It Takes a Village: Even in a Pandemic.

As the pandemic throws curve ball after curve ball and families and schools struggle to  adapt we, at Navigating Blindness, are excited to launch our new series entitled “It Takes a Village.”  Today we will hear from Sarah Immerfall as she explains what her son’s village looks like in the midst of a pandemic.

We’d love to hear from you too. If you’d like to share your story, please reach out for specifications using our contact form. Thank you!

Guest Post by Sarah Immerfall

Hi! My name is Sarah and my son, Siah, was born completely blind. He has a condition called Oculoauriculovertebral Syndrome that caused microphthalmia and he wears bilateral scleral shells. He just turned 4 and is finally past a lot of medical treatment for issues unrelated to his vision, and we are so excited to focus solely on his progress! Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Even in a Pandemic.”

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Retinopathy: Becky’s Story

As you may know, our son Kai was recently diagnosed with Autoimmune Retinopathy. When we received the new diagnosis we were shocked and we are still adapting to the news. Thankfully, we had already built a strong network through this blog and our social media presence. We reached out to our community and thanks to your shares, our post was viewed more than 8,000 times.  Autoimmune Retinopathy (AIR) is extremely rare, but with your help, we were able to connect with 12 people who are navigating AIR and were pointed to a FB Community for Autoimmune Retinopathy with 166 members (#Rare). Becky is one of the people who immediately responded to our pleas for help with an abundance of support and information. I am honored she agreed to share her story here. Thank you Becky.

Guest post by Becky Jayakumar

Hello, I am Becky Jayakumar and I was recently diagnosed with autoimmune retinopathy (AIR).  AIR is a rare autoimmune disease that destroys the retinal cells of the eye leading to progressive vision loss.  There are different causes of AIR, no set diagnostic criteria, and no standard treatment which makes it a challenging disease to manage.

A year ago, I suddenly experienced visual changes and lost part of my left peripheral vision.  Nothing seemed to cause it, nor did anything make it better. That evening, I was hospitalized overnight for an eye ultrasound, brain imaging, and labs and ultimately, these exams came back normal.

Over the next few months, my vision continued to worsen with progressive peripheral vision loss and increasing visual disturbances.  During this time, I had more testing than you can imagine with many potential diagnoses which typically eventually got ruled out.  My abnormalities included an enlarged blind spot on the left and a slightly reduced thickness of my left optic nerve.  My local retinologist and neuro-ophthalmologist weren’t able to do the additional testing to look at function of the eye in NV, so I was referred to Mayo Clinic. Continue reading “Diagnosis of Autoimmune Retinopathy: Becky’s Story”

Featured

Feel the Facts by Kai Owens (17)

To wrap up our month of braille literacy guest blogs, I’ve asked Kai to share his thoughts about braille literacy. Kai has helped several families, with children who are losing their sight, to understand how braille is helpful & relevant in 2020. Kai is now a college-bound senior in a mainstream, public high school and he is at the top of his class. Here’s what he wants you to know about braille.

Feel the Facts by Kai Owens

30% of all blind people are employed, which means 70% are not. 90% of the employed are braille readers. This means that if you do not read braille then there is only a 3% chance that you will be employed in your lifetime. THREE PERCENT!

So, for every 100 blind people who do not read braille there will be only 3 who are employed. 

Continue reading “Feel the Facts by Kai Owens (17)”

AIR? …We need your help & connections.

Friends, we need your help.

Yesterday, we learned that Kai has been misdiagnosed for 7 years! It’s not RP or Stargardts, it’s autoimmune retinopathy (AIR). If docs had listened & run proper testing his sight may have been saved. 😭 😡 😭

After 3 negative genetic tests, today Kai was officially diagnosed with AIR. 3 different retinal autoantibodies (AAb’s) were found and he’s being tested for a 4th.
Doc recommends one of 2 treatment paths:
Continue reading “AIR? …We need your help & connections.”

Featured

Legally Blind Teen Shares Comfort Items while Encouraging Peers to Step Outside Their Comfort Zones.

When Kai was 10 and first diagnosed with degenerative sight loss, he was scared. He began to have trouble seeing at night and his first reaction was to build a nest on his bed out of blankets and pillows. One night as mom was tucking him into his nest, he said that he felt bad for all the kids around the world who do not have comfortable places to sleep. Mom had no idea how to tackle that issue on a global scale while also helping her son deal with sight loss, but after many conversations together: Kai’s Comforts was born.  Kai decided to collect new, soft, highly tactile pillows and blankets from his community to deliver to his peers who are living at schools for the blind. At first, it started out as a great way for us to do something positive, and connect Kai to peers dealing with sight loss. His first collection was delivered to kids at the Georgia Academy for the Blind. A school for children who are blind and visually impaired about 3 hours from Kai’s mainstream school. The first delivery was a huge success the kids were thrilled to receive their comfort items, and Kai got to meet lots of kids who were “like him.”

Kai is 17 now, and he’s just completed his 4th delivery. This year, in addition to delivering comfort, he had a message to share: Comfort is important, but he now believes it’s even more important to push himself outside of his comfort zone. Continue reading “Legally Blind Teen Shares Comfort Items while Encouraging Peers to Step Outside Their Comfort Zones.”

Managing Money as a Person Who is Blind or Low Vision, Featuring Joe Strechay

A few months ago my oldest, typically-sighted son, Cash, called to say that he and his girlfriend were out hiking and found a beautiful log bridge over a stream. As they were crossing the log bridge, they decided to sit down and relax a bit. After getting comfortable they found themselves free-falling into the water below. The log broke! After air-drying in the sun he realized that his wallet was no longer in his pocket. (I later found out that he’d also lost his passport! But that’s a different story.)

Knowing that he was away from home without a wallet stressed me out and I immediately spun into full-blown-problem-solving-mom-mode. But in the midst of lecturing him and outlining all the steps that would be required to replace his items, I realized that this is his problem to solve and he can handle it. I relaxed, took a deep breath and offered suggestions while feeling a wee bit of satisfaction knowing he was about to embark on a total pain-in-the-butt journey and learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way.

So when my husband found our missing credit card laying on the floor in the van, I’m sure he felt a twinkle of justice knowing that I had been feeling the stress of my disorganized money management methods. Typically, I pay for my purchase then drop my payment method or change into my cavernous disorganized pocketbook. And, sometimes, when I hit the brakes just right the disorganized contents spill out of my unzipped purse onto the floor of the van.

When the hubs pays for something, no matter how long the line is behind him, he painstakingly places his change, payment method, and receipt into the proper spot in his wallet. It. Drives. Me. Nuts.

Now that my youngest, legally blind son, Kai, is spending money away from home without parental supervision, I catch myself wondering: Will he pay too much? Will he get proper change? Will unauthorized charges be placed on his bill? Will he drop his money? Continue reading “Managing Money as a Person Who is Blind or Low Vision, Featuring Joe Strechay”

From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 4 Featuring Holly Bonner

I’m thrilled to bring you the final episode in this 4 part series “From A Mother’s Perspective” that has been created in partnership with Victoria Claire of www.VictoriaClaire-BeyondVision.com. Today’s guest post is written by Holly Bonner from www.BlindMotherhood.com. Welcome Holly and thank you for sharing your story with us.

A Day in The Life of Blind Motherhood
Written by: Holly Bonner, Blind Motherhood

The static noise of the baby monitor blares behind my head. I can hear my three-year-old calling me, “Mommy, I’m awake.” I’ve slept the entire night in our Lazy Boy recliner… again. I look down at my chest and can barely make out my 18-month old daughter who’s been curled up on top of me since 3am. She is the image of perfection, even to this blind mother. I carefully run my fingers through her hair, caressing her curls. I touch her cheeks with my palm, in an attempt to gently rouse her from her sleep. My day of Blind Motherhood begins. Continue reading “From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 4 Featuring Holly Bonner”

From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 2 Featuring Kai Owens’ Mom, Kim

Part 2 in a special series with www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com
Written by: Kim Owens, mom of Kai Owens.

Letting Go

Overnight our bright, happy, outgoing 9-year-old-son, Kai, became anxious and afraid. He refused to sleep in the dark and he clung nervously to my side. His personality changed drastically and we were terrified. Over the next year, we visited many specialists but received no clarity.

Then one day I noticed that his handwriting started in the middle of the page and trailed off the right side.  I asked why he wasn’t using the left side of the paper and watched as he held the paper up to eye-level, and moved it from side to side, inspecting it closely.  Kai’s last eye exam had been 4 months prior, but I became certain that something was wrong with his vision.  The eye doctor agreed to take another look and that’s when he noticed that Kai’s retinas looked funny. Continue reading “From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 2 Featuring Kai Owens’ Mom, Kim”

From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 1 Featuring Victoria Claire’s Mom, Sandra Tinsley

Part 1 in a special series with www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com
Written by: Sandra Tinsley, mother of Victoria Claire

My daughter was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa when she was 19 years old and just beginning her adult life at university.  How dreadful that must have been for her.

I felt absolutely devastated for her and myself.  Having been such a good baby, totally happy, always laughing, nothing ever bothered her, she would tackle anything.

I cried, questioned myself asking was it something that I had done during my pregnancy, had I worked too hard?  We had moved house 2 week before she was born, she was also born with the cord around her neck.  You always think the worst trying to find answers. Continue reading “From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 1 Featuring Victoria Claire’s Mom, Sandra Tinsley”