register of corneal donation and transplantation data for the maintenance of accurate statistics and the provision of valuable information for clinical practice.
This and further information is available at
http://ophthalmology.auckland.ac.nz/eyebank or by emailing the Eye Bank at firstname.lastname@example.org
9 Achieving Equity
Achieve (The National Post‑Secondary Education Disability Network), the Tertiary Education Commission and the Ministry of Education have launched Kia Orite: Achieving Equity: New Zealand Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education Environment for Students with Impairments.
Retina New Zealand was represented at the launch by Sue Emirali of the Wellington Branch.
Assisting tertiary education providers to create a fully inclusive environment for students with impairments is the key objective of Kia Orite: Achieving Equity. Setting out "best practice" standards; evaluating progress towards an inclusive environment; identifying barriers to participation and achievement; and improving tertiary outcomes for students with impairments are the aims of the document. Awareness of policy and legal obligations towards impairment and disability is also an important aspect.
Equitable learning environments will ensure that students with impairments can participate equally with other students. Open liaison with staff to discuss specific needs will be encouraged. Enrolment procedures and access to appropriate support services, special funding and physical access issues will be monitored. Teaching practices, exams and assessments must become more flexible. Staff at tertiary institutions will be educated and informed in the needs of students with an impairment.
This document is available to be downloaded from the following websites:
www.tec.govt.nz and www.minedu.govt.nz
A print copy (large print can be requested) may be obtained by contacting ACHIEVE, PO Box 3850, Christchurch Mail Centre, Christchurch.
First coping article:
10 Managing Your Clothing
Visual impairment brings with it difficulty coping with many everyday situations. This month I have included tips and hints for clothing for those who still have some useful vision, can differentiate colour, and can read labels.
* Install a light in your wardrobe to help you distinguish both colour and type of clothing.
* Purchase several sets of different coloured coat‑hangers. Assign a colour to specific items of clothing, for example hang trousers on yellow coat‑hangers and skirts on blue coat‑hangers.
* Hang similar items of clothing together. Organise your wardrobe to suit your lifestyle, casual clothes at one end, formal at the other.
* Keep matching outfits on the same coat‑hanger or tie two coat‑hangers together with a piece of ribbon the same colour as the outfit.
* Colours can be more easily identified if spring pegs matching the clothes colour are placed either on the coat‑hangers or the clothes themselves.
* Placing small safety pins in various positions such as on the tail of a blue shirt and back of blue trousers is useful. Keeping a written copy of the code is important.
* Your prevalent colour choice can be easily identified by not marking it at all.
* Write the garment colour on the label of the garment using a water resistant permanent marker.
* Purchase wide coloured ribbons to match your clothing colours and tie to the coat‑hangers.
* Cut coloured cardboard or plastic tags into squares and slip over the hook of the coat‑hanger with the colour of the garment written on them in large print. These tags could also include the design, fabric type, or what the garment is normally worn with.
* Use large safety pins to pin socks together as soon as they are removed for washing.
* Closet organisers can be used to store clothing such as jerseys, sweatshirts and the like. These should be colour coded or labelled at the front in large print.
Second coping article:
11 Equipped For Living
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind's equipment catalogue is an informative listing of all the equipment and related products that are available to help you in your daily life. It offers a comprehensive range of blind and low vision items for the home, work, travel and recreation needs. The catalogue is available from the Foundation in several formats.
Orders for equipment can be placed by telephone, fax, post, email and at display days. These are held regularly during the year throughout New Zealand. The prices of many items are subsidised for members, non members may purchase equipment listed in the catalogue but are not eligible for subsidised pricings.
'Equipped for Living' is divided into several sections: clocks, watches, kitchen equipment, recreation, Braille products, tactile products, marking, handwriting, calculators, health products, tape players, task lighting, magnifiers, canes and glasses.
Clocks: A range of tactile and talking clocks including talking alarm clocks are available. Tactile and low vision watches sourced from Switzerland are sold in three sizes‑small, large and jumbo. Talking alarm watches can be obtained in chrome and black.
Domestic: Coin holders that can store $1 and $2 coins, a magnifying compact mirror, plastic discs for keeping pairs of socks together and a voice activated remote control.
Kitchen Equipment: Tactile measuring cups and spoons, a talking clock timer, liquid level indicator to use when filling a cup, an easy slice knife and talking kitchen scales offer alternative ways of coping in the kitchen.
Out and About: 6 badges are available to identify yourself as vision impaired. There are two round black badges with white cane symbols on them, 4 rectangular white badges with black text: Vision Impaired, I Am Vision Impaired, VIP Vision Impaired Person, and I Am Vision and Hearing Impaired.
Recreation: Several popular games are stocked in the recreation section that have large print numbers and Braille markings. These include dominoes, backgammon, ludo, snakes and ladders, large print bingo cards, playing cards, and Braille playing cards.
Tactile Products: 'Bump Ons' are small self adhesive plastic dots that can be stuck on almost any surface. They are useful around the house for labelling temperatures on an oven, buttons on remotes, keys on a keyboard, and are available in several different sizes and colours.
Stationery: Several types of stationery are available. A writing guide for A4 paper, a signature guide for documents and cheques, envelope guide, large print phone directory, calendar and address book along with special writing paper can help with your writing needs.
Talking Equipment: Equipment services do not permanently stock some of the talking equipment but people may contact equipment services to discuss their requirements. Talking calculators, a pocket sized talking calculator, talking thermometer and a talking blood glucose monitor which talk the user through the entire test procedure are available. Advertised in this section of the catalogue is 'Autodrop'. It helps solve the problems of those who involuntary blink or sometimes miss their eye when putting in drops.
Lighting: Equipment services stock three different types of lights; incandescent, fluorescent and halogen. Prior to purchasing lighting it is preferable to have an assessment to determine the suitable type of lighting required for your personal needs. Bases are also available for lights as well as clamps, wall brackets, table brackets and floor stands.
Magnifiers: To ensure you obtain best value for money it is recommended that you have an assessment before purchasing a magnifier. Illuminated magnifiers that are mains powered offer a very intense light. Battery powered torch magnifiers sourced from Germany are illuminated by an LED diode giving them approximately 100 hours of battery life. These magnifiers are designed to be held flat on the reading material. Battery powered hand held magnifiers are small enough to fit in a pocket or purse. Several other types of magnifiers including a magnifying lamp on a stand are available. A magnifying ruler which is very useful for reading the phone book or other small print and a folding hand held magnifier to take to the supermarket offer varying levels of magnification.
Canes: Equipment Services stock a wide variety of white canes. Rigid canes with or without a crook (great for the farm) come in a variety of lengths. Folding canes made of heavy duty aluminium and fitted with double elastic cords and golf grips are available in sizes from 36 inch to 60 inch. Support canes come in two standard sizes, although custom sizes can be purchased and there is a choice of handle. Spare cane tips, a rolling ball tip, and jumbo roller tips which spin are available. A short white symbol cane not designed for contact with the ground but to be carried to indicate visual impairment also folds up.
Glasses: Noir sunglasses in a selection of colours can be obtained. Noir lenses block 100% of UV light, GlareShield lenses cut glare and enhance contrast while polarised lenses are also available. Glasses come in several different sizes as well as fitovers. Noir recommend different coloured lenses for different eye conditions.
An equipment price list which states the member and non‑member prices is available when requesting this equipment catalogue from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.
12 Book Reviews
First book Review:
Macular Degeneration. The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximising Your Sight by Lylas and Marja Mogk. New York, Ballantine Books, 1999.
Written in large print, this book provides a clear explanation of macular degeneration, its causes and treatments. The first section of the book discusses strategies for preventing further degeneration, including a diet rich in antioxidants.
Part two of the book examines many of the practical issues and life adjustments faced when one is diagnosed with macular degeneration. Emotional issues may surface and can cause depression. A framework for coping with this also includes helpful questions to ask your Ophthalmologist, the role of support groups, and tips for family and friends.
The final section offers visual rehabilitation tips, assistance with developing new reading skills, lighting, and discusses magnifiers and other products. Hints for going shopping, cooking, continuing with sports and exercise, as well as orientation techniques make this book an important resource.
This book can be ordered through any bookshop. Whitcoulls and Borders Bookshop in Auckland regularly order books on request from overseas. This and other books on Macular Degeneration can also be ordered over the internet from amazon.com
Second Book Review:
Touch the Top of the World: My Story. A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye Can See by Erik Weihenmayer. Sydney, Hodder, 2001
Erik Weihenmayer was born with retinoscheses, a degenerative retinal disorder that left him blind by the age of 13. Erik was determined to lead a fulfilling and exciting life and pushed past limits imposed on him. An invitation to try rock climbing in his teens led to a courageous and inconceivable dream to try and climb the world's seven highest mountains.
Touch the Top of the World is a poignant and inspiring memoir. Erik writes movingly of the role his family played in breaking through the barriers of blindness, a mother who prayed for a miracle to save her son's sight, and a father who encouraged him to strive for 'unreachable mountaintops'. He describes his often hazardous adventures when growing up, a teaching career, and his relationships with his guide dogs. Erik's journey towards his ultimate goal, Mount Everest makes up the majority of this book. Descriptions of his earlier climbs, his marriage on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and the frustrations of climbing blind make Erik's book compelling reading.
Fewer than 100 mountaineers have climbed all seven peaks, Erik completed his dream in September 2002 when he stood on the summit of Mt Kosciusko in Australia. He was the first blind climber to reach the top of Mount Everest, achieving this dream on May 25th 2001.
Erik's journey has been made into a documentary 'Farther Than the Eye Can See' and this book 'Touch the Top of the World' is available on audio cassette.
13 Branch News
(Reviewed by Editor)
Camille Guy, Vice President of Retina New Zealand and Auckland branch member starred recently on the television programme "Open Door‑The Survivors Guide to Sight Loss" alongside 3 other women experiencing a sight loss.
Camille described her initial thoughts, feelings and fear of dependency following a diagnosis of MD caused by severe myopia. She felt it was one of the worst things that could have happened to her. Living in what she described as a grey blur, Camille has learnt to use sound and touch and continues to enjoy cooking by establishing systems in her kitchen and pantry. She gardens but has had to accept that she cannot see the results. Reading for pleasure has continued through the use of audio books from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and the Auckland Public Library.
Fears that she would not be able to continue in her work as a journalist were allayed, firstly by attending a course in adaptive technology and now through using specialised software and a screen reader for her computer. Camille writes for several publications including the New Zealand Listener.
From Gael Hambrook, Branch Chairperson
The Wellington Branch held a barbeque Christmas party on the 5th of December at Lyndal and Norm Woods home. 23 members attended and had a very enjoyable day.
Kapiti VIP Group
From Heather Tofts
The Kapiti Visually Impaired Persons Support Group has been up and running for a year now with an average attendance of 15 members at each meeting. On average they have four members who are not registered with the RNZFB. Several speakers have come to the group and spoken on different topics of interest, and volunteers have read different articles. Sharing ideas and suggestions of how others cope with sight loss has proved popular. An equipment display from the RNZFB was brought in and members of the public were invited to see what aids are available.
Christchurch Branch News
From Kaye Newton, Branch Chairperson
On Saturday 22 November last year about 30 people gathered at the RNZFB for our end of year dinner. This followed the same format we have used for some years, of people bringing salads of all kinds and colours, and having a shared meal. A sure sign that people were enjoying themselves was that everybody lingered long after eating. We had just a small committee available to organise this, but it was great to have members and partners pitching in and helping to clear up which is also a good way to mix and meet others.
From Lynn Keogh, Branch Chairperson
On Sunday the 5th of December 2004 about 30 members, family and friends of the branch attended a very enjoyable Christmas barbeque at the Belleknowes Golf Club. Everyone who attended seemed to enjoy themselves and there was quite a lot of merriment and laughter as members sat around chatting and reminiscing with one another.