Experience: I lost my sight overnight

When I opened my eyes, I knew this was more than just an ordinary hangover

I was 16 when I first went to sea. Having joined the merchant navy after school, I got a round-the-world cruise as my first trip – we went to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and sailed down the Panama Canal. For a teenager who’d grown up in Glasgow during the 1950s and 60s, it was a real adventure, and over the next 15 years I enjoyed a happy, carefree life as a ship’s steward, working long hours but playing hard during my time off.

On the evening of my 31st birthday in November 1983, we were docked in Trinidad and a group of us went ashore to celebrate. I still smoked in those days, and by the time I tumbled into my bunk I’d worked my way through a number of rum punches. But when I opened my eyes the next morning, I knew I was suffering from more than just an ordinary hangover. Other than a vague perception of blurry smears of light, I could see nothing.

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