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”

The Courage to Share: 11 Blogs About Living with Sight Loss

Kai & I are very excited to share these eleven blogs that are written by individuals who are living with sight loss.

The bloggers have different diagnoses, and their philosophies, cultures, and religious backgrounds vary, but what they all have in common is the courage to share. They are organized by year of diagnosis. Continue reading “The Courage to Share: 11 Blogs About Living with Sight Loss”

The Courage to Share: Blogs by Moms of Blind/VI kids

In the early days of Kai’s diagnosis I scoured the web for blogs written by sighted parents of kids who were losing their vision. I could not find any.  Sure, I could find advocacy and awareness web sites and consumer groups, but I craved emotional honesty from another mom. I wanted to read her feelings, understand her struggles, and celebrate her wins. I wanted to know her feelings about her child’s inclusion (or lack thereof) and understand the anger and frustration behind her educational accessibility battles. And, most importantly, I wanted to know what it felt like to be on the other side: to have raised a child who became a strong self-advocate, who is highly-educated and employed. I wanted to know my child could beat the grim statistics. Now, 7 years later, I have found 6 moms (+ me) who are blogging about their experiences and I am so excited to share them with you!

Each of these blogs is written by a sighted mom of a blind or VI child(ren). Our kids range in age from 1-20, they have different diagnoses, and our philosophies, cultures, and religious backgrounds vary, but what we all have in common is the courage to share. Continue reading “The Courage to Share: Blogs by Moms of Blind/VI kids”

What Do You See? by Pamela Thistle

Hi, This is Kim and I’m excited to share a blog post written by our extremely talented and adventurous friend Pamela Thistle of www.TheBlindThistle.com:

Hi, my name is Pamela Thistle and I have Usher Syndrome, which is Retinitis Pigmentosa and hearing loss. I’ve been wearing hearing aids far back as I can remember but it wasn’t until my early teens when the RP was discovered. My eye disease is slow-progressing and it wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I was deemed Legally Blind.  It hit me hard and it was tough going for a year or so until I decided to fully embrace my disabilities. Since that moment my life has been a series of adventures and self-discovery. I am a retired Interior Designer but have discovered many interests over the years: photography, mountain biking, snowboarding, Olympic lifting and obstacle course racing to name a few. My motto in life is “No matter how hard it is or how many times I get my a$$ kicked I’m just gonna keep coming back!” Continue reading “What Do You See? by Pamela Thistle”

Thriving Blind & Navigating Blindness: Acceptance & So Much More

From perceptions to prom to college — and everything in between — Kristin & Kim cover multiple topics about raising kids who are blind. Click here or on the image below to listen in on the chat/rant that follows no outline or schedule!

Please give us a like, share, follow or comment. Related links are included at the end of the post.

ps. This is my first video experience so please be kind. Yes, I know I blinked A LOT! lol. — Kim

Image is a link to the video along with headshots of Kristin & Kim.

Continue reading “Thriving Blind & Navigating Blindness: Acceptance & So Much More”

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! How Do You Keep Your Blind/VI Child Active & Safe?

by Kim Owens & Hilda Dunford (@OurBlindSide)

Many parents of children who are visually impaired or blind find it difficult to keep their children engaged in physical activities and sports. Hilda and I are often asked: How do you keep your child active and safe? Continue reading “On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! How Do You Keep Your Blind/VI Child Active & Safe?”

Kai’s Comforts 2019 Collection to Benefit the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in NC

Hi friends, we are so excited to kick off our 4th year of Kai’s Comforts!  This year’s collection of new, soft, highly textured blankets and pillows will benefit the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in North Carolina.

Kai is a 17-year-old with a rare, progressive, eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). RP and other retinal diseases cause blindness. Night blindness is one of the first symptoms that many children experience and it can cause severe anxiety. Kai collects new, highly textured, soft, pillows and blankets to help comfort other kids facing blindness. Your donation will comfort a child experiencing vision loss.

Drop Bins bins are located in Statesboro & Brooklet at Pladd Dot Music, SE Tire & Service, and SEB high school’s front desk. Collection Dates Nov. 1-30, 2019.

Here are a few great articles about previous deliveries. Please get in on the fun! Continue reading “Kai’s Comforts 2019 Collection to Benefit the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in NC”

Addison’s Diagnosis Story: Mainzer Saldino Syndrome & RP

We Have a Daughter. She is going blind. She helps us to see. Written by our special guest, Addison’s mom: Diane Bealer. 

When our oldest child (a girl) was just over a year old we noticed that she couldn’t see in the dark. This was a little worrisome to us but we didn’t freak out about it because we didn’t know we should for one, and we didn’t have any clue of the implications for another, the most important reason is that we weren’t ready for the truth at that point in our lives. As she got older we started noticing more clues that something wasn’t right with her vision. She would trip over things in dim light. She would freeze in the dark and not know where things were located. She NEVER got out of bed at night, unless there were bright lights on.

We took her to her first eye appointment when she was about 3-4 and the optometrist examined her and agreed that she needed glasses for nearsightedness but did not believe us about night blindness. It just did not occur in children that young. It wasn’t possible. This happened for 3-4 more years, every year we would go to the eye doctor and plead with them to do a more extensive exam, longing for some kind of answer. Every time it was the same thing. “Kids don’t get night blindness this young”. “You’re worrying too much”

Then the year she was going to turn 8 we took her to her annual exam, and once again I told the doctor of how she ran into things in the dim light and dark. How I knew in my heart something was going on with her eyes. He did the regular eye exam and said he couldn’t see anything wrong with her eyes.

Then I asked a question I hadn’t thought to ask before, “Will you do the same exam, but in the dark?” Continue reading “Addison’s Diagnosis Story: Mainzer Saldino Syndrome & RP”

Is Your Child Thriving In The Midst Of Vision Loss? Is Your Loved-One Succeeding Without Sight?

Seven years ago a pediatric ophthalmologist called me at work to say that our 10-year-old son’s retinas were deteriorating. I was so stricken and confused by the words he used – deterioration, progressive, no cure, no treatment – that before we hung up I asked him, “Are you telling me that he’s dying or going blind?” “Blind,” he replied.

The way the news was delivered was so shocking that the memory still brings a visceral pang of grief. With one quick phone call, our lives were changed. We learned that our precious, youngest son, Kai, would go blind. The life we had envisioned for our bright, active child would be dimmed by blindness. We were shattered. We had no template and no understanding of what it meant to live without sight. We had never even met a person who was blind.

Unfortunately, for the first several years our family had to go it alone. We live in a small rural area 3-hours from the nearest blindness advocacy group. Kai was the first child in our county to experience progressive vision loss. We had to chart our own path, figure out our options and make the necessary connections to obtain services for our son.

It’s been 7 years now and we’ve overcome so much. Our son is thriving because of a few very important factors which are highlighted in Kristin Smedley’s new book Thriving Blind.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

Thank goodness Kristin took Toni Morrison’s wisdom to heart and wrote Thriving Blind! Oh, how I wish that our doctor had sat us down and explained what to expect and that our son could still have a wonderful, rich, fulfilling life. Oh, how I wish our doctor had handed us a copy of Kristin’s book which introduces her two sons who were each diagnosed with blindness at 4-months of age. Continue reading “Is Your Child Thriving In The Midst Of Vision Loss? Is Your Loved-One Succeeding Without Sight?”