It’s a little know disease and Springwood musician Drew McAlister wants to “shine a spotlight” on it.
His latest album Coming Your Way has been written especially for his younger brother Kurt, 42, from Winmalee, who suffers from an incurable condition, retinitis pigmentosa [RP], which leads to blindness.
“It was night blindness [at first], mum knew something wasn’t right,” Drew said. “I’d like to see people donate to RP. They are doing great things with stem cell research, hopefully they’ll find a cure in Kurt’s lifetime.”
Kurt McAlister is delighted his brother is drawing attention to the disease. One in 80 people carry the gene which causes Retinitis Pigmentosa. For Kurt it followed his diagnosis of Usher Syndrome - deafness from birth. He wears hearing aids.
“It’s great, it’s humbling to say the least [and] it’s a great album too,” Kurt said of the album honour.
Kurt said his family realised something was wrong with his sight after a school excursion.
“My friends and I were playing tag at dusk. I was only about 10, I couldn’t see where they were, they were outside my peripheral vision. My grandmother had the same disease and she put two and two together. I was officially diagnosed at 12.”
Slowly going blind has ensured that Kurt has done as much as he can with his available vision – including trips to London and later to Canada and New Zealand to snowboard. He stopped snowboarding in 2009 “when I nearly went over a cliff”.
Kurt has also been able to keep his desk job, adjusting the screen brightness and size to put less stress on his eyes, but he resigned early on to never getting his drivers licence.
“I’ve been fortunate it’s been a nice and slow progression. I’ve learned to do things. I never took up a drivers licence, you give up everyday life things along the way. I’ve got about 15 per cent [peripheral vision] left.”
Last year he finally succumbed to using a cane for safety reasons – much to his family’s relief – after being hit by a delivery van 12 months earlier.
“It took a bit of bark off me, I got a bit of a headache… that shook me up. I moved up to the Blue Mountains and I started to use a stick immediately.”
Drew’s album was released on September 29. He said he was grateful that “in an industry that is slowly but surely changing, some would say dying” he has put out a third solo album.
The album was penned over six months and created in the Central Coast with pop producer Andy Mack and a collaborative effort by other talented musicians.
“It’s still a country album … it’s just music to me,” Drew said. To buy the album go to http://www.drewmcalistermusic.com. Interested in RP? Call 02 97447738.