At 68 years old, Beverly awoke to darkness and, after blinking hard several times, realized with panic that she could no longer see. She had struggled with low vision for years and had been diagnosed with uveitis (an inflammatory disease that affects the middle part of the eye called the uvea) in 1997. After treatment – which included the ultimate removal of her right eye – Beverly continued to function as a partially sighted person. She worked as a technician in a gastroenterologist’s office. She shopped on her own, cooked her meals, visited with friends and family, and lived a relatively typical life. Until she didn’t.
“Even though I had vision issues for a long time, up until that morning, I could still see,” Beverly says. “To wake up one day, completely blind was devastating.”
Learning to Live Again
After her doctor told her about Metrolina Association for the Blind (MAB), Beverly signed up to be part of the Mini-Center. This program offers a variety of support services, resources and instruction to help those who are blind or visually impaired gain and retain independent living skills and to discover new and creative ways to stay active and lead fulfilling, productive lives.
“I was just so impressed with them, right from the start,” Beverly says of the team she met at MAB. As part of her involvement in the Mini-Center, she received a home visit from a vision rehabilitation specialist who provided her with a white cane and taught her how to use it to navigate her neighborhood on foot. She re-learned to use the stove, the washer and dryer, and the television – things she had been using her entire life without assistance.
In addition to at-home skills, the MAB specialist taught Beverly to use an iPod and a cell phone in ways that help her stay connected to the larger world. She was also introduced to technology that would allow her to continue doing something she had enjoyed her entire life: reading. “I love my audio books!” she exclaims.
“I really was down and a bit depressed, if I’m being honest,” Beverly says quietly. “But what MAB gave back to me was a sense of independence that I was afraid I’d never have again.”
You Really Can Hear a Smile
In addition to technology training, MAB invited her to participate in a key component of the Mini-Center program – a support group. The group, which meets for a total of six weeks and includes up to 12 participants with varying degrees of vision impairment, brings together adults of different ages, backgrounds, interests and needs. For Beverly, still struggling with her “new normal,” the group was a lifeline.
“I had such a good time with my group,” Beverly says. “We shared our experiences. We learned from one another. We smiled – and, yes, you really can ‘hear’ someone smile! When someone said they were having trouble with something, others in my group would have suggestions.”
Even now, five years later, Beverly remains in close contact with several members of her original Min-Center support group.
In addition to emotional and social support, the group provided participants with additional daily skills training and retraining – all designed to promote independence and self-sufficiency.
Such skills include:
•Cooking and knife skills
•Organizational tips like labeling shelves with raised letters or braille dots
•Advice and counsel on traveling by air and public transport
“When you are blind, you are naturally dependent on others to help you get through your day,” Beverly explains. “That can be tough to accept. What MAB gave me were tools to gain some of that independence back. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
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