A Sight To Behold
24 June 2011
Story courtesy of duomagazine.com.au
Interview Carly Lubicz Photographs Andrew Rankin
SHE HAS COOKED FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN, PAID HOME VISITS TO THE ELDERLY, COUNSELLED DISTRESSED CALLERS AT LIFELINE AND NOW SORTS THE CLOTHES RACKS FOR THE SALVATION ARMY SALVOS STORE. ASTOUNDINGLY, VAL BRADSHAW- NOW 73-HAS DONE ALL THIS TOTALLY BLIND.
I lost my eyesight when I was 28. I was born with retinitis pigmentosa, but at the time I didn't know I had it -I just thought I couldn't see so well and couldn't play sport because I couldn't track the ball. That condition caused me to develop glaucoma and then cataracts. One day I woke up and had no sight in my left eye. I had an operation, but that left me with only 1/350th sight in my right eye too. So I was 28 and couldn't see anything with six children under 12 to care for (another child arrived a couple of years later, taking the total to seven). When I came home from hospital after the operation I asked my husband if he'd done dinner and he said he'd bought some steaks and thought I could make a casserole; so I did. I always said I could cook with my eyes closed so that proved it! My husband came from an era where men didn't do housework and when you have little children you can't just stop. Plus I didn't like to be beaten. I won't pretend it wasn't exceptionally hard to adjust- it takes a lot of determination, courage and backbone to overcome any disability, but if you work at something hard enough you can achieve it. I've never really injured myself, except the one time I broke the bridge of my nose bending down to pick up a mat - I cracked it on the back of a chair. I'd always had a bit of a 'Jewish nose', so I managed to flatten it! I have volunteered for 30 years now and love it. Being blind, there's not a lot I can do to help, but there are some things I can do. I was a phone counsellor for Lifeline for 10 years, did ironing at St Vincent de Paul for 13 years, cooked for street kids and fetes and visited elderly people in their homes. I've been at the Salvation Army Salvos Store for three years now sorting the clothes racks and making sure everything is in the right place, and I love it here. They have the nicest people and it suits me because I thoroughly enjoy making things tidy. If I was being paid I wouldn't come -I'm helping because I want to and I'm glad of the people who've helped me.
Val was already at the Salvation Army Salvos Store when I started here at Cannon Park two years ago as a volunteer and since then we have become good friends. She is amazingly independent and just does everything like a person with full sight, so we tend to forget she's blind. She can tell the size of a garment just by feeling it and she surprised our area manager once by sending her an email. Val doesn't surprise me at all anymore- she's just the type of person that if she wants to do something she'll do it. I don't know if I could have done what she's done if I was in her situation, but then I suppose you never do unless you're there. We're all very grateful to have her here.