Lifestyle

Brendan is going blind at 14

BRAVE FACE: Fourteen-year-old Brendan Young has lost his vision due to a genetic condition.
BRAVE FACE: Fourteen-year-old Brendan Young has lost his vision due to a genetic condition. Rob Williams

IPSWICH teenager Brendan Young is facing up to life with blindness after he was suddenly struck down by a devastating eye condition.

Brendan, 14, who lives with parents Steven and Carol at Grandchester, has gone from having normal vision to virtual blindness in months.

His parents have been told Brendan has Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, an inherited form of vision loss with no cure.

Brendan started noticing his vision was getting blurry five months ago when he became unable to read off the board at school. The year nine student at West Moreton Anglican College and Air Force cadet was perplexed.

Fourteen-year-old Brendan Young has lost his vision due to a mysterious illness. His father Steven and mum Carol.
Fourteen-year-old Brendan Young has lost his vision due to a mysterious illness. His father Steven and mum Carol. Rob Williams

"I didn't know what it was," Brendan said. "At first it was just blurry now and then but now it's blurry all the time. I can see some colours and I can see shapes but I can't make out faces. And the more I focus, the harder it is to see."

On September 10, Brendan went to an optometrist who did tests and concluded Brendan had something seriously wrong with his sight.

"When he went to the optometrist at Riverlink, Brendan said he couldn't even see the eye chart. We were told to take him to see a GP straight away," Mrs Young said.

"The doctor sent him for a CT scan, because one thing they were leaning to was an optical tumour.

"He was referred to an eye specialist at Chermside who did some tests and admitted him to Mater Children's Hospital immediately for more tests on September 18.

"He spent the next two weeks there having blood tests, two MRI tests, three lumbar punctures, ultra-sounds of the eyes and a chest X-ray. All results came back normal.

"We went to see a professor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital who concluded that Brendan has Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy."

LHON usually begins in a person's teens or 20s and, for unknown reasons, males are affected much more often than females.

Vision loss results from the death of cells in the optic nerve, which relays information from the eyes to the brain. Blindness is usually profound and permanent.

"He has to learn to live life as a vision-impaired person," Mrs Young said.

His schooling now centres around technology that talks to him just so he can do his homework, participate in class and try to live life as normal as possible.

Nevertheless, Brendan's cheekiness shines through.

When he was told he needed a CT scan, he said he "tried to tell them they wasn't a cat in there".

Much to his parents' unease, he still rides his motorbike around a paddock on their 3.6ha farm.

Mrs Young said she and her husband "still want him to have some normality so he can still have a life".

"He can manoeuvre around places he's familiar with and he's kept his sense of humour," she said.

Asked how he's coping, Brendan says, "Sometimes it gets bad but most of the time it's all right."

His father is concerned the smiles and jokes can sometimes be a mask.

"I think he makes out he can see more than he can so he can keep up his fight training and riding his motorbike," Mr Young said.

"He wanted to join the armed forces when he left school and get a trade; all his mates are getting a trade, so that's hard for him.

"You've got to make sure it's not getting him down even though he's laughing. It's not a matter of getting any of his sight back; it's whether he's going to lose the little bit he's got.

"WestMAC has been really good, working with Vision Australia. They've put all his lessons on CD.

"We had to get an iPhone and a laptop so they can read everything that's on the screen."

A fund-raising cricket day will be held for Brendan at Grandchester Recreation Reserve on January 13.

Topics:  blindness, brendan young, vision australia, west moreton anglican college



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