Deaf Gateshead Woman Makes Bucket List Before Losing Her Sight

18 May 2015, 06:12

A deaf woman from Gateshead, who hit the headlines when she was filmed hearing for the very first time, is ticking off a bucket list before she loses her sight.

Jo Milne from Gateshead is determined to fulfill her wishlist, which includes seeing the Seven Wonders of the World, before she permanently loses her vision.

The 40-year-old was overjoyed when after a lifetime of silence she underwent surgery last year which enabled her to hear.

But now she faces a new challenge as despite gaining her hearing she is sadly losing her sight.

She has devised a bucket list of things she would like to do before she goes completely blind which includes meeting Sir Paul McCartney, learning to play the piano and to see the Mardi Gras in Brazil.

She told Capital:
"Things on my bucket list tend to be visual memories because I am going blind.

My sight loss is like a ticking time machine and I want to make the most of every day. I always wanted to see the seven wonders of the world when I was older ... but I can't plan ahead and have to see this now while I can."

Jo was born deaf and at 29 was diagnosed with the rare condition Usher Syndrome.

But last year, at age 39, Jo had a life changing operation, which saw an electronic device surgically implanted in both of her ears enabling her to finally hear.

The video of Jo hearing music for the first time (below) became an internet sensation and she began to live her life in a way she had never been able to before.

The first song Jo ever heard was Imagine by John Lennon.

Being able to hear changed Jo's life dramatically and even the sound of a ticking clock was overwhelming at first.

But now Jo says the simple things like being able to engage in a conversation with her family and friends has made her life so much easier.

She added:
"Being able to hear has improved the quality of my life and I'm happy and optimistic about the future.

It's given me an incredible awareness of the world around me so it's made me feel part of a world... because being deafblind made me feel very cut off and isolated."

However, Jo's sight has gradually deteriorated since the procedure and she has had to give up driving and has a guide dog called Matt who has become a huge part of her life.

Now Jo, an ambassador for The Hearing Fund UK, is determined to make some last minute memories before she loses her sight forever.

Her bucket list also includes going to Glastonbury Festival and learning how to play the piano.

Jo is also hopeful that she will raise her goal of £45,000 for deaf children in the UK.

She also wants to introduce a speech therapy programme for deaf children and also try to make sign language a compulsory subject in British schools.

Jo added:
"People with Usher Syndrome find it very challenging but we tend to be strong resilient people.

We've coped with our deafness but the transition from being deaf to deafblind is what is difficult as we begin a different life from one as a deaf person.

We may now have to use a guide dog, a long cane. All those things that are not what crosses a deaf persons mind.

There needs to be more awareness . We are very capable with the right support and more positive role models need to come forward.

We also don't tend to look blind and you can see the disbelief in people's faces when we use our smartphones or can 'see' what's happening as we see our lives through a tunnel which is closing in. It is the ignorance that upset us."

Jo's full bucket list is:

To see the Seven Wonders of the World
To meet Paul McCartney
To learn to play the piano
To visit Mardi Gras in Brazil and see a rainforest
To raise £45,000 for the 45,000 deaf children in the UK
To make Usher Syndrome known in households across the country
To have British Sign Language taught as part of our curriculum

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