Carron schoolgirl stands up to blindness

Larbert High School pupil Jill Hendry
Larbert High School pupil Jill Hendry

One year on from the devastating diagnosis that she was going blind, teenager Jill Hendry is determined to lead a normal life.

Despite the rapid deterioration in her sight, the 17-year-old has amazed family and friends with her strength of character.

In the last week, the Larbert High pupil has just unveiled an exhibition of her art work and taken part in a 10k race.

Now her next goal is to take part in the New York Marathon on November 4.

On March 30 last year, the Carron schoolgirl was told here vision problems were due to the rare condition retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and that she had a form known as rod-cone dystrophy which affects both her central and peripheral vision.

She admits the last 12 months have been challenging but while accepting there are some things that she is unable to do – such as driving a car – Jill plans to overcome as many hurdles as possible.

Jill said: “It’s not been easy, particularly having to realise that some things I had hoped to achieve won’t happen, like driving or leaving school and going to university.

“But during the last year I’ve met a lot of people from lots of different backgrounds with a variety of disabilities that they have overcome and it’s made me realise what you can achieve.

“I’ve also got to know lots more people at school. They’ve heard about my condition through all the fundraising and they’ve spoken to me.”

She describes the effect of her condition as being unable to see clearly, almost like wakening up with sticky eyes, but despite rubbing them, the vision doesn’t improve.

Jill added: “Sometimes I can see shapes and colours but other times it’s dark.”

A budding artist, she had hoped to sit her Higher art exam but quickly realised that wasn’t possible. However, her teacher Mr Inglis was determined she should continue her studies and together they looked at ways of her producing work involving textures.

This included making prints using materials such as sandpaper and corrugated paper, a puppet with felt and paper mache, a dream catcher and a memory box.

She said: “It was really hard, especially at first, but it’s now all on display in the exhibition and it feels a good achievement.”

Jill is waiting to learn if she has been successful in her application to study journalism and media at Forth Valley College.

Before losing her sight, she was a keen swimmer but is now channelling her energy into running. Thanks to family friend Elaine McKay (42) from Stenhousemuir who acts as a guide running alongside her, Jill has already taken part in a race.

She completed the 10k at last month’s Grangemouth Round the Houses in 1hr 10mins and now is aiming for the Great North Run in September before heading to the Big Apple in November.

Mum Elizabeth (53) said; “We can’t thank Elaine enough for giving up her time. It’s given Jill such a boost.

“The last year has been difficult but because Jill is so positive herself it helps. People have been very generous and our fundraising for RP Fighting Blindness has given us a focus.”