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Air force veteran's fight against blindness from two rare conditions

PUBLISHED: 14:59 04 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:28 04 November 2019

Nick Barber (right) marching at the Cenotaph. PHOTO: Blind Veterans UK.

Nick Barber (right) marching at the Cenotaph. PHOTO: Blind Veterans UK.

Archant

A blind air force veteran who lost his sight through two rare eye conditions has hailed a charity for "changing his life."

Nick Barber joined the Royal Air Force as a police dog handler in 1983, serving in the UK and in Germany at RAF Laarbruch, the training base for dogs.

He also completed a tour in the Falkland Islands where he was responsible for moving the dog handling facility from Stanley to RAF Mount Pleasant.

In 2001, he lost his sight through a combination of Bull's Eye Maculopathy and the genetic condition Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Mr Barber said: "If you imagine a normal sighted person's sight is like a beach ball, mine is like a ping pong ball.

"I've got some sight in the centre of my vision but absolutely no peripheral vision.

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"Losing my sight hit me really hard and that first six months was terribly frustrating with not knowing what was causing it and finding out there was no treatment. I had to give up my job and was left feeling very depressed.

After discovering the charity Blind Veterans UK, Mr Barber has rediscovered a love for photography, going on to run courses at the charity's training and rehabilitation centres in Brighton and Llandudno.

He said: "My wife and I went for an induction week at the charity's Brighton Centre, which was very nerve-wracking for both of us beforehand.

"A man called Martin showed us around the whole building and at the end we found out he had no sight at all. This was a kick up the backside for me and from then on I haven't looked back.

"The biggest affect it had was the one-to-one meetings encouraging me to talk about how I felt about blindness which then made it easier to discuss with my wife. That changed both our lives."

On Remembrance Sunday, Mr Barber will march with 100 other blind veterans at the Cenotaph in London.

He said: "Being at the Cenotaph is different to anything else. Even the build-up is electric. You feel hugely proud and the hairs on the back of your neck really do stand up.

"The day is all about remembering all those who have served and fallen in war. My grandad served and was injured in the First World War and I always think of him during the silence."

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