QEI Foundation Ambassador, Phoebe Young, suffered an allergic reaction called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome at 18. The reaction caused Phoebe’s eyes, skin and lungs to burn and blister. This left Phoebe with ongoing disabilities, including the amputation of her legs below the knee, her left hand at the wrist and the fingertips of her right hand. However, of all her disabilities, Phoebe’s loss of vision has proved the most difficult for her to live with. Her eye’s stem cells have been destroyed, so the corneas she sees through are opaque, dry, painful and highly prone to infection.
After leaving hospital and learning to walk on prosthetic legs, Phoebe was able to graduate from university with the help of visual aids and magnifiers. WIth her Arts and Law degree, Phoebe began practising as a solicitor, married her husband Ben and had two beautiful boys, Rufus and Toby.
Currently, Phoebe’s eyesight in her right eye fluctuates and on a good day she can see up to five per cent of what a fully sighted person can see. This means Phoebe relies greatly on her sense of touch, her hearing, as well as her family for support.
Sadly, Phoebe’s left eye has recently become completely blind from glaucoma, most likely caused by the scarring of her cornea. There is a large risk that her right eye will eventually suffer the same fate. Phoebe worries about how she would take care of herself and her children if she lost her sight completely and often imagines how much she would miss seeing the faces of her loved ones.
Fortunately, preventative glaucoma research gives Phoebe great hope that the sight in her right eye could be saved so she can remain independent and will be able to continue to see her children grow up.
“When I was 18 and recovering from my allergic reaction I desperately wanted my ophthalmologists to reverse my vision loss and fully restore my sight. It took me years to understand that there is no perfect fix, no magic cure. Now I am a little older and with two precious children and a loving husband I want to be here for, my focus is on preserving the sight I have.”
Phoebe is a participant in this year’s Last Seen exhibition to save sight and has been teamed up with artist Guy Morgan to share a special visual memory. Phoebe’s Last Seen is a memory she has of looking up through a canopy of native trees to see a night sky full of stars. She misses the perspective the stars can bring to your troubles and the way they remind you of your small place in the universe.
Purchase Last Seen tickets here.