A 27-year-old fashion designer with diabetes could lose her sight and dream career if she can’t raise vital funds for groundbreaking treatment to improve her vision.
Talented Claire Maria Howell was having the time of her life running her own women’s clothing business and travelling the world with her new husband.
However, within the last year, Claire’s vision has deteriorated drastically after she was diagnosed with diabetes-related eye condition.
Doctors say her vision is comparable to that of someone in their 70s or 80s, adding if it gets much worse she will lose her sight altogether.
Claire, who designs all the clothing she sells, would be forced to shut her burgeoning business down were she to go blind.
An avid traveller, her jet-setting lifestyle has already been set back as a result of her much-needed medical care, which requires her to have injections into her right eye every month.
Her deteriorating condition follows a diagnosis of Diabetic Macular Degeneration (DMD), a condition in which the vessels behind the eye leak and affect sight.
Claire, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged two, is now at a point where unless she must drastically alter her blood sugar levels or face going blind.
Claire is using crowdfunding site GoFundMe to try and raise money to pay for a new technology that would improve her quality of life.
It involves having an artificial pancreas fitted which distributes insulin to the body based on blood sugar levels.
The treatment, which isn’t available on the NHS, costs up to £4,000 a year would prevent Claire from needing monthly eye injections.
The entrepreneur from Wimborne, Dorset, said: “If my diabetes isn’t properly controlled now I will lose my vision.
“I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I went blind.
“I’m a creative person, I design the clothes that I sell, so everything I do relies on my vision.
“That’s what immediately hit me when I heard my vision could be at risk, how my future would change.”
She added: “The condition is already getting in the lifestyle I want to live.
“I surf, I like to travel and I’m really active, so being healthy is really important.”
Claire’s husband Alex Van Der Merwe, a 27-year-old estate agent, lives in South Africa and she travels between there and the UK frequently.
She was travelling in Australia when her condition first started deteriorating and her diagnosis of DMD sent her into a spiral of depression.
“All of a sudden I was faced with the prospect of losing my vision and not being able to do and achieve all the things I want to with my life,” she said.
Claire added that it even got to the point where she considered taking her own life before she returned to the UK.
Reflecting on her condition now Claire believes it has deteriorated so drastically as a result of “poor management” in her teenage years.
She said: “When I was younger my diabetes wasn’t as advanced as it is now.
“It wasn’t easy for my parents to just say, ‘you can’t eat this, you can’t drink that’.
“I didn’t want to be different to anyone else to a lot of the time I would eat and drink the wrong thing.
“I was quite neglectful of my diabetes because I didn’t know the consequences.
“People did tell me but when you’re a kid you don’t want to hear it.
“My thought was always, ‘that’s never going to happen to me’.
“Now I’m having treatment on their eyes that people in their 70s and 80s get done.”
Donate to Claire’s crowdfunding campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/keep-my-vision-alive