Mrs Johnston, who is registered severely sight impaired (blind) and has a hearing loss, had enjoyed bowling when she was sighted. When she lost her sight, she didn’t know how to continue playing. Friends told her about bowling for the Visually Impaired, and she joined a weekly group at Balgay Bowling Club in Dundee.
After being invited to play competitive bowling, Mrs Johnston travelled to coaching sessions in Forth Valley, Dundee and Perth before taking part in the in the United Kingdom Singles Championship Visually Impaired bowling competition. “When I won the silver medal it was just the icing on the cake” Mrs Johnston said about her win. She later won Silver in the Ladies Scottish Singles as well as the Scottish Championship in Aberdeen.
Mrs Johnston was put in touch with NESS by Nina MacIntosh, Eye Clinic Liaison Officer at Ninewells Hospital. “I was in a dark place and if it hadn’t been for Nina, I think I would have stayed in a dark place. I wasn’t ready to contact NESS, I felt that I had gone from being an independent person helping others while working in the health service to losing all my independence. It’s not easy asking for help”.
Mrs Johnston’s hearing has deteriorated, and without enough vision to lipread, communication has become much more difficult. “Hearing loss is more isolating than sight loss” Mrs Johnston said, “It’s difficult in social situations to take part in the conversation, especially if it’s noisy”.
Mrs Johnston relies on a caller and director to tell her where the bowls are. She also uses a multi mic, a listening device that helps her hear speech more clearly.
“Anne and Julie from NESS have been amazing. Ann has helped me learn to use the long cane and Julie has helped with the hearing loss. I never would have done it without Nina and then NESS”.
Mrs Johnston said “Life goes on. You have to grab the help with two hands. There’s nothing you can’t do, with the right support and sometimes just being pointed in the right direction.
Mrs Johnston continues “It’s important to be open with others and talk about your experiences, it might help others going through similar experiences”.
Mrs Johnstone continues to participate in championship blind bowling in Scotland. Good luck, Sylvia, with the next lot of championships, we look forward to hearing about your successes.
More information about Blind Bowling can be found about Scottish Blind Bowlers at www.scottish-blind-bowlers.org.uk/main.php