Mother opens up about baby daughter's 'crushing' blind diagnosis

A Shropshire mum has committed to helping other parents and children who are affected with sight loss.

Sharn and Maya
Sharn and Maya

Sharn Hughes lives near Ludlow, and has been getting support from the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC).

She said: “If it wasn’t for all the support that we’ve received we might still be in a very deep and dark place."

Sharn says that the day she received the diagnosis about her daughter Maya’s condition was the worst day of her life.

She added: “‘Your daughter is blind’ were four words that changed my life forever. I heard them when Maya was just nine weeks old – it felt like someone had crushed me.

“I woke up as one person and went to bed as another.”

But Sharn says two-year-old Maya and her family can face the future with hope and optimism because of the support of the RSBC.

The charity’s Families First service has provided emotional and practical support since Sharn met their local Family Practitioner in a hospital waiting room, just days after she found out Maya couldn’t see.

Sharn explained: “Our Family Practitioner told me: ‘if you ever need somebody to talk to, we’re here for you’.

“Since then, they’ve provided a safe space where I can explore my feelings. She suggests play ideas and resources, and signposts me to useful services.

“She’s shown me that there are no limits for Maya – just adaptations that can help her to achieve all the usual milestones any child would expect to achieve.

Sharn and Maya

“I hope she’ll believe in herself enough to make her own choices, have a career and maybe one day have a family of her own. I hope she’ll show the world just how much you can achieve when you’re blind.”

It has also helped Sharn appreciate the beauty of the Shropshire countryside: “I used to get up in the morning and open my curtains and look out on our view and not think a thing of it.

“Now I appreciate what I see because not everybody can see it. But I never really thought of things like that before and learning things in a different way.

“Now I appreciate the textures of things; I never would have before. I’ll take Maya outside and let her play in the leaves and let her feel the leaves and things like that.

“I don’t talk so much about the visual side of things now, it’s more: can you hear the crunching, can you feel how they’re wet, or they’re dry or they’re crunchy? She’s just changed my outlook on life.”

It has all meant so much to Sharn and Maya that they’re telling their story in the RSBC Christmas Appeal to help the charity raise money and spread the word, so other families receive the same much-needed support.

If you would like to help more families like Maya’s to get the support of an RSBC Family Practitioner, you can donate to the charity’s Christmas Appeal at www.rsbc.org.uk/donate

According to the RSBC, 90 per cent of those who lose their sight in youth will never have a long-term job. Two thirds of blind people are living on or below the poverty line, and most will never have a meaningful relationship. This is what they and Sharn are fighting to change.

Not only has Sharn teamed up with the RSBC, but she has also committed her own time to setting up a new charity called Maya's Mission, which will aim to help blind children spend more time in mainstream education.

She recently held a Halloween fundraiser which made £750, and along with other efforts has made some £2000 to put towards a new sensory garden to be installed in Clee Hill, where Maya goes to nursery.

Sharn added: "I want to expand it more as we go, over the whole of the West Midlands. Hopefully it takes off, as there just is not enough support in the region for blind children."

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