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”→
We love featuring stories of people making a difference in the blindness community. Kerry and her brother Brian are making waves – radio waves – on their show Outlook. We hope you enjoy Kerry’s post about growing up with sight loss and finding her voice in advocacy.
Guest post by Kerry Kijewski
In disability activist Judy Heumann’s book Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Activist, she says she believes she was meant to have a mother who would not give up on her daughter who was born with a physical disability. I don’t know about that in my case, but I do know I am lucky to have been given the advantages and foundation from my parents. I recognize my privilege, having them firmly in my corner.
This doesn’t mean I have it all figured out (no matter how much I wish I did), even as I am staring down forty in a few short years. I am further along because of the support I grew up with and still count on today. Continue reading “Navigating My Blindness by Kerry Kijewski”→
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.
July is braille literacy month on Navigating Blindness and today we are excited to feature Alexa Jovanovic, founder of Aille Design!
By Alexa Jovanovic, Founder of Aille Design
Braille is much more than a communication tool. It enables freedom of expression, provides independence and increases literacy. When combined with mainstream fashion, it symbolizes the importance of inclusive representation in the fashion industry and empowers communities to advocate for social justice. Continue reading “Aille Design: Clothing that Speaks”→
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. 😭😡😭
I keep hearing that 2020 is the year of “#Acceptance” so today I’d like to respond to a question from a friend who asks: “You seem to have fully accepted Kai’s sight loss. How do you think you were able to do that?” Continue reading “The Mystery of Acceptance”→
Check out this fun and informative interview between Thriving Blind’s Kristin Smedley and Navigating Blindness’ very own Kai Owens! They talk skim boarding, surfing, drumming, main stream schooling, college plans and much more. Kai shares a lot about what it takes to be thriving blind!
Blindsided by Blindness: Noah’s Diagnosis Story By Karen Tantzen
When my son was four years old I found out he was going blind – and I had no prior clue that anything was off with his vision.
Our story starts in September of 2015. I had taken my eldest son, Noah, to his pediatric ophthalmologist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a follow up visit. His acuities were off and he’d been prescribed a pretty strong pair of glasses the previous winter. The past spring, his doctor still wasn’t happy with how much Noah’s visual brain had developed since he’d begun wearing glasses, so he’d asked us to come in for an extra check up.
When Kai was 4 he had a concussion. We took him to the ER and they did a CT scan. We were told to watch him and he was sent home. He recovered right on schedule.
When Kai was 5 my dad came for a 2-week visit. Our home is small, so having one extra person makes a big difference in our routines — changes in rooms, changes in schedules. Kai began having anxiety during this visit. He had a really hard time with “things being different.” This anxious behavior continued for a while after the visit but calmed back down eventually.
When Kai was 6 he was on a basketball team. We noticed that when he played he would press and pull on his eyes. It was worse during the games, but the behavior continued. Some days Kai would actually have what appeared to be bruising at the outside edges of his eyes. And sometimes when he was really tired, I’d notice that his eyes would sort of shoot off to the side repeatedly. We took him to the doctor and were told it was probably allergies and a different manifestation of his anxiety. (We now know this behavior is called the oculo-digital sign, characterized by poking, rubbing, and/or pressing of the eyes and is very common in visually impaired children.) Continue reading “Kai’s RP Diagnosis Story”→
Last week was Kai’s 16th birthday. I remember when we first heard the words “your son is going blind” and the feelings of dread and loss that swept over me when I realized he would not be able to drive. It’s been 6 years since diagnosis, but right now we are feeling the diagnosis and loss acutely — like a fresh wound. Continue reading “Blindness and the Sixteenth Birthday”→