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”

A Journey Back To 2014: What We’ve Learned About Advocacy

While sheltering-in-place I’ve had the opportunity to read through some of my old journals written when Kai was first diagnosed and I’d love to share one with you.  I’m struck by major developments in my thinking and beliefs, so I will make some comments from my 2020 self, at the end of this post that I wrote in 2014.

Originally Written by Kim Owens & Published on Caring Bridge (7.14.14)

What a week we’ve had! Our trip from rural, coastal GA to DC was AMAZING! Thanks to our Congressman John Barrow and his wonderful staff the trip was filled with surprises beyond our wildest dreams! Continue reading “A Journey Back To 2014: What We’ve Learned About Advocacy”

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.”

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”