Jazz musician overcomes blues of losing his sight

Guide dogs have helped a jazz musician to overcome the blues of losing his sight.

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Chris Mustchin with Kenny, his third guide dogChris Mustchin with Kenny, his third guide dog
Chris Mustchin with Kenny, his third guide dog

Bognor Regis grandfather Chris Mustchin is using his experience to promote the work of the charity Guide Dogs and encourage people to show their support.

Playing music has helped Chris to cope with the emotional impact of losing his sight but it has been his guide dogs that have given him his confidence and independence back.

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He is now on his third guide dog, having had problems with his retina since 1992 and been registered severely sight impaired since 1994.

Chris actually lost the vision in his left eye at the age of 15, when he sustained a head injury while playing rugby, but many operations in the following six years saved the vision in his right eye and he went on to become a successful mechanical design draftsman, working with printed circuit boards.

He said: “Losing my sight was devastating. With little central and peripheral vision in my right eye, I lost my job and could no longer drive. But worst of all was not being able to see my daughters’ faces clearly.

“However, my wife Christine, who I met at work whilst playing local game stoolball, can take the credit for getting me into jazz as she signed me up for a course in 1997, just three years after I was registered blind.

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“Learning to play jazz drums gave me something to focus on, which helped me overcome the emotional impacts of losing my sight.

“I was very fortunate to get mobility and orientation training from a rehabilitation specialist from West Sussex. I went on a three-month course at RNIB’s Manor House, Torquay, where I heard a talk by someone from Guide Dogs in Exeter about their services. I applied for a guide dog and a year later I qualified with yellow labrador Ewan.”

Chris was matched with labrador cross retriever Orlando next and since October 2015, he has been partnered with Kenny, also a labrador cross retriever.

“Having a guide dog has really made things possible for me,” he said.

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“I have a lot to be grateful for. To suddenly be able to walk along with confidence is really great. I can walk faster with my guide dog than with my cane. I don’t worry about obstacles as I know my guide dog will take me round them.”

Chris has recently found out he has macular degeneration, which means his vision will eventually deteriorate. However, he knows that with a guide dog, he will be able to continue doing what he loves - playing jazz drums as a member of several bands, as well as playing bowls as vice-chairman of Bognor Beavers Visually Impaired Bowls Club.

Visit www.guidedogs.org.uk for more information about the charity.

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