MONEY HAS BEEN LIFE-CHANGING FOR AMBITIOUS MATT
A Nuneaton father who has slowly lost his eyesight over the past six years has been awarded £1,800 by the WPH Charitable Trust to enable him to study towards a new career.
Matt Smith, aged 37, had worked as an electrician since leaving school, not realising he suffered from Usher Syndrome. His condition was only diagnosed in 2013 after a number of accidents at work over the years.
He said: “I had been a qualified electrician for 15 years or so but I did have a few accidents here or there and everyone just thought I was clumsy.
“But after the last accident my boss advised me to have my eyes tested, which I did, and the test revealed that I had no peripheral vision.
“Of course because of health and safety I lost my job. I also wasn’t able to drive any more, so my life changed overnight.
“I was born with Usher Syndrome which affects hearing and eyesight. I’ve worn hearing aids since the age of three but we don’t know the history of my eyesight as everything appeared normal to me until this diagnosis six years ago.”
With fading eyesight Matt signed up to an experiment in 2017 which he hoped would slow down or halt the deterioration.
But the experiment went wrong and actually accelerated the condition, leaving him today with no sight in his right eye, and very limited vision in his left eye.
Matt, whose mother and father were both found to carry the gene for Usher syndrome, said the loss of his eyesight, job and driving licence plunged him into despair. But after coming to terms with his condition he picked himself up and set himself new life goals.
He said: “I have a wife and three young children so I knew I had to be strong and pull myself together. So I had to work out what I wanted to do.
“I decided I wanted to be a counsellor to make a difference to other people, particularly those who are blind or deaf or those who have mental health problems. I felt with the experience I went through I’d be in a perfect position to help others in their own dark times.”
Matt started a course in September last year but found he was struggling to hear his lecturer. With the £1,807 from the WPH Charitable Trust he was able to buy a loop system and visual reader.
The loop system allows his lecturer to wear a microphone which connects to his hearing aids, whereas the visual reader takes a photo of a piece of text and reads it aloud to Matt.
Matt said: “More than just helping me with my studies, the money from the WPH Charitable Trust has given me a whole new lifeline. I felt very emotional when I realised what a difference the loop system and visual reader made. It felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could now hear everything my tutor was saying whereas before I had been relying on people to read everything to me.
“This money has been life-changing for me.”