In The Blink Of An Eye: My Story Of Losing My Sight (And The Technology That Gave It Back)
Patient Perspective People often talk about life-changing moments happening “in the blink of an eye,” although that phrase is usually just a metaphor. I think my story is unique because my life really did change in the blink of an eye, when I lost my sight.
I am legally blind due to a disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare mitochondrial disorder that mostly affects men and causes sudden and very severe vision loss. LHON hit me at the age of 29 and I have been legally blind ever since. However, I eventually found eSight: the technology that gave me back my sight.
What was it like to lose your vision?
I actually remember the moment when I went blind. I was driving and, very suddenly, I realized that I could not see the road ahead of me. I pulled over onto the shoulder and called my parents to come pick me up. That was the last time I ever drove a vehicle. After months of going to doctors I was eventually diagnosed with LHON and was told that my vision had suddenly fallen from about 20:20, what is often called “perfect vision,” to less than 20:1000.
How did becoming legally blind change your life?
Vision loss touched every part of my life immediately. At the time, I had a career as a photographer and I was building my skills as a chef. I thought that I would one day be a food photographer, combining my interests. Those are, however, the sorts of plans that fall apart when you suddenly become blind. I had to give up my dreams and I assumed that all the details in my world, everything from reading to seeing my family’s faces, were gone forever.
"Although my school did the best it could in providing accommodations, it was really hard being a student with a vision impairment."
I got lucky. I happened to be attending a conference where eSight was demonstrating and they needed a translator (I’m bilingual). I didn’t dream going in that it would be the technology that changed my life. On a whim, I tried on the glasses and I saw a face; I hadn’t done that in a very long time. Like when I lost my sight, putting on eSight was a “blink of the eye” life-changing experience but, this time, it was my sight coming back.
How did it feel to see again?
After not seeing for years, and coming to accept that fact, my first time trying eSight was overwhelming. So, I did what lots of people would do: I called my mom to tell her the good news.
At the time I got eSight, I’d gone back to university and was working towards my degree. Although my school did the best it could in providing accommodations, it was really hard being a student with a vision impairment. eSight completely changed my routine as a student. Because I had the glasses, I was able to see like other students and could make use of all the resources that students rely on that I had been missing: lectures, libraries, study groups, and more. Now, having finished my degree, I work with eSight helping people like me get the glasses. I don’t know how I would have finished school or built a career without this technology.
What is your advice for others with vision loss?
While losing your sight is hard, it isn’t the end. Technology has come so far as to make it possible for people with very poor vision to be truly included in any setting. Governments, employers, educators, and everyone else can use these incredible technologies to support people with vision loss more effectively and more efficiently than they ever have before. There is no reason someone like me shouldn’t be able to excel in any setting when technology is available.