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Sisters facing up to rare vision problem
TWO sisters from York have told how they have spent their entire lives unable to recognise faces – including each other’s and those of other family members.
Victoria Wardley and Donna Jones both suffer from prosopagnosia, which means they are unable to recognise faces including those of their partners and children – or even their own reflections.
Mrs Wardley, who cannot recognise her own husband, said: ‘When I see someone’s face it’s like tunnel vision. I can make out an eye or a nose, but when I try and look at a whole face, it just doesn’t work. It’s like a blank canvas on someone’s head.
“I’m not really sure what I look like, and I couldn’t describe my husband to you either. I rarely take any pictures because there’s no point – I’d have no idea who was in the photo.”
The sisters were diagnosed by their family doctor, but only a few years ago.
Mrs Wardley, 32, who works as a dog groomer, said: “I just always thought I wasn’t very good at remembering people. I only realised it was an issue a few years ago when I was working in a coffee shop. My doctor used to come in every day and, of course, I never recognised him.
“Eventually he told me to come in so he could run a couple of tests, and we found out I had prosopagnosia. I’ve got an actual diagnosis, but most people just work it out for themselves.”
It was thanks to her discovery that Ms Jones realised she too was suffering from the condition.
Ms Jones, 30, said: ‘When Victoria told me what the doctors had said to her, things started to become clear. I’ve had incidents where I’ve gone up to men in supermarkets thinking they were my partner, only to realise I’d grabbed hold of the wrong man. I even find it hard to pick out my daughter from a crowd.”
The condition means the sisters rarely go out alone, for fear of losing each other.
Victoria said: “We’ve been out shopping before and my sister wondered off – obviously I couldn’t find her anywhere. Eventually I had to ask them to put an announcement over the supermarket tannoy. I’m sure most people thought I was looking for my lost child or something, not my grown-up sister.”
“Our condition means we rarely get embarrassed. If I do something silly I don’t care because I’ll never know it if I see them again.”
Dr Sarah Bate, from the Centre for Face Processing Disorders at Bournemouth University, said: “Recent estimates suggest as many as two percent of the population, or one in 50 people, have a degree of face blindness, yet public awareness of the condition remains low.”
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