LAST CHANCE TO SEE THE WORLD
by Louie Purday 18th April, 2002
They had a dream. But time was running out. Would Dean and Rhona make it in time?
It was one of those magical moments. Conversation was buzzing and sparks were flying. Two people sat opposite each other both thinking the same thing. Wow. They both liked sports and adventure. They both wanted to see the world. Dean Dunbar had a good feeling about this woman. But he tried not to get too excited. There was something he had to tell her first. ?If I?m not looking straight at you,? he said, ?it?s because my eyesight is poor. In fact, I?m registered blind.? He waited for her reaction. Would she mutter an excuse? Would she walk away? But Rhona McCorkingdale just nodded and carried on talking as before. At the end of the date, Dean asked: ?Would you like to see me again?? ?Yes,? Rhona replied. ?I would.? She left the cafe and started to run. She ran all the way home. When she got there, she picked up the phone. ?Mum,? she said. ?It?s happened. I?ve found my perfect man.? On their second date, Dean explained to Rhona exactly what was wrong. ?I?ve got rod and cone dystrophy,? he said. ?It means my eyesight will just get worse. Then one day I?ll go completely blind.? ?When will that be?? Rhona asked. ?Nobody knows,? Dean replied. ?It could be in 10 years. It could be tommorow.? It didn?t matter to Rhona. They fell in love. They hardly mentioned Dean?s eyesight. He could keep a job and walk to town by himself. And if Dean didn?t recognise someone, she said their name. If there was writing on the television too small for Dean to read, she instinctively read it aloud. Like any other couple they learnt to cope with each other?s weaknesses. They shared a passion for sport. One weekend they?d go hill-walking. The next it?d be water-skiing. As Dean?s eyesight got worse the couple thought of new ways to keep fit. They bought a tandem bicycle to ride around on. Rhona sat at the front steering. Dean pedalled behind. One day they went on holiday to Skye. They climbed a mountain and stood gazing at a loch. ?Rhona,? said Dean. ?Will you marry me?? ?Yes,? Rhona replied. ?I will.? Back home in Monks Road, Exeter, Devon, they set a date for the following year. They started to think about their honeymoon. ?I want to do something unforgettable,? said Dean. ?Why don?t we travel and see the world?? Rhona looked at him. ?All right,? she said. ?You?re on.? Time passed and the pair started saving. Then one day, as Dean walked to his job in the records department of Exeter prison he noticed the world had turned grey. When he arrived at his office, everything seemed slightly more blurry than usual. Within half an hour Dean could hardly see at all. By the time Dean arrived home he was blind. ?You must rest your eyes,? the doctor said. ?Stay off work for a while.? Still in shock Dean waited. Two days later his eyesight returned but it was much worse than before. This time he could barely see around his house. ?I?ve been thinking,? Dean said to Rhona. ?Anything I want to see I have to see now.? ?What are you suggesting?? Rhona asked. ?That we don?t wait until after the wedding. Let?s do our trip now, before it?s too late.? A few weeks later they packed their bags and set off for the airport. Twelve hours later they touched down. They were in Nepal. They started off with white water rafting. Dean and Rhona climbed into an inflatable dinghy. Then they pushed off into a river which carried them away. They bumped over the rocks and careered towards the waterfall. Suddenly their boat capsized. Everyone in it managed to cling on except Dean. He was swept away. Rhona watched as he tumbled down stream. Then one of the guides grabbed him. When she reached him, he was laughing. ?That felt amazing,? he said. ?I wanted to keep going.? Next they were off to Thailand where they trekked on elephants through the jungle. Dean couldn?t make out all the plants or animals. But he could sense other things. At one point he stopped still. ?What is it?? Rhona whispered. ?I can hear tigers roaring,? Dean replied. A few days later they travelled to a beach and rented some equipment. Up close in the sea Dean could see fish swimming past and coral of every colour. It was a different world. One Dean might never see again. Next it was on to New Zealand. Dean couldn?t see people?s faces but he could see the mountains. They loomed in front of him, great purple shapes. The couple walked for hours, hand in hand, feeling the breeze on their faces. One day they went on a cable car. A rope was attched to Dean?s feet. Then with a smile on his face he jumped. The world soared past his eyes. He reached the bottom and bounced back up. Rhona stood watching. Dean had done a huge bungee jump. Another day Dean climbed into a stunt plane. A pilot took off and Dean soared above the ground. He watched as the world turned upside down. Flying, parachuting, paragliding, snowboarding. There was nothing Dean wouldn?t do. Nothing he didn?t want to see. But all too soon their trip came to an end. Reluctantly Dean and Rhona returned to Britain. Their suitcases were full of photographs. Their heads stuffed full of memories. They had done it in time. Now Dean and Rhona, both 32, are looking forward to getting married in May. Dean doesn?t know whether he?ll be able to see his bride on the day. But he?s determined that even when he is blind it won?t stop him doing anything. He still wants to do a wing walk on top of a plane. Dean told Take a Break: ?Losing my sight scares me more than any of the activities I?ve done so far. But I know I just have to get on with it. There are so many other things in life to be grateful for.’
Dean has set up a website for blind and partially sighted people to encourage them to try adventure sports. Find it at www.extremedreams.co.uk
Edited by Louie Purday
Take A Break magazine.