From the editor: Isabel is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and shared this story as part of our #WhyImAFederationist campaign. This story originally appeared on the NFB of MD Facebook page.
I was born in Nicaragua. At ten years old, I was forced to leave my country to escape death threats because of my father’s reputation in the military. I came to America, went through school, and then worked as a nurse in hospitals and nursing homes. I was first exposed to blindness by my patients; yet, I only saw the first stages of vision loss and not the aftermath of how they succeeded.
Then I too became blind. I lost my vision two years ago due to diabetes. I felt that my life completely stopped. I felt stuck, overwhelmed, and so depressed that I considered suicide. But thanks to God, I was surrounded by family and friends who supported me and refused to let me quit. I worried about what job I could have, how I could get around, and who would understand me. But the hardest part about blindness was that I had to depend on people after being independent for so many years.
One year ago, I decided to get training in an adult blindness program. It showed me that I can go back to being independent and it also introduced me to the National Federation of the Blind. I participated in the 6 Dot Dash race, which was the first time I was surrounded by so many blind people. Soon after, I was asked by Sharon Maneki and Melissa Riccobono to volunteer as a translator for Spanish-speaking parents who were learning tools to better raise their blind children. I fell in love with the kids and the parents. I fell in love with the NFB because of all that they do to pave the way for blind persons and to spread the message that it is okay to be blind. I felt that I found a new family. At my first national convention, I was initially overwhelmed by even more blind people in one area. Yet I soon realized that I was surrounded by talented, powerful, and professional people who achieved their goals, and blindness was not an obstacle for them. That gave me more power to press forward and finish the training program, go back to school, become a physical therapist, and reenter the medical field with boldness. Meanwhile, I will also continue helping the NFB in any way that I can, both in my state and nationally.
To anyone who is losing vision or is blind, I encourage you not to give up. That should never be an option. You have to get your mind together, get yourself together, and keep pushing forward. If you need a family, a group of people who understand and who fight every day for equality and opportunity for blind people, then consider joining the National Federation of the Blind. For me, this was the greatest opportunity to use my gift of advocacy and stand up for the rights of blind persons. It also ignited my passion to encourage and educate more Spanish-speaking blind persons and their families. The tools, resources, and support that I received are meant to be passed on to others. Because of the Federation, I feel that I am a part of change. I am learning, growing, and sharing with others.