Prior to the pandemic, Scott Hamilton, Improvement Advisor with our Acute Care Portfolio, had perfect vision. A year and a half later and everything has changed. Scott explains how a routine eye test indicated an untreatable condition.

I used to pride myself on my 20/20 vision – even boasted about how far I could see. 

My training is as a nurse and I stepped back to the NHS frontline to support the efforts during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. I returned to Healthcare Improvement Scotland in late June 2020 and to homeworking for the first time in my career. Having worked on a COVID-19 ward I realised that my unhealthy lifestyle was putting me at risk if I contracted the virus. I was overweight and very inactive.  This had been exacerbated by homeworking and the stresses of the pandemic in general. In January 2021 I took action. I started eating better and in March, for the first time in a long time, I started running. Now I can run…a long way! 

In May this year I went for my 2-yearly eye test. I knew my sight had deteriorated during lockdown and I routinely felt exhausted with the ‘screen time’ and my eyes felt really heavy. Little did I expect that I would be diagnosed with early onset age related macular degeneration and to be told that it has no cure!

Macular degeneration – the facts

Every day, around 300 people are diagnosed with macular disease. It’s the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Macular disease is cruel and isolating. It steals your sight, your independence, and your ability to do the things you love.

And yet, despite the devastating impact of macular disease, little is known about its causes and there is still no cure. Today, more and more people are being diagnosed with macular disease. In fact, the number of people living with the condition is set to double in the next 20 years. It is set to be the next major public health crisis — far more people with macular disease than dementia.

How does this affect me?

At the moment I can still see. However, low and bright light situations are really difficult and don’t ask me to read what’s on the menu if I don’t have my glasses!  Psychologically it’s challenging knowing that over time I am going to significantly lose my central vision. It really brings it home how much you can take your ability to see for granted. I joined the Macular Society after doing a Google search to find out more information – their support and information have been tremendous.

At the moment it’s all about small adjustments and doing all I can to slow the progression. This means that my healthy living needs to become a permanent fixture as good nutrition, blood pressure control and regular exercise can have an effect on how quickly the disease progresses.

Practically, it means doing a weekly test monitoring for any significant deterioration with an Amsler grid that’s stuck to our oven, using my glasses with their blue light filter and edge to edge prescription, being more aware of using my sunglasses (ironic in Scotland!) and managing my screen time in general. I should probably also mention that my wife, Elaine, reads the restaurant menus for me!

The future

There is only one way to beat Macular Disease for good. More research must be funded, until we find a cure, or find treatments that stop it in its tracks.

In June Elaine (personal coach as well as my wife!) talked me into doing the Scottish Half Marathon after doing 10k…at a stroll!  When I looked on the Half Marathon website I realised I could raise some money for the Macular Society whilst achieving something I didn’t think would be possible back in January. The pandemic has hit charities hard and the money they have available to fund critical research has been hit hard.  They have difficult decisions to make over the next few years. The Macular Society have promised that any money I raise will go straight into their research funds.

I am excited to be doing the Scottish Half Marathon on the 19th of September 2021.  I am the fittest I have ever been in my life but most of all…I love running!

Scott Hamilton is an Improvement Advisor with the Acute Care Portfolio of our ihub.

More information

You can support Scott on his JustGiving page

More information from Macular Society