A Second World War RAF flying veteran is giving a series of talks about his wartime experiences to members and volunteers of leading sight loss charity the Macular Society.
Harry Garthwaite, who celebrated his 100th birthday last year, clocked up almost 2,500 flying hours, flew 23 different aircraft types, including the Hurricane, the Spitfire and an abandoned German trainer, and was mentioned in dispatches. Although his flying days ended in February 1946 when he was demobbed, Harry remains an aircraft enthusiast and a keen member of his local RAF Association.
Harry is affected by dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a sight loss condition that affects his central vision. AMD is a form of macular disease, the biggest cause of sight loss in the U.K., and the Macular Society is the only charity solely dedicated to funding research to beat the disease.
Sadly, five years ago, and after 67 years of a happy marriage, Harry’s wife died. In addition, the necessary restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic have resulted in Harry having less contact with people. But, a chance telephone call provided him with the opportunity to regain some social contact.
As Harry said:
“I was invited by an RAF Association friend of mine to share some of my wartime flying experiences with the members and volunteers of the Wem Macular Society telephone support group. They made me feel so welcome. I really enjoyed talking to them, and we also had a very in-depth discussion about how, during the war, people helped each other, very much as we are all trying to do now.
“After that talk, the Macular Society got in contact with me to ask if I would be interested in speaking to more of their members and volunteers at some of their other telephone support group meetings across the country. I was surprised but also absolutely delighted because it means that by helping in this way, I can reciprocate the community support spirit that I have experienced in my life.”
Maria Storesund, head of regions for the charity, said:
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Harry as a guest speaker to some of our support group calls. His talks are proving very popular, and the groups who have not yet heard him are in for a real treat.”
The Macular Society have more than 400 telephone support groups across the UK, providing help and information to anyone affected by macular disease. The charity suspended all face-to-face support services when the coronavirus first struck last year. Since then, it has provided a new range of telephone and online support services, which are available to anyone affected by sight loss, their family or friends.
“As social restrictions continue as a result of the virus, people’s health and wellbeing remain our priority. However, it’s absolutely vital that everyone who needs our support continues to receive it. Although our face-to-face services have had to be suspended for the time being, we are still at the end of the phone and would strongly urge anyone to call us if they do need our assistance.
“The telephone groups offer help in understanding macular disease and coming to terms with sight loss, exactly the way that our face-to-face support groups do. They also help us to ensure that everyone is kept up to date with all the current news and information. But most importantly, they allow people with the macular disease to continue to take part in social activities, helping to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation during these difficult times.”
The macular disease currently affects nearly 1.5 million people in the UK, and many more are at risk. It can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces. Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement. There is still no cure, and most types of the disease are not treatable. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of macular disease, affecting more than 600,000 people, usually over the age of 50.
charitytoday.co.uk | 12 March 2021