Hemianopia - Roy's Story

We were holding one of our interactive training sessions for nurses and carers in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. We were talking about how Hemianopia can can affect someone's vision in that half their world just disappears. We demonstrated, using our special simulation spectacles, how Hemianopia can make a massive difference to everyday life from communication to simple tasks like eating your dinner. At this point, Carolyn, one of the nurses asked if a brain tumour could cause Hemianopia. When we confirmed that it could she went on to tell us of a man she cared for in a hospice in Belfast who was terminally ill with a brain tumour. Roy was 72 years old and had lost his verbal communication. Each evening at mealtimes she noticed that he only ate the food off one half of his plate, so when he had eaten, say the potatoes and cabbage off one side of the plate he just stopped eating and left the chicken on the other side. Carolyn obviously thought this was odd but despite her encouraging him to continue, Roy refused to eat any more. Eventually, assuming that Roy's condition had caused a loss of appetite, she took his plate away.

We explained that it was possible that Roy's condition could well have caused Hemianopia and that it may cause him to only see half the food on his plate. So that when he had eaten the potatoes and cauliflower on one side of the plate, Roy effectively saw an empty plate. We suggested at this point spinning the plate round by 180 degrees and see if it made a difference.

Carolyn called me the next day to say that she was mortified. The previous evening she had waited until Roy had "finished" his dinner before spinning the plate round. Roy tucked into his sausages which had "appeared" on his plate. Carolyn told me that in over 20 years of nursing she had no idea that Hemianopia existed and was amazed that an act as simple as spinning a plate round could make such a difference.

Hemianopia is something which is hard to understand but we could give many examples of how knowledge of the condition can allow adjustments to be made to someone's daily routine which can have a dramatic effect on their quality of life. Like the man in Limavady who by changing where he sat in the room allowed him to enjoy the craic that was going on around him. The lady in Dungannon who by moving her drink from the left side of her place setting to the right improved her hydration or the woman in Lisburn who by assisting her mobility by walking with her on her "blind" side made navigating round her home so much easier.

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