Visually impaired Hawick woman says her guide dog has 'changed my life forever'

It was independence day for visually impaired Cheryl Marchbank from Hawick when guide dog Nala entered her life two years ago – and now she has returned the favour with a fundraising wheelchair trek.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 5:38 pm
Cheryl Marchbank with Nala. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Cheryl took part on Saturday, July 11, in a five mile sponsored push in her manual wheelchair up Minto Hill into Denholm to raise funds for Guide Dogs UK, a charity representing the blind an partially sighted.

The effort proved a huge success, raising £2,500 for the worthy cause.

And as always her beloved Nala, a Labrador-cross retriever, was not far from her side on the day.

Cheryl Marchbank with Nala. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

The wheelchair push was a gesture of thanks from Cheryl for the hugely positive impact Nala has had on her life.

The 31-year-old said: “It was a tough challenge going uphill, but I did it.

"I can walk but what happened was when I was little I was affected by encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, so it left me with cerebral palsy and a visual impairment.

"I got my first guide dog Nala in 2019. I got her when she was two and she’s four now.

"I was on the waiting list for a guide dog for three years. There’s only 13 dogs in the country that are trained to walk alongside wheelchairs, whereas all the rest with guide dogs are able-bodied people who can walk about.

"It’s all about matching the right guide dog with the right person.

"I’m able to get out independently on my own now outside, whereas as before I always had to have somebody come into my house and take me out.

"I couldn’t go out independently because of my visual impairment, as I can’t distinguish a pavement or the like.

"Nala has given me a great deal of independence and has changed my life for forever.

“I wanted to give something back to Guide Dogs UK for giving me my independence.

"The money raised will help to train other puppies to become life-changers like Nala.

"I work at the Burnfoot Community Hub two days a week, where I help with the finance and admin side of things, and Nala takes me up to work and back again and I’m quite busy since I got Nala.

"I was working there before but every time I had to go to work my mum would have to take me, whereas now I can just get up in the morning and Nala takes me to work. It’s been life-changing.”