A former Gazette vendor who lost her sight as a result of a genetic condition will complete this year’s Great North Run for the charity which transformed her life.
Louise Thompson was just 42 when she tragically became blind through a condition called leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), which caused her ‘world to fall apart.’
Afraid to go out, she thought her life was over, until help came in the form of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association who gave her her guide dog, Ursula, giving her back her independence.
Now 48, Louise, from The Cornfields in Hebburn, will take on The Great North Run this September to raise funds to thank the charity for turning her life around.
“I lost my eyesight six years ago and felt like I was living a nightmare,” she said.
“I thought it was the beginning of the end of my life.
“The worst thing was watching my husband disappear before my eyes.
“It all happened very quickly.
“I didn’t know which way to turn. My husband Paul was encouraging me to go out, but I wouldn’t leave the house.
“I lost my independence and confidence and felt depressed.
“But I eventually thought; ‘there has got to be something I can do,’ so I applied for a guide dog.”
The charity which is entirely funded by donations, breeds and trains guide dogs for people who are blind or partially sighted. Each guide dog costs around £50,000 to breed and train with owners typically having them for around nine working years before they retire.
Louise was given her first guide dog Ursula, a black Labrador, in 2011, which is now retired, and currently has golden retriever Labrador cross Melly.
“They have completely saved my life,” she said.
“It is wonderful to be able to put on her harness and think; ‘where are we going today?’
“She has made me so happy and my life is completely different.”
She is now the chairwoman of the Gateshead and district branch of they charity, hopes to raise £300 when she takes on the run with her husband, Paul, 52, as lead runner.
The pair, who will run the 13.1 miles linked by a bungee cord, have been training in Hebburn Park, with Louise also attending ‘Hebburn Hub’ gym at Hebburn Central every week to train.
She added: “I am quite nervous, but excited about the run and can’t wait day to approach.”
To donate visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LouiseThompson21