Twins both went blind with same rare condition
TWIN brothers who both lost their sight to a rare, incurable condition are to cycle from London to Amsterdam to raise money for charity.
Bristol University student Daniel Smith and his twin Michael, 20, fell victim to Leber's Optic Neuropathy and lost their sight within weeks.
Michael had vision problems first, soon after he started at Barts and The London School of Medicine.
Daniel, who was studying aeronautical engineering at Bristol, was told there was a 60 to 70 per cent chance that his sight would also fail.
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He was preparing for second year exams last Easter when he began to struggle to see through his left eye. Within two weeks his near perfect vision started to deteriorate rapidly.
The loss of vision is a result of the death of cells in the optic nerve, causing it to stop relaying vital information from the eyes to the brain.
It's a hereditary condition, linked to a number of genes, but the brothers have been unable to find any family history going back four generations.
Only 150 people in the UK are known to be affected.
The brothers have returned to university to complete their studies and are concentrating their efforts on raising money for Blind in Business, a charity which helps blind and partially sighted people into work.
Their 354-mile cycle challenge begins on April 6 and will see them ride tandems from St Paul's in London to Amsterdam in four days.
They will be pedalling 140km a day, spending up to nine hours in the saddle, with the help of friends and their parents, Steve and Su-Jan, who will be driving a support vehicle.
Daniel, who now has just seven per cent of his vision left, said: "There were some pretty dark moments when I had to come to terms with being severely visually-impaired.
"It was hard to come to terms with the fact I could no longer do everyday activities. Going to the supermarket to buy food just isn't possible now.
"Coming back to university has been tough but the last thing I wanted to do was sit at home doing nothing.
"My tutors at Bristol University have been really supportive and the university as a whole has been fantastic.
"Blind in Business has supported us in all aspects of my life, which is why we wanted to do something in return. Because it's a small charity, we can decide where the money is spent so our aim is to raise over £3,000 and enable them to help others who find themselves in a similar position as us."
Michael, now studying geography and a member of the England Blind Football Squad, added: "Losing my sight at such an early age and watching my brother lose his as well has been an intensive process of rehabilitation, functionally and emotionally, which has put incredible pressure on the family."
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