I felt like it was the end of the world.
Scared just doesn’t describe how I felt the first time I used my white cane to cross the street by myself. I was terrified!
Not only was I fearful of stepping into an intersection without being able to see the traffic, the road, or the distance it was to the sidewalk. But I felt deeply vulnerable, weak, and frightened that people I couldn’t see would see me as a target.
It was six years ago when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive genetic disease that would quickly rob me of my vision. It began by affecting my peripheral vision, and developed into what most call tunnel vision. At home, I was constantly bumping into things. I began missing a lot of the details at work, where I was a web site developer. I could no longer drive, and simple everyday tasks like picking out matching clothes became a struggle.
Knowing there was no cure and my sight was only going to get worse, it would have been easy to wallow and sink into a depression, but I was one of the lucky ones to have discovered the MAB-Mackay so quickly after my diagnosis. They truly turned my life around.
The dedicated staff did more than just help me get over this struggle in accepting my vision loss, but they also helped me in every aspect in my life. There were therapists who took the time to come to my home to ensure that my living environment was well suited and adapted to my needs. They taught me how to use an adapted computer, walk with a white cane, to become autonomous in my own home – and so many other invaluable skills.
Initially, I was not going to be a willing student. I was ashamed of using my cane and stubbornly refused to carry it with me. As you can imagine, I was having trouble navigating and banged into everything. People asked me how I could be so clumsy, or had I been drinking.
More and more, I was losing my independence as my vision continued to deteriorate. It became clear that my life was taking a drastic change and I desperately needed help.
I was very frustrated, but my mobility instructor and social worker at the MAB-Mackay helped me have a change of heart. It was only when I started using my white cane that I realized how dangerously close I had been to seriously injuring myself, and how near I had come to the tracks in the metro!
Even still, a part of me stayed hesitant to use that cane everywhere. I needed to make a final decision, one that would force me to use a mobility aid everywhere and all the time. Along came my pal and best friend Mickey, a yellow lab that I have been partnered with since 2012. I knew that once I had a guide dog, I would no longer be able to hide my “disability” – or how I now like to call it my “different ability.” I could easily fold that cane and put it in my backpack, but there was no way my loyal 60-pound yellow lab was going to fit in it!
I owe a big part of my success to the amazing team at the MAB-Mackay. I am so grateful to them for showing me the way. I think of the MAB-Mackay as a second home, and the relentlessly hard-working staff as friends and my second family, who never judge and did everything to empower me.
Thank you so much for giving me the tools and the hope to turn my life around, and for not allowing my blindness to be an obstacle to my happiness and success.