REACHING FOR THE STARS
by Julie Hunter
Bob and Julie Hunter rejoiced at the birth of their new
baby daughter--perfect in every way. Aglow with anticipation,
they brought her home from the hospital. Then as their baby's
vision faded, so did their hopes and dreams for her future.
Here Julie relates the heartwarming story of how she and her
husband Bob not only rekindled those dreams, but learned to
reach for the stars as well.
Fifteen years ago on a warm June morning my husband Bob
and I drove to the hospital for our appointment with destiny.
Because of delivery problems with our first child, we had the
luxury of being able to choose the day and time of our second
child's surgical delivery. Later that morning, we were
overjoyed to welcome a baby girl into our family--finally, a
girl where for generations (on my husband's side) there had
only been boys!
She was a perfect baby--healthy, dark hair, big blue
eyes, and a pretty little face. We couldn't have been happier!
Little did we know that this tiny, innocent babe in arms would
turn our world on its ear.
Our new daughter, Lauren, thrived in her first few months
at home. She was begrudgingly accepted by her two-year-old
brother, Mark, and gradually our family life fell into a happy
new routine. But as she grew, some little concerns tickled the
backs of our minds. She squinted when she was out in the
sunlight--typical of newborns we were told.
She didn't smile when someone came to her crib, but she
would smile when held or spoken to. Finally, a jerky eye
movement that we assumed would pass with her infancy became
more and more obvious.
Then came that fateful day when the doctors' tests
concluded that our daughter's retinas were not functioning
properly. She would have visual impairment, but no one knew to
what extent. She might even be able to drive, we were told.
Of course we were optimistic and clung to the best case
scenario--that the condition wouldn't worsen, that she would
be mildly visually impaired, but not (God forbid) blind. As
the months passed, it became obvious that this was not a
stable condition. Her visual acuity was gradually fading. We
mourned for every lost dream. We felt guilty that we had
unknowingly passed on what we were told was a recessive
genetic defect. We felt depressed about the future.
But it's no fun living in depression, so something had to
give! That something was our first change in attitude about
blindness. This was our child! She was bright and charming,
and we vowed that vision or lack of it would not define her
life. We didn't want to hear any more sympathetic words from
well-meaning neighbors and friends. Give up your dreams? Not
on your life!
And so we were inaugurated into a whole new world--a
world which has caused us to re-examine our values and broaden
our horizon--a world which has brought us support, friendship,
and a cause we believe in. Who would have thought that such
a tiny baby born on a warm June morning would be responsible
for all of that?
At what point do we move from seeing the glass as half-
empty to seeing it as half-full? For us it came gradually as
we learned, through the National Federation of the Blind, that
the possibility was there that our dreams for Lauren could be
fulfilled. That foundation was in place for us when we
sustained our second blow--discovering that Lauren also has a
progressive hearing loss.
As with the vision loss, which is now total, the hearing
loss has been gradual. Lauren is now fifteen years old. She
got her first set of hearing aids when she was eight. Her
hearing loss has progressed from mild to moderate, and now
hovers on the line between moderate and severe. Again, doctors
are no help to us. They don't know why and can't predict what
the future holds in store. We just live our lives and take
But one thing we have learned over the years is that fear
about the future results from ignorance and failing to take
control. If you do all you can to learn about your nemesis,
never lose sight of your goal (which in our case is to achieve
maximum independence), and stay in charge of your destiny,
then the future is not so frightening. The more we learn, the
less scary the future seems.
As we meet and talk to other parents with deaf/blind
children and with deaf/blind adults, we are reassured that
there can be a quality life for an individual who is blind and
deaf. Our job is to make sure that Lauren has the adaptive
skills necessary to remain an interactive member of society.
There is work to do, but I feel confident that my daughter
will achieve her potential, and no matter what the future
brings, we will never stop reaching for the stars.