By Charlene Gatt
JESSICA Gallagher had a promising career as a netballer.
The teen had played in the national titles and was an emergency on the Australian Netball Team when her Olympic plans were derailed, after she was diagnosed with Cone Dystrophy, a rare genetic disease that affects the central vision. She was only 17 years of age.
Rather than wallow in self-pity, Ms Gallagher still found a way to achieve her Olympic dreams.
In 2010, and with only 150 days experience on skis, Ms Gallagher became the first woman in Australian history to win a medal at a winter games when she took out a bronze medal in the slalom at the Paralympic Games.
This year she is in Seddon training in javelin and long jump for the London 2012 Paralympics.
To top it off, she has just been named Global Ambassador for Vision 2020 Australia.
“Through my sporting opportunities, I get to meet so many outstanding Australians who are achieving amazing things all over the world,” Ms Gallagher said.
“But the work that some Australians are doing quietly behind the scenes in many Asia Pacific countries to make a difference to individual lives of people who are blind or vision impaired, is truly inspirational.”
Today, Ms Gallagher has eight per cent central vision and good peripheral vision.
The worst case scenario will see Ms Gallagher lose her sight entirely, but like her diagnosis, it is not an eventuality she dwells on.
“It was a relief that there was an answer. For years I’d been told that I just needed glasses,” she said.
“I have no control over whether my sight deteriorates or doesn’t, so I make the most of what I’m given.”
By Charlene Gatt