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Last update: 30/11/-0001

World Sight Day by Rachel Portelli 

Living with type 1 diabetes since the age of three and a half years old, I was very aware of the numerous complications that diabetes can have, yet retinopathy was the one I feared the most.

Diabetic Retinopathy is when high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell, leak or close, stopping blood from passing through. It is also possible to have abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina. All these changes can damage or steal your vision.

Rachel pic1Type 1 diabetes is an invisible oppression and it was easily ignored when things got hard. Living with diabetes was very difficult for me to accept especially during my teenage years. And now, my previous actions caught up with me. Just a few days before my University finals, I started seeing small black dots in my vision. I visited an ophthalmic surgeon and he informed us that I had diabetic retinopathy. This was devastating news and with finals only 6 days away everything was happening so fast and I did not know how I would get through it. I started laser treatment and went every two weeks at the beginning. I continued to visit the ophthalmologist as needed.

Seeing constant black spots in my vision was a constant reminder of my previous neglect to self-care. However with the support of my family and friends together with my healthcare team I was able to treat my retinopathy and keep my diabetes under control. With constant monitoring, I was finally getting back on my feet. I was able to travel and start an internship with the International Diabetes Federation Europe.

A few months later I had another massive bleed. The next day I went to the emergency and was told that I needed an operation as soon as possible. I packed up and returned home where my surgeon confirmed that it is needed. At first I was shattered and terrified, and then I convinced myself that this is the best solution to stop the bleeding and repair the damage. 18th August I had the surgery and a long recovery followed.

Rachel pic3I believe that I would not be where I am without the incredible support I received and the healthcare professionals. Also, I made contact with people who went through this as well. We helped and supported each other and speaking to people who went through the same thing made things much better.

Today, almost two months after surgery, I am doing much better. Looking back at it today, I do not know how I went through all of that. It was a very difficult time and although I felt exhausted and emotionally drained most of the time, I was able to overcome this challenge. Living with diabetes will make us face numerous challenges but such encounters will only make us stronger!

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