Brave and ambitious mum Tonie’s life changed radically when sudden blurred vision led to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Today, after adjusting to a very different lifestyle, she has just moved into her “beautiful” Greenfields adapted bungalow in Braintree, which is making life a lot easier.
In 2006, 49-year-old Tonie Hewitt was living in a three-bedroom house in Tiptree with her four children, working as a teaching assistant in a local school.
“When I heard about potential redundancies at the school, I decided to do an access course for mature students, as I had no qualifications but was determined to get some.” Her drive paid off, and she received excellent marks in her course, as well earning 3 A grades at GCSE level alongside it. She decided to go to university in 2008 to study Art History, “based purely on the opportunity for a subsidised trip to Italy!” She describes the trip as “beyond my dreams” and found that she really enjoyed the course.
It was during the week of her final exams in 2011 that things dramatically changed. “I woke up on the Monday to blurred vision in one eye, as well as stabbing pain in the back of my head. By Wednesday, I was completely blind in one eye, but I carried on doing my exams, regardless.”
Determined Tonie insisted on completing her final exam, but went to hospital on the Thursday after being persuaded by a friend. A series of tests, including an MRI scan and lumbar puncture, led to Tonie receiving the devastating diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“I was also told that I would lose my sight completely, which was terrible to hear. Thankfully, my sight has mostly returned since, and I’m able to see whilst wearing glasses. However, my daughter doesn’t quite trust me to drive her car!”
MS was affecting Tonie in lots of ways, both mentally and physically, including restricting her movement, memory and speech. Despite this, she decided to earn her Post Graduate Certificate of Education. “It was difficult doing this whilst I was coming to terms with everything, but I did it. I then began teacher training, but decided that it was best to stop.”
Tonie’s 21-year-old-daughter, Eboni, who she is very close to, became her carer. But Tonie was finding living in her three-bedroom house in Tiptree a struggle, as she found it exhausting going upstairs to use the bathroom and toilet. “I found myself pretty living upstairs, which was depressing and difficult, so I began searching for a suitable new home.”
Last year, Braintree District Council told Tonie about Greenfields’ new-build adapted bungalows in Millam Way, Braintree, one of which was available to rent. She was excited, but never dreamed she would end up living there, as a few other people were also interested. However, Tonie was asked to view it just after Christmas, found out she had got it the next day, and moved in that weekend!
Her new home has had a really positive impact on Tonie’s life: “It’s a wonderful house; amazing. It is very spacious and airy; letting lots of sunlight in, which is good for my MS. It’s also very convenient that I can park my car right outside, which means just a short walk from there to my front door.
“It’s now far easier to have a shower, as I can sit down in the wet-room, and having everything so close and on one level makes everything a lot easier for me. And the staff at Greenfields have been very nice and helpful. My home is beautiful; thank you.”
Find out about applying for a new home by clicking on this link Finding a home
Find out about our new developments by clicking on this link Current developments