Ella and Katie
At 7-months-old, Ella was diagnosed with a vision impairment called nystagmus which meant everything she could see wobbled from side to side. As Ella’s sight loss started at such a young age, she didn’t know any difference and the condition never held her back. But at 16, things took a turn for the worse. Ella was diagnosed with a brain tumour on her pituitary gland and lost nearly all the sight in her right eye and the peripheral vision in her left eye. Having just completed her GCSE’s, Ella’s ambitions for the future suddenly felt out of reach.
At home was the only place Ella felt safe. The streets were filled with people and obstacles that Ella couldn’t see which would make her panic. Ella stopped wanting to go out and became withdrawn from all her friends. She says, “They didn’t know how to help me and I didn’t know how to help myself.”
With her mum’s encouragement, Ella got in touch with Guide Dogs. Ella was offered lots of help and advice and was taught how to use the white cane. But then Ella was matched with her guide dog Katie, and there was a massive change. “I could go to the gym, swim, go shopping, visit my friends – things I hadn’t been able to do since the brain tumour. Katie unlocked a whole new version of me.”
With Katie by her side, Ella could get back the life she’d always wanted. She attended university with Katie who guided Ella on the train and bus from home to campus - helping her to avoid obstacles and find the way to lectures.
Ella has always loved horse riding but lost her confidence when she lost her sight. Katie gave her the confidence to take up horse riding again and Ella now has her own horse called Warrior, who she says gives her freedom. Ella is now studying for a Master’s degree in counselling and psychotherapy and hopes to become an equine assisted therapist. She also wants to educate people about the reality of living with a vision impairment so is a volunteer speaker for Guide Dogs and has started a local fundraising group.
"Without Katie, I wouldn’t have gone to university or had the confidence to take up horse riding again. Katie’s the key to my life."