THE mother of an army veteran from Liversedge who lost his sight to a brain tumour is calling on the parents of ex-servicemen and women to contact a national charity for free support.
When Elizabeth Heaume’s son Mark, 34, discovered he had the tumour in 2006, their lives were turned upside down.
Mark joined the Army in December 1998 at 16. He served as a Lance Corporal in the UK and Germany, working as a Challenger 2 tank crewman and was discharged eight years later.
Elizabeth, 66, says: “I should have known something wasn’t right because Mark started to have headaches that would keep him up all night.
“At first we thought it was just a virus but then Mark became really sick. He deteriorated in front of my eyes. It was scary to watch.”
Mark was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour called a colloid cyst. His condition worsened and he fell into a coma.
When he eventually woke up, they were told that the tumour had robbed him of his sight.
Elizabeth said: “Mark was depressed when he came out of hospital. He would get so frustrated that he couldn’t do what he used to be able to. He would just sit in the corner of his room and wouldn’t move all day.”
But in 2012 a friend told Elizabeth about Blind Veterans UK and she got in touch with the charity. Mark started to receive the charity’s free services and lifelong support in May of that year.
Elizabeth added: “When Blind Veterans UK told me they would support Mark for the rest of his life, I cried. It felt as if a weight had been lifted. I know that the charity will always be there for my son and that is a huge relief.”
Mark was invited to one of the charity’s training and rehabilitation centres, where he was given practical and emotional support to help him discover life beyond sight loss, learn new skills and try out different activities.
He has tried abseiling, rock-climbing, kayaking and archery.
Now Elizabeth is encouraging other relatives to find out about Blind Veterans UK.
She added: “Mark felt he had nothing to look forward to but his outlook has completely changed. He is back to being himself again. Words cannot express how grateful I am for their support.”
The charity estimates that there could be as many as 470 blind veterans in Kirklees who would be eligible to access its support.
Call 0800 389 7979 or go to noonealone.org.uk.