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Disability can’t dull Jewel’s sparkle

Failing eyesight hasn’t stopped local historian, Jewel Dell from doing what she does best – writing and illustrating. Eternally optimistic, she’s turned the negative into a positive by producing a self-help book for others facing blindness as explained to ANGELA KEMP.

Jewel Dell – impaired eyesight not lacking in vision. Photo Wayne Martin

As someone who has been an acute observer all her life, losing sight in one eye overnight had a profound effect on Waiau Pa’s Jewel Dell.

At Christmas time four years ago, she chose to ignore a bloodshot eye believing it would right itself but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.

“I woke up one morning and couldn’t see out of it, it was just a bath of blood. I went to my doctor who said he didn’t think there was much to be done to save it.

“So I had an operation to save the remaining sight in my other eye and was really worried I would be totally blind if it didn’t go right.”

Luckily surgeons managed to save her left eye and she returned home in shock.

The difficulties and obstacles she subsequently faced as a partially-sighted person prompted her to write a book, Beating the Blind Spots, due out in the New Year. “I’m writing about the journey of losing my sight and coping with it. The experience just flattened me and there haven’t been many occasions when I’ve felt like that.

After the operation Jewel was promised a visit from a health visitor who would help make adjustments to minimise the effects of her blindness. That help never came.

“When I asked when someone would be coming I was told I was too far out and other people were higher priority. I felt like The Little Red Hen and thought, beggar it, I’ll do it myself. I began learning how to cope and I do. That’s been my creed all my life.”

Although the original 200-acre farm on which she lives has been leased out for several years since the passing of her husband Maurice, Jewel says she still has many responsibilities to deal with including filling out her GST return on line.

“After I lost half my sight I couldn’t read it because I was unable to see certain colour combinations. Lines of words were blank to me so I emailed IRD and said it was no good sending me all these messages because I have an impediment which means I cannot see a certain colour.

“They had their designer send me nine different colour combinations and said: ‘pick which one you like’.”

It was one of many problems Jewel came up against as she adjusted to life as partially-sighted.

She says her struggle with some of life’s necessities is something she thought others might find helpful and so the seeds of her book were sown.

“It’s meant to be helpful as well as supportive to those who endure that awful confidence breaker of losing sight.”

Beating the Blind Spots – SEEING HOW will be available in both print and audio versions. Overseas publishers of talking books and the NZ Blind Foundation have expressed interest in it.

So, for now, it’s roll on 2017 and I wish all of my dear readers a very happy New Year; ours is certainly looking good.

ANGELA KEMP

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