by Dr. Marc Jay Gannon
As a low vision specialist, I evaluate people with all types and degrees of vision loss. Often I can help improve visual abilities with the use of special low vision technology. Other times I encourage the patient to explore alternative, non visual techniques, and sometimes I recommend both. In the end, it is the patient’s choice.
Sometimes patients surprise me, like Pauline. When I first evaluated this 93-year-old woman, I learned that despite her vision loss, she was still living in her own apartment and had a companion who came by every morning for an hour to help her clean and prepare her meals for the day. She otherwise occupied herself with television and talking books.
After evaluating her extremely limited vision I concluded that there was very little chance that she would be able to regain any level of useable vision. So her physician son and I agreed that it didn’t make sense for Pauline to proceed with low vision treatment.
To our surprise, this spunky woman refused to accept our conclusion. She told her son that she spent 23 hours a day alone at home, bored and frustrated that she could neither read nor write letters. She wanted to try a low vision device and wouldn’t take no for an answer!
I designed a custom tele-microscopic system for Pauline, and, with one of my therapists, put together an extensive training plan to help her master the device and restore some of her vision function. After three months, Pauline was reading 18-point type with her low vision aid. (This is similar in size to the large print Reader’s Digest.) She was also able to write using a special broad-tipped pen and dark-lined paper.
Pauline wrote us many letters in the months that followed. When I look at those letters I am reminded just how important determination and motivation are in making life work for us. We can change our lives and those of the special people whose paths we are fortunate enough to cross. Don’t give up! There is life after diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. Whether the solution is visual or non visual, determination is key.
Marc Jay Gannon, OD, FAAO is a frequent speaker and authority on the treatment of low vision and a leader in the field. He founded the Low Vision Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, after developing methods and training techniques to successfully treat his low vision patients. He is respected for his revolutionary solutions and caring demeanor, and is dedicated to improving the lives of the visually impaired.