‘I found love when I went blind’

November 21st, 2014

Liverpool Echo: ‘I went blind and

fell in love’

Tony Coulter and Julie Bird lost their sight within three months of each other and soon after, love blossomed

By Janet Tansley

Tony C EchoPublished 20th November 2014

There’s an old adage that love is blind.

And for Tony Coulter, it actually took losing his sight to find his soulmate.

Tony and girlfriend, Julie Bird, went blind within three months of each other but their tragedies turned to happiness when it brought them together.

“I regard it as a blessing,” says Tony, 62, from Netherton. “It’s a bonus.

“I’m with a lovely lady whom I met at Christopher Grange, a blind rehabilitation centre.

“We have been together for 12 years and I am happier now than I have ever been.”

Life changed for the former painter and decorator 14 years ago.

Tony had returned home after working away to nurse his mum who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and he nursed her for six-and-a-half years.

“I was the only single member of the family so it made sense for me to look after mum,” he says.

But only three months after losing her, he started having seizures.

“I had an X-ray at the Royal and then the next thing I knew they phoned me to say it showed something abnormal and they eventually diagnosed a pituitary brain tumour.

“It was partly a relief at first because I knew something was wrong.”

Tony underwent three operations to remove the growths: “And twice my family were told to say their goodbyes,” he says.

But the operations were not entirely successful, and Tony lost his sight and became epileptic.

His condition led to some terrifying incidents – such as the police having to break down his door, and waking up in hospital not knowing what had happened to him.

He was also heavily reliant on his sister, who moved in temporarily to care for him.

Now, Tony lives in a Riverside independent living housing community, supported by technology made available through Mi – more independent – a partnership led by the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group.

Speaking out in support of Self Care Week, an annual national awareness week that focuses on embedding support for self care across communities, families and generations, Tony reveals he uses various gadgets to help improve his quality of life, including a talking microwave, a talking computer and a talking watch that tells him the time.

Blind couple Tony Coulter with his girlfriend Julie Bird. Photo by Colin Lane

He also has special sensors in his bed that raise an alarm if he suffers a fit, and a Lifeline pendant around his neck that can be pressed to call for help if he ever needs it.

Tony also uses a special device that is like a belt that alerts people if he suffers a fall.

That particular device was very much needed in November last year, when Tony suffered a seizure that resulted in a fall and a serious break to his leg.

He says: “Because I was down, it raised the alarm – and my nephew was able to come over, plus the ambulance, and get me into hospital.

“I can’t say that life isn’t a challenge, but the technology has helped a lot – it gives you reassurance and peace of mind, that someone is always looking out for you.

“The other things, like the microwave and computer, help improve my quality of life as well.

“I know I need help, but being as independent as I can be is important to me. I value it.

“The technology has allowed me to stay in my own home, living alone, and being as independent as I can possibly be.”

Tony has given talks about the technology he uses to the local community, including taxi drivers so they know how to deal with those like himself and people who face going blind, so they know how to cope and how they can deal with it.

And he remains positive about the condition which has changed his life.

“I have to be positive. I have experienced people in the last 14 years who feel sorry for themselves, and feel the world is against them. But what is the point of that? No-one loves a moaner.

“I have a great social life, I make the best of things. And, let’s face it, if I hadn’t gone blind, I would never have met Julie.”

Tony explains: “We lost our sight within three months of one another, Julie as a result of diabetes,” says Tony, “and so we were both in Christopher Grange together.

“Neither of us used to enjoy dinner time. At the time, I couldn’t eat my dinner in front of others because I was still worried about how I looked, in case I made a mess. And Julie was the same.

“We are both smokers so we would go out and sit on a bench and have a smoke. We started talking and got to know one another, and learned that we had so much in common – not just our lack of eyesight.

“It’s hard to say what else it was but we just got on so well together, it was meant to be.”

All looked lost, however, when Julie, 45, who lives in Kirkby, left Christopher grange briefly.

“But she came back for the Christmas party, we had a little kiss under the mistletoe and we’ve been together ever since,” smiles Tony.

“It took me going blind to meet my lady, and I’m delighted I did.

“Of course I would still like to have my sight, but if I hadn’t lost it I would never have met my Julie.”

To find out more about Self care Week long onto and to learn more about independent living call Freephone* 0808 100 1929 or