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”

Navigating My Blindness by Kerry Kijewski

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”

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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)”

Aille Design: Clothing that Speaks

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”

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.”

Thriving Blind’s Interview with Kai Owens

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!

Click this link to launch the video on YouTube.

 

Image of a screen capture from the YouTube interview with Kai Owens. Image shows both Kai and Kristin Smedley, they are laughing.
Thank you for your continued support. And please leave a comment letting us know about your journey with site loss.

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”

Noah’s RP Diagnosis Story

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.

At this appointment, though, Noah’s acuities weren’t what concerned the doctor. The issue was his retinas. Continue reading “Noah’s RP Diagnosis Story”

Kai’s RP Diagnosis Story

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”