John Wilsbech's Story

July 13.jpgJohn Wilsbech wants others to understand that it is possible to live a full life after you lose your sight, but sometimes the transition requires some support to get there.

“It is necessary to crank people up and re-instill the ‘I can’ feeling after vision loss. Everyone needs to have the belief that they can contribute to society again,” said the 77-year-old Winnipeg resident.

Wilsbech has been leading the Sharing Circle at CNIB for almost four years. On the first Wednesday of every month, clients come together to support each other, and  learn new ways to cope with grief and how to make adjustments to live a full life after vision loss.

“The CNIB fills a valuable role through this support group. It may be CNIB’s biggest role; restoring people to have faith in themselves after losing their vision.”

Wilsbech lost his sight due to both of his retinas detaching. In 1993, he lost the sight in his right eye. In 1994, the second retina detached but thanks to surgery, a little of his sight remained until 2012 when he became completely blind.

The transition wasn’t easy as his sight loss progressed. When his second retina detached, he could no longer work at his government job as it required him to drive to communities outside of Winnipeg. Because he could no longer drive, he lost his mobility which created a feeling of isolation, loneliness and depression for a period of time.

“It was a very upsetting time, as I could no longer go for walks to mull over situations in my mind, since I couldn’t see where I was going anymore.”

The losses in his lifestyle were many, as the plans he had made for his retirement where no longer possible. Originally, he wanted to fill his time rebuilding old cars which now seemed impossible.

Not one to give up he switched gears and became involved with CNIB; first attending a transition-to-sight-loss program.

“That group taught me to look at the positive side by focusing on what I could do as opposed to what I lost. Most people think they have lost everything but that isn’t true.” 

Wilsbech continued his involvement with CNIB through Orientation and Mobility, Technology Training and a yoga classes held in the building. But he didn’t stop there. With his incredible attitude in tow his life became full again. He discovered he could still do many things. He installed 17 windows in his home by himself (while legally blind), continued to ballroom dance (a passion since 1946) and lead the Sharing Circle.

“Losing your sight is not the end of the world. Just get out there as much as you can because it is your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude.”

Moving forward he wants people to know that losing his sight gave him a different perspective. “The world is 95 percent visual. And those with sight mostly see what’s in front of them forming quick opinions without using their listening or feeling skills. When you lose your sight, you develop a different approach relying on only hearing and interpretation skills.”

“With the great training from CNIB and the support from my wonderful family, my lifestyle is rich and rewarding. I am currently developing colouring books for adults with my oldest daughter. The future again looks rosy.”