The stories our clients share are a great way to show the impact our donors have on their lives. They are also a glimpse into the type of training Second Sense staff can provide. Here are a few client stories we have shared recently.
Nicole worked in downtown Chicago as the executive assistant to the CEO of a private equity firm. She drove to the train station, hopped on Metra and took a bus to her office.
Like most of us, she took all this for granted.
Then, one day she lost vision in her right eye, seemingly out of nowhere. Nicole’s first thought was that she needed new contacts.
Nicole knew that Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) ran her family. But LHON most often (80-90% of the time) affects males, and the age of onset is typically between the ages of 15-20. Nicole is a female and was in her late 30s at the time of her diagnosis. So, when the doctor told her that she had LHON, she was stunned.
Six months after the initial vision loss in her right eye, Nicole was driving home from the train station and noticed a loss of vision in her left eye.
Laura has two children. Like any mother, she wants to make sure they get to school safely.
But, her vision loss made walking unsafe for her and her children.
Laura started working with Rachael, one of our mobility instructors, in April.
“In the beginning, it was really hard, “ Laura said. “It was just panic — feeling unsafe. But now, after lots of practice, I learned how to use the cane. Now I feel comfortable and safe.”
Christopher. He is one of the lucky ones.
He is alive. Christopher was shot in the head. Twice.
He was leaving his office when an unknown assailant in an unknown vehicle opened fire.
With a lot of hard work, Christopher regained most of his brain functions. But, one of the bullets exited out of his eye.
While he lost his vision, he most certainly has not lost his purpose, his positive outlook or his faith.
Bill is engaging, outgoing and has a positive attitude. He graduated from college with a degree in accounting. But, at 29 years old, he couldn’t “read, write or use a computer.”
Bill has an extremely rare hereditary condition that caused him to slowly lose his vision. By the age of 8, he was wearing glasses and had a blind spot the shape of a doughnut.
He made do. Completing college and starting a career. While, his vision continued to diminish.
By the time he was 25, he was legally blind. But, he continued to get by without any special training. To do this, he had to stay within his “comfort zone.”
This meant he was comfortable with his daily tasks. He knew the specific route to get to work. And he was familiar with two restaurants for lunch. For four years, Bill avoided anything outside that.
Abiola is the mother of three children. She works as a caregiver in downtown Chicago. And has to take two buses to get there from her neighborhood.
Glaucoma is slowly taking her vision.
Abiola is from Nigeria, and has only been in the U.S. for five years. Since she has not had any cane training, she has been relying on her diminishing vision to travel to and from work. And, since her vision is worse at night, she limits her travel to daylight hours.
Eleni started working with Abiola in November, accessing her current ability to travel independently, learning her needs, and setting her training goals.
Learning to use a white cane for the first time involves learning a lot of different techniques. Include one to walk down stairs and a different one to climb up stairs.
“I became blind five years ago (this January 12) after suffering an embolism. I had a heart attack and a stroke. I died twice, was in a coma for two months and woke up blind.“
Kendrick’s spent several years addressing the dual challenges of learning to walk and talk again. Then, four and half years later, Kendrick came to Second Sense and started working with Siobhan.
“Being a blind person, one of the things I wanted was to be able to see again. And, at times, I think I do see things.”
This desire lead Kendrick to an interest in echolocation. This skill of locating and identifying objects using sound and their echoes allows Kendrick to “see things auditorily rather than visually.”
Patrick still has 65% of his vision.
So he found ways to do things with low vision, but he knew he “really needed to learn how to do things the correct way, the right way. To learn best practices.”
“I just had a cold and was looking for a can of chicken noodle soup. In the past, I would have opened cans until I found the right one.” But, after some training on using the Seeing AI app on his phone, Patrick can now quickly identify any package with a UPC code.
Most of clients want to learn more than one skill. And many get these lessons at the same time. Catharine is one of these client.
Catharine has a new iPhone, but is just learning how to use it. She started with the basics: changing the accessibility settings and activating VoiceOver.”The very first lesson, I learned how to unlock my phone. And we spent time practicing the finger swipe until I could do it correctly,” Catharine said. She spent the next two lessons practicing the different gestures — swipes, taps and touches. Then, she moved on to apps.
“I learned how to take notes, use the calendar and make phone calls.” Whatsapp, a free messaging and video calling app, is one of the first tools Catharine wanted to learn. She wanted to talk with her sister in France, as well as other family and friends.
Teresa lost her vision just a year ago. But, she already has plans for her future.
“Life doesn’t stop, and neither do I,” Teresa declares.
Teresa tried learning JAWS, a screen-reading program for computers, on her own. But, it was “super frustrating!”
She started working with Joe, our computer instructor, at the end of July and has already made huge strides.
“Joe is sharing so many shortcuts.” Teresa said. “Before, when I went to Gmail, JAWS would read all the information across the top of the screen and all the menu options first. Then it would get to the email.
“But, with a simple shortcut, I can tell JAWS to go right to the email. It saves time.”
“Joe did more than teach me about JAWS. He told me about his experience at Northern Illinois University in their vision rehabilitation program. That was awesome!” Teresa exclaimed. “It is one of the reasons I have decided to apply to NIU.”
In July of 2019, Charlie was sleeping in the cab of his truck at a truck stop. He was suddenly jarred awake when the unsecured cargo from another truck came crashing down on him. Charlie lost his vision, his driver’s license and his career.
But Charlie was used to sudden change. His 17-year-old technology company was one of the casualties in the recession of 2010.
He adapted, earned his Commercial Driver’s License and started hauling stage equipment for bands across the country. So, he certainly wasn’t going to let vision loss stop him.
Charlie had already earned his associates degree. He decided now was a good time to go back to school to complete his bachelor’s degree.