MEMBER STORY – PEARSE
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
Public Service Friendly Society supports courageous member to fight through blindness.
It’s hard to imagine the shock of losing your sight completely as you drive confidently out one dark Monday evening. Even more shocking if it happened as you were driving your little daughter to Girl Guides.
Yet that’s exactly where Pearse Bolger found himself one February day in 2001 – behind the wheel of his car and his sight gone.
But Pearse was never one to take things lying down and his fight back against blindness is a real encouragement to all those whose lives are touched by tragedy.
Married to Marina and with two children, Pearse was a Clerical Officer in the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and a diabetic; he had been struggling with eye problems due to diabetic retinopathy over the previous few years.
He is also a long-time member of the Public Service Friendly Society. “I’m really glad that I joined the Society when I was younger” says Pearse “even though I never thought I’d need any of the services and support they offer – when you’re young you think problems always happen to someone else.”
SOCIETY PLAYS ITS PART FOR PEARSE
Pearse was a very active, outgoing person who enjoyed fishing, clay pigeon shooting and other outdoor pursuits. He bred birds and kept bees – 47 hives of them! And he was an avid reader with over 1,000 books on hunting, shooting and fishing.
So when his sight failed again it was a huge loss to him.
But his independent spirit really impressed the Society and when he applied for some financial support it was readily agreed to.
With his sight completely gone, the Society helped Pearse to purchase a sophisticated machine – a ScannaR –, which translates the printed word into the spoken word.
You can imagine the impact this had on Pearse’s life and that of his family! His wife Marina explains, “The ScannaR has helped Pearse regain his dignity and privacy as he no longer has to rely on other family members to read him his post and his financial correspondence. And he can now ‘read’ his beloved books and magazines again, too”.
Having mastered the ScannaR, Pearse was encouraged to explore the potential benefits to be gained from an even more sophisticated piece of electronic wizardry called a Trekker. This is an amazing machine, which uses GPS technology to help those with sight problems travel independently. It uses a GPS antenna and tiny speaker to plot the wearer’s location and speak the information to him. The user can scroll through points of interest and from the built-in maps a digitised voice will give the information and directions.
However, since Pearse’s sight showed no signs of ever improving again, he decided in 2004 that he simply had to take early retirement from the service. Having tested his Trekker machine extensively, he also decided it wasn’t practical for his particular needs since he still enjoys some outdoor pursuits.
So he returned the cheque the PSFS had given him to purchase it.
He explored other options and it soon became clear that a guide dog would be ideal.
Pearse says he was very fortunate to get an incredible guide dog so quickly.
After 3 weeks intensive training with his new guide dog “Whiskey”, Pearse was able to start rebuilding his outgoing lifestyle once again. Now he visits schools, Macra na Feirme and ICA meetings – anywhere that he can help people understand the problems of blindness…and the need for funds to combat its effects.
And so it is with great pleasure that the Society has decided to make a contribution to the upkeep of his guide dog “Whiskey”.
“It’s very encouraging to see such a wonderful outcome from such a small input by the Society” says Declan O’Brien (Executive Director, PSFS).