Family

Mother and Son Share Magic Moment

Virginia mom weeps as her fifth-grade boy ... well, 'see' for yourself

For years, doctors had told Christopher Ward Jr. that his optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition that allowed him to see only five inches from his eyes, could not be fixed. But when he put on a pair of eSight’s electronic glasses, his whole world changed.

This child will have several challenges ahead with his newfound eyesight, but he will not take for granted the blessing of finally having eyesight.

Last month, the 12-year-old Virginia boy caught a glimpse of his mother for the first time.

“Oh, Mommy, there you are,” he said. “I can see your eyes!”

Overcome with emotion, Ward’s mother held up a chart for her son to pick out numbers on the page. For the first time, he could do it. He could clearly see the page — and he even listed off a few numbers.

As someone who has lived with eye disorders for 35 years, I was personally moved by this story. My case was not as severe as Christopher Ward’s, but I remember finally being able to see after numerous eye surgeries as a child.

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From my own experience, I know this child will have several challenges ahead with his newfound eyesight, but he will not take for granted the blessing of finally having eyesight.

When I was born, I had a severe case of strabismus, a condition that affects the binocular vision and makes the eyes misaligned. After numerous eye operations, the eye surgeon told my parents I had the strongest eye muscles he had ever seen. He said it was clear I was fighting to see.

In the darkness of eye bandages (which I wore for several weeks after each surgery), I enjoyed the sounds of the radio playing.

Everything changed when the doctors finally unwrapped those and the world came alive. I could only imagine that my parents felt the same as Christopher Ward’s mother when it was clear I could see them for the first time.

For the first time, I could see where sound was coming from and what a radio even looked like.

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I discovered I was a year behind my peers in understanding the visual world around me and realized I had a lot of catching up to do. Growing up mostly in Florida, I became an observer of people and nature.

The world of sound I had experienced for so many months was now being connected with the visual world.

Despite the eye surgeries correcting the strabismus, I would still struggle with a mixture of double vision, nystagmus, amblyopia, and visual dyslexia.

My parents took turns practicing eye exercises with me to build up the strength of my eyes so my brain would fuse my eyes into alignment post-surgery. “Up, down, side to side, now repeat.”

When I was three years old, my mother began teaching me how to read, and by four years old, we would regularly go to the library, where I typically walked out carrying books up to my chin.

The reading was meant to strengthen my eyes but actually was, and still is, one of the hardest tasks in my day. I don’t read across a page like a normal person. My eyes regularly jerk mid-sentence, so I have to re-read sentences several times over to understand the context.

The combination of the double vision and jerking make reading incredibly frustrating and exhausting, but I forced myself to become better at it. I didn’t know what it was like for reading to be easy, so I accepted it as the status quo.

At six years old, I became annoyed when the elementary school librarian regularly ushered me away from the fifth grader section of the library. I was already well beyond picture books, reading Stephen King and Danielle Steele. By 10 years old, I was not only reading but writing 100-page novels.

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My teachers were always amazed when I aced tests after being the last one to finish. I loathed timed tests because of my struggle with reading, but I forced myself to work that much harder at it.

If I were to ever do a staring contest with someone, I would fail miserably because my eyes continuously jerk away. People probably think I’m hiding something when I don’t maintain eye contact with them, but actually, it’s involuntary when I look away or look down during a conversation. Frequently I turn my head to one side to gain better focus on a person or object.

I have never been a fan of driving a car. It makes me nervous because it takes me longer visually to comprehend distance. My depth perception, in fact, is so completely off that I don’t believe I have ever caught a ball.

As I became older, I learned the art of skimming a page instead of struggling to read every sentence. I learned to pick out key information quickly, which comes in handy when handling breaking news coverage in the journalism world, where a fire hose of information must be condensed for a live broadcast. I started to develop a photographic memory.

I learned that I could always train my mind to adapt and overcome, despite my visual limitations.

My story is not unique. Millions of Americans manage various eye disorders and struggle with their visual impairments. I am thankful for what I have gained from struggling with my eyesight because it has made me a hard worker in my life.

I am thankful for the inventor of Christopher’s eSight electronic specs, so he may now enjoy the beauty of the visual world. The eSight’s electronic headset contains a high-speed camera that creates a video live stream. The video is manipulated through eSight’s computer software and transmitted back into the headset. The optimized video allows a low vision person to tap into their peripheral vision to better see the objects in front of them.

I am even more thankful for living in an era of profound technological advancement, in which many gifted eye surgeons can make the possibility of sight for children a reality around the world. Be thankful and don’t ever take the gift of sight for granted.

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