A guiding light for Lindsay
MAY 4, 2009 is a date Junction Hill's Lindsay Pepper will never forget as it's the last day he enjoyed the sense of sight.
On that day he caught a train to Sydney with wife, Leisa, and friend Tracey Buckman for an urgent eye operation.
"I was able to get on the train unaided," the 43-year-old former cook said.
He arrived in Sydney where he underwent a vitrectomy to correct problems in both his eyes that were a symptom of diabetes.
"They told me tomorrow everything would be all right," Mr Pepper said.
"After the operation they put some oil in my eyes and I had to sleep face down so it could coat the retinas.
"When I woke up I couldn't see at all. Since then it's been permanent night."
The shattered couple returned home the next day and for the next 18 months Mr Pepper rarely ventured from his home.
"I might go in the car somewhere with the family, but not much else," he said.
"I used to work in kitchens and get around on my bike, go out to the clubs and pubs."
Yesterday Mr Pepper was the star turn for the Guide Dogs NSW and ACT White Cane Day promotion in Prince St, Grafton.
"My life started to look up when I started working with Guide Dogs NSW in March this year," he said.
He has been working with Guide Dogs orientation and mobility instructor Matt Wood for the past seven months, learning how to use a white cane.
He's now able to find his way down sections of Prince St using his senses of hearing and smell as well as his memory and, of course, the cane to navigate his way around.
The best thing on Mr Pepper's horizon is hope he might regain some of his sight.
He's been visiting a Dr Bourke at Southport, Queensland, who says he could regain 60% vision in his right eye.
"My left eye's gone," Mr Pepper said. "But my right's perfectly healthy, I just can't see out of it yet.
"He (Dr Bourke) said he will stick with me until I get some sight."
Mr Wood said the White Cane Day helps raise awareness of the work of the Guide Dogs Association, which provides free care and equipment for people with vision impairment.