caba visited me and helped me complete the form. To be honest, if they hadn't, I think I'd have just thrown it in the bin at that stage.
As far as I knew, I was completely fit and healthy. But I had a hole in my heart that no one knew about, and aged 49, totally out of the blue, I had a stroke. In some ways you could say that I recovered well - I was actually extremely lucky that I survived at all - and I can still walk and so on. But the stroke has resulted in severe problems with my vision.
Initially, I was effectively blind. Then I started being able to see, but there was something wrong. My wife said that when she visited me in hospital, I didn't acknowledge her until she spoke. Then all the medics came to me with pictures of celebrities and politicians - I couldn't recognise a single one of them. Later, they confirmed that the stroke had damaged the part of my brain that deals with facial recognition.
Face blindness - or to give it its proper name, prosopagnosia - is a severe disability. I can't recognise clients, or even my own children in the street. It also means I don't know my own face - recently I said 'after you' to some guy in a shop before I realised I was actually looking in a mirror.
I also have this condition that means I have very little sense of place. It's called topographical agnosia. I have to do everything as part of a routine now, I can only go somewhere if I have been there many times before and don't deviate in any way. In addition, my colour perception has gone, which, for someone who works in design, is a serious problem.
I was very distressed and I had absolutely no idea how to get my head around my situation. It was my wife - she's a chartered accountant - who phoned caba for advice. They were very supportive and encouraging. They suggested some counselling, and I did a bit of research about who might help me. I found a therapist who actually has facial blindness himself, which I thought was exactly what I needed. caba funded a number of sessions. That really helped me start accepting the situation and think about some coping strategies.
It was around that time I realised I would have to apply for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) as well. That's a kind of benefit for people who have a long term health problem or a disability. The form was ridiculous - so complicated, such personal questions - I found it pretty overwhelming. So caba visited and helped me complete it. To be honest, if they hadn't, I think I'd have just thrown it in the bin at that stage.
Then it turned out I had to go to appeal - which again, was incredibly stressful. I just wouldn't have been able to face it on my own. It was at that stage caba said that they would act as my representative. They know what they're doing, they can guide you through what is otherwise a really complex process.
I was successful in my appeal, and now receive the PIP payments. I feel very lucky to have had access to that kind of professional help just when I needed it. caba staff are very experienced. That means that they're realistic about what you can expect and efficient in helping you get where you need to be.