Devastated Michael Betteridge has issued a tearful warning to people living with diabetes after losing his sight.
His loving family have rallied around the 32-year-old former tattoo artist since he started getting blurry vision.
Three months later doctors told him he would never see his children again, despite laser surgery and an operation on the retina in his left eye.
Dad-of-two Michael, of North Street, Portsea, was diagnosed with hereditary Type 1 diabetes at six years old, but said he thought he was invincible.
The ex-labourer said: ‘I got to about 14 or 15 and wanted to be one of the lads, doing everything they were doing, eating everything they were.
‘I was eating chocolate and crisps, fizzy drinks – just rubbish. I thought I could live forever.
‘When it was starting to go I was still getting on top of roofs for work.
‘I was thinking ‘‘it’s just blurry eyes’’ – but it wasn’t.’
It was in May last year he started to get blurry vision, prompting him to contact doctors who had been chasing him to attend check-up appointments at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.
His sight deteriorated and by September he was completely blind.
He suffered diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of blindness in working-age people.
Diabetes affects the tiny blood vessels in the retina, damaging it and severely affecting eyesight.
Thousands in the area have diabetes, needing insulin injections and strict diets to keep a safe blood sugar level.
Michael added: ‘‘Listen to the doctors and keep up with your appointments – it will pay off.’
One of the hardest things for him is not seeing his children. He said: ‘I picture them as they are now. When they grow up they’ll still be little kids to me.’
His son Michael, six, and daughter Hallie Sinden, 15, now help him complete daily tasks around the house.
Just recently when helping his dad, little Michael said: ‘Dad uses my eyes.’
Michael’s partner, Charlotte Sinden, 31, added: ‘I didn’t know it could happen.It’s hard but we get through it.
‘We’ve got to, life goes on. There’s nothing anyone can do.
‘He’s doing better than I thought, he’s got lots of friends around him.’
CHARITY CALLS FOR REGULAR CHECK-UPS
A CHARITY has stressed the importance of getting regular check-ups when diagnosed with diabetes.
It comes as the number of people living with the condition grows every year. In the area covered by Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) 9,255 people are diagnosed. For Fareham and Gosport CCG, that figure is 9,347 and for South Eastern Hampshire CCG it is 10,271.
Daniel Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: ‘This serious condition, if left unmanaged, can lead to a wide range of devastating complications.
‘But having regular health checks can help minimise risks of developing complications.’
BATTLING CONDITION FOR 26 YEARS TOOK ITS TOLL
FROM the age of six, Michael Betteridge had to take twice-daily injections.
His mother Susan Gratton, 59, would give him his regular insulin injections.
Being just six, he did not really understand how they were making up for his lack of insulin due to Type 1 diabetes, where the pancreas does not create any insulin at all.
And when he hit the age of 14 his interest in following friends and enjoying chocolate and fizzy drinks meant he did not take care of his condition.
While he kept taking the insulin injections, he shrugged off frequent reminders from the hospital to attend.
Now blind, Michael’s wish is that no-one else does the same.
Warning others, he told The News: ‘Don’t eat the rubbish and smoke.
‘Smoking shrinks the blood vessels behind the eye. Smoking is the worst thing for it.’
‘I’ve just got to watch out and keep the right diet.’
Still facing the chance of losing a foot, he is eating healthily but will stay blind.
He said: ‘In my last two check-ups my blood sugars have been coming down. We’re on the right road now.’
On Saturday dozens of Michael’s supporters, friends and family turned out to play a fundraising football match.
Jimmy Wall, 37, of Shearer Road, Fratton, organised the event at Priory School in Fawcett Road, Southsea.
He said: ‘We just want to raise a little bit of awareness.
‘Mikey is a lovely fella, he’s a decent boy.
‘When something happens in the community we all pull together.
‘It was easy for me to get a few lads together because of what it was for and who it was for.’
All cash raised is going towards sending Michael and his family on holiday.
It comes a month after Diabetes UK launched a campaign to get doctors in the city to give more information about patients’ diabetes checks.
Figures show just 34 per cent of the city’s GPs sent the data for an audit used in research.
People needing help to manage their diabetes can call the Diabetes UK careline 0345 123 2399.