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Matt's blindness is not a barrier
2:00pm Monday 16th September 2013 in Echo News
BRAVE Matt Levington is rebuilding his life after being diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease which has left him unable to read or drive.
Matt, 23, of Hill Lane, Hawkwell, was working on the sales team for an investment firm in London when he noticed a change in his vision in January.
The condition worsened and in March he was diagnosed with Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy andregistered as blind.
However, Matt is determined to adapt to his new life.
Speaking of his condition, he said: “It literally happened overnight. I’d just returned home from a weekend in Amsterdam with my girlfriend, and when I went into work the next day, my vision was really blurry.”
Matt began treatment for optic neuritis, an inflammation of optic nerves, but his eyesight continued to deteriorate.
He said: “I noticed things like reading and watching telly were getting harder and harder and in the second week of March I lost my season train ticket to London.
“It was a final straw moment for me. I realised I wasn’t getting better, so I went back for more tests.”
By the end of March, the true diagnosis came.
Matt said: “I was devastated. You’d expect to have heard of a genetic condition in the family, but I’d never heard of it.”
Matt now has no central vision in either eye, and his colour vision has been affected although he still retains his peripheral vision.
He said: “Not being able to read or drive happened gradually, and there are ways around it, but what hit me hardest was not being able to distinguish people’s faces.
“After three months of moping around, something snapped and I realised sitting around doesn’t help anyone.”
Matt taught himself to touch type and his family held fundraising events to buy specialist magnifying equipment, donating the surplus money to charity.
In July, he arranged a charity football tournament at the Deanes School, in Thundersley, and played a game against the winners of the tournament in which they wore glasses which blocked out their central vision.
Matt said: “It made me realise I could still enjoy football.
“I began to search for a visually impaired football team online, and came across London FC.
“The coach has the same eye condition as me and it was really inspiring to see how successful he is.”
Matt took part in a training trial and hopes to play for the team on a regular basis. He has also applied to join the British Blind Golf team.
Last weekend, Matt took part in the 24-mile Foulness bike ride to help raise cash for Essex Air Ambulance and separately raised cash for Foundation Fighting Blindness, which funds research into treatments, preventions and cures of degenerative eye diseases.
He added: “I used to be a glass-half empty kind of guy, and trivial things used to bother me, but now I have a completely different outlook on life.
“It’s made me look at the positive things.”
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