Snow looking back for blind army veteran

Maria Pikulski, 54, from Leyland skiing in Italy
Maria Pikulski, 54, from Leyland skiing in Italy
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A 54-year-old blind army veteran has not let her disability get in the way after becoming a skilled skier.

Maria Pikulski, 54, from Leyland visited the Dolomites mountain range in Italy with other visually impaired veterans.

And despite never skiing before losing her sight, Maria admits her favourite part was going down the black runs - the hardest at the resort.

“Blind Veterans UK organised an absolutely brilliant trip,” she said. “It’s the ninth time I have gone skiing with the charity and this was the biggest group I’d ever gone with. I had a great time and so did everyone else. Being able to ski gives me such a massive confidence boost and it is fantastic to have other skiers praise you for what you have been able to achieve.”

Maria was working as a nurse when one of her patients suggested she should have an eye test, and seven months later, she was diagnosed with a rare condition called Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.

The condition is extremely rare in women and only about three per cent of sufferers are female.

She now skis with a guide who communicates with her via a radio in her helmet and says she had to work “incredibly hard” to learn to ski.

She said: “All your faith is in your guide and you’re concentrating so hard all the time, but it is very good fun. Skiing black runs every day was my highlight, although the après ski was fun too.”

Maria was registered blind in September 2003 and says she felt “incredibly down” following the rapid loss of her sight.

She applied for support from Blind Veterans UK, a national charity for vision impaired ex-service men and women, the month after being registered severely sight impaired and has received its support for more than 10 years.

Maria said: “I am so glad my friend told me about Blind Veterans UK. I am so thankful to be supported by such a wonderful organisation. It is thanks to Blind Veterans UK I’ve been able to return to work, helping others with sight loss, and that I am able to do things such as ski and live an independent life.”

Maria now works as an eye clinic liaison officer at St Helens Hospital.