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Paul's Blog

iCAN experiences founder Paul Nicol embarks on his own personal blog, taking the readers on his journey from diagnosis of a sight losing disease through to the present day as he makes iCAN experiences a success in the midst of tough economic times.

Hello and welcome to my Blog. My name is Paul Nicol and I am the founder of iCAN experiences. iCAN experiences is a gift experience provider that is aimed squarely at people with disabilities. I will tell you more about iCAN experiences as this blog unfolds, but for now, I will get started on my journey.

I thought it would be a good idea for me to take visitors to my blog on the journey that I have travelled from the point of being diagnosed with a degenerative disease that would eventually result in total blindness, through to the present day and beyond as I take iCAN experiences forward into a successful business.

It was at the age of 14 during a routine optician's visit that a keen eyed optician spotted that something was not quite right with the retina. I remember her being quite calm and implying that it may be nothing, but she suggest that we book in with an eye specialist at the local hospital, which was Stoke Mandeville at the time. I recall attending the hospital and going through the usual wall chart eye tests and then on to some eye drops and looking into the eye etc. Following the various tests, the eye specialist concluded that I was suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa. What?

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is more commonly known as Tunnel Vision. Essentially, it is a disease that affects the retina directly. The retina is made up of millions of cells and RP causes the cells to become unresponsive and die. It works from the outer edge inwards and hence you get the "Tunnel Vision" effect. At the time, my vision was unaffected by RP, it was in fact pretty normal and there was no noticeable difference in my vision, so in my teenage mind, it was a case of "Hey, what's the big deal, it won't affect me for years, so no need to worry about it now" and so that was it. I had to return to the hospital for an annual check up, but apart from that, no drama. Now, looking back on it, I think my parents had a slightly different view; they worked very hard on my behalf to get me on the books of a chap at Moorfields Eye Hospital called Professor Bird. Moorfields is known across the UK and probably the world for being a centre of excellence when it comes to eye health and I’m in no doubt that Prof Bird himself was pretty well respected within the community.

 

Over the course of 3 years or thereabouts, Moorfields noticed that my eyesight was worsening, particularly in my central vision, which was contrary to what they were seeing in terms of dead cells on the retina. More test ensued and they diagnosed me with Optic Neuropathy. Optic Neuropathy means that the optic nerve is also giving up the ghost! So not just the RP assaulting my peripheral vision, but the ON making an onslaught on my central vision, this was in my mind the final nail in the coffin!

I think I was about 23 when I received the news about the ON, the news actually came to me in a letter, although, it was merely confirmation of what I had already been told. Up until this point, I had always had in the back of my mind that Medical science was moving forward rapidly, an artificial retina was on the horizon and hey who knows, I may be able to see at some point in the future. Now, I am still hopeful of some wonderful medical cure, there seems to be major leaps forward, but there is also an element of acceptance in my mind.

I think I will leave this blog entry where it is for now. In my next post, I will cover some key moments, such as giving up my car keys and moving out of the family home.

In the mean time, please do browse the website and see what we have to offer.

All the best,
Paul