Jim and Pauline Marshall have a tandem bike, which enables Jim to still cycle outside like he used to when he had his full vision. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Kelowna couple pedalling past loss of sight

Pauline and Jim Marshall said it’s important to be patient with each other

Patience and compassion are key when it comes to weathering a storm together.

That’s according to Kelowna couple Pauline and Jim Marshall.

Over the years, Jim developed glaucoma, which he had been able to manage well. But then three years ago, he suddenly lost his vision while on a trip to California with his wife Pauline.

“I think the hardest part was that it happened so suddenly. We’re both avid cyclists and in January (2017), we were doing really well cycling. Then Jim developed a red-eye and by February, he could no longer drive,” Pauline said.

At first, it felt like they went through all the stages of grief, Pauline explained.

“At one point, we were told that Jim’s vision would not be restored…but we kept saying to our ophthalmologist, ‘No, we’re not going to believe this.’

“And so we started a journey of hope and change and adapting and trying to figure out what our new norm was going to be.

“And that’s where we are now.”

Jim said it was difficult and isolating in the beginning. Despite the diagnosis that he won’t have any vision at all, he is still able to see.

He described his remaining vision as like looking through wax paper, and the world beyond it looking like shadows.

“As a husband and a father, you’re always wanting to do things. You’ve got the driving, you’ve got to take care of your family, you’ve got all that and that’s taken away from you in an instant,” he said.

“But once you realize this is your reality, you start to ask, ‘What can I do and how can I do it?’

“Because everything can be done. Everything I did before, I can still do now.”

He may not be able to see the way he did before, but he can adapt and do the things he used to do but with a little more patience and help from Pauline.

Since he can’t read things on the computer screen or his tablet anymore, he uses apps and functions that read items out loud to him.

He has a specialized magnifying glass with a light that helps him read printed items.

And then there’s his wife.

“Jim chose not to have a seeing-eye dog. And we always joke that I’m his guide dog. He’s still very independent, so we try and cook together, but he can still help with preparation,” Pauline said.

Whenever they’re in a crowded or unfamiliar place, Pauline helps Jim navigate.

As avid cyclists before Jim’s vision loss, the couple didn’t want to also lose their sense of outdoor adventure, so they purchased a tandem bike.

Pauline steers and Jim is the muscle behind the pedal.

“We have always been a team. We worked together, travelled together, and we’re still a team,” she added.

READ: Kelowna Museum Society documents local history during COVID-19

READ: Interior Health region welcomes hundreds of babies amid pandemic


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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