A Galway woman who lost her sight as a teenager has spoken of how she has got a new lease of life thanks to her guide dog.
Speaking ahead of World Sight Day on Thursday, Cara Gibbons said it was only since she trained with her guide dog Uri last year that she has been able to move about with confidence.
An allergic reaction to cough medicine at the age of 9 left Cara fighting for her life and dealing with blindness.
She had a sudden onset of a rare condition called Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome, causing her mucus membranes to burn from the inside out. Her entire skin was burned from head to toe and left her with scar tissue in her left eye.
She spent months recovering in hospital and at home in order to heal her skin and rebuild her immune system.
Her sight continued to deteriorate but, at the age of 17, she discovered she had developed glaucoma as well. After an unsuccessful operation, she learned she would be blind within a year.
Her vision gradually became foggier until one morning she looked up to the bright colours on her wall she used as a guide and realised her sight had finally gone.
Cara struggled with her vision loss and never became accustomed to using her long cane. She trained with her Guide Dog Uri – a Golden Doodle – in 2013 and, for the first time in years, has been able to go out by herself.
Living in Galway, Cara has just completed a masters in Health Psychology and has taken on new challenges such as tandem cycling. “I always knew I would get a Guide Dog. Now I finally have, life is so much better.”
Irish Guide Dogs is inviting people living with vision impairments to apply for its free training services including the Guide Dog Programme.
There are currently 497 people who are registered blind in Galway and 11,027 registered blind in Ireland. All are eligible for a Guide Dog which is provided by Irish Guide Dogs free of charge. However only 6 people have Guide Dogs in County Galway and less than 2% of the national figure have a Guide Dog.
Read more in this week’s Connacht Sentinel
Pedestrian seriously injured in Furbo hit and run
A man in his 40s is in a serious condition in hospital following a hit and run in Furbo last night.
He was a pedestrian who was walking on the R336 road near Furbo Church, when he was hit by a car around 8.30pm.
The driver of the car failed to remain at the scene.
The road is currently closed with diversions in place while Garda Forensic Collision Investigators conduct an examination of the scene.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to the collision to come forward, particularly any road users who may have dash-cam footage recorded in the area between 8pm and 9pm.
Drug use in Galway at ‘frightening levels’ says top Garda
Use of illegal drugs has reached ‘fairly frightening’ levels across the city and county, according to Galway’s top Garda.
Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that only about 10% of the drugs in circulation in society are detected by Gardaí.
He said that there had been increases in detection of drugs for sale or supply and for simple possession in the city and county so far this year.
Cocaine in particular was an issue in Galway, he said, but increased drug use was evident in “every village and town in the country”.
In his report to the latest Galway City Joint Policing Committee, Chief Supt Curley said that there had been a 22% increase in detection of drugs for sale or supply in Galway, up 14 to 78 at the end of September.
There had been 108 incidents of drugs for simple possession, up by 15%.
The amount of cocaine seized in the first nine months of the year amounted to €538,838. The level of cannabis seized amounted to €361,872.
Ecstasy (€640) and heroin (€2,410) were also seized, according to the Garda report.
Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) said it was a concern that cocaine had overtaken cannabis for the first time, in terms of the street value of the amounts seized.
Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) said that the Garda Drugs Unit needed to be commended for the seizures.
Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) said it was concerning that use of cocaine had escalated.
In response to Chair of the JPC, Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab), Chief Supt Curley said there were some instances where parents or siblings were being pursued by criminals over drug debts accrued by family members.
He added he would continue to allocate resources to the drugs problem.
Up to 20-week waiting period for youth mental health service in Galway
Young people in Galway have highest waiting times in the state for an appointment with the Jigsaw youth mental health service.
That’s according to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell who revealed that waiting times for an appointment here are currently up to 20 weeks.
“Figures released through a Parliamentary Question have shown there are significant wait times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service which provides vital supports to young people, in Galway,” she said.
“Demand for the Jigsaw service in Galway and across the State continues to grow, however, as a result youths are waiting up to 20 weeks to get an appointment. With young people from Galway currently experiencing the longest wait times at 20 weeks.
“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.
“Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with extended waiting periods which are simply unacceptable and put them and their mental health at a very serious risk,” she added.
Deputy Farrell said that young peoples’ mental health had been adversely affected during the pandemic – with loss of schooling, sports, peer supports and even their ability to socialise with friends impacting.
“Jigsaw have experienced a 42% increase in the demand for their services and this cry for help from our young people cannot fall on deaf ears,” she said.
“There is also an element of postcode politics, that depending on where you live you may get treated quicker. Some areas have a three-week waiting time while others are left waiting for 20 weeks.
“Uniformed mental health treatment is needed – so our young people can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.
“I have called on the Minister to urgently engage with the service to provide a solution,” she concluded.