On the night Nell Sutton was born, when visitors had gone home and the hospital ward was quiet, mum Rachel whispered a promise to her newborn baby girl. Rachel had just been given the devastating news that Nell was blind. "It was just me and her, and I promised Nell that she would be able to do whatever she wanted to do".
Nell was diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition where the optic nerve is damaged by the pressure of fluid in the eye. Nell’s father Paul, was no stranger to the condition and lost his sight to glaucoma in his teens.
But at this very young age, Nell had already lost her sight completely in one eye and had little vision in the other. She was in constant pain, which was heartbreaking for her family to watch. They were told the complexities of Nell’s eye condition made her one in six billion and the consultants who operated on her were uncertain how stable her eyesight would be as she grew up.
When Nell was one-and-a-half, she was referred to Habilitation Specialist, Branwen Jones. As a mobility expert from Guide Dogs, Branwen was the first specialist support the family received.
“Branwen was like a breath of fresh air, just so positive about what Nell could do. She gave us all a huge boost".
Nell soon showed signs of being ready to use a cane, and she was excited to have one “just like Daddy’s!”. Together, Nell and Branwen began learning the routes close to their home. This meant Nell could meet her beloved big brother, Isaac when he comes home from school, - and best of all, visit her favourite park.
Because of Nell’s growing confidence, she can do so many things that toddlers her age love, like going for a run-around on the beach, going swimming, and to local playgroups with other young children. None of this would be possible without the vital support that Branwen and Guide Dogs have provided.
Branwen says; "Nell is an amazing little girl and the whole family are fantastic. We are able to provide training as she grows which will help her become as independent as possible. Nell is quite young to be using a cane, but she was showing all the right skills so I thought why not give it a go. She’s getting pretty good now."
Nell has already developed vital skills, confidence and independence with the help of Branwen - and may even go on to become a guide dog owner in future. With continued support from Guide Dogs and her loving family, Nell’s future looks brighter.