Barbara Gannon has struggled with vision impairment for many years, but she had always been able to find a work-around. After receiving her diagnosis of macular degeneration, Barbara was scared about the future. She worried that her life was over, but she was determined to try and do everything she could to maintain her independence. She made an appointment with Spectrios where she received the tools and training that enabled her to resume many of her old activities. Now she feels like her future is bright.

Tell me about the events leading up to your diagnosis of macular degeneration?
I had always had blurry vision. No one really recognized what was wrong, or if they did, they sure didn’t tell me! I was prescribed a variety of contacts and glasses that never really worked. I just learned to live with it. One day in August, I got to work and the computer screen was snow. I was so scared, I was trembling. I thought I was having a stroke. I didn’t know what to do. I was beside myself.

My daughter took me to the ophthalmologist and I was diagnosed with macular degeneration. I was overwhelmed by what this would mean for my future.

How were you feeling after your diagnosis?
It was such a long day. I just started to cry. What was I going to do? In one day I lost everything, my job, my ability to drive and babysitting my grandchildren. I am the kind of person that likes to get up and go and now I couldn’t do anything. I was so depressed.

“I was exasperated. Just to make a pot of coffee was driving me out of my mind. I couldn’t see to put the scoop in the grounds.”

Did anyone give you hope?
I had been dealing with my vision loss for so long. When I got my diagnosis, the doctor recommended I come to Spectrios. I finally thought things are going to be alright and I am seeing the right people.

Tell us about your first appointment with Spectrios.
I was determined if there was anything I could do to get my life back I would do it. So, I made an appointment. I was nervous and scared that I would be told this was it, I would never do anything again.

The doctor was so helpful and took the time to answer all my questions and explain everything to me. The best part was when the doctor put the trialframe on me and started changing out the lenses. I was looking through it and suddenly I could see my daughter sitting across the room. I started to cry. I thought if I have to wear that thing and look like someone from Mars, I don’t care because I can finally see.

What was it like when you picked up your glasses?
I was like a kid! The bricks on the walkway, the orange fencing from the construction, the trees, I could see it all. It was great. I really cannot tell you how excited I was to finally have the right prescription! I had some inaccurate advice from past eye doctors. It was just so wonderful to work with people who understood my diagnosis and were able to help me.

What things did you want to be able to do again?
I had a retirement party and 158 people came. I wanted to read all the cards they gave me and write thank you notes. I wanted to be able to go grocery shopping and go to my grandson’s baseball games. I also wanted to be able to cook for my family again.

How did the doctor suggest you approach reaching those goals?
It was recommended that I make an appointment with Katrina, the occupational therapist. I was told that she would be able to help me achieve my goals.  “I thought, ‘why do I need occupational therapy?’ I was puzzled. I am not working anymore, isn’t that for working people?”

What did Katrina teach you?
I was afraid I would be told that this isn’t for me. But, boy was I wrong! Occupational therapy isn’t about helping you work, it is about helping you live. When I met Katrina, I knew it was going to be ok. She was so kind and I had great faith in her.

I left my first appointment and was able to read again. Katrina taught me how to use the part of my vision that was good – my eccentric vision.

She sent me home and said practice looking to the left 30 times without moving your head. That night I went home and did my homework. I have practiced this every day since. Now it is almost second nature. I can watch a whole movie with my peripheral vision.

Let’s talk about your retirement party. Did you ever get to read your notes?
I sure did. I was able to start reading them right after my first appointment. Katrina also showed me how to use a lighted magnifier and that really helped. I wrote 185 thank you notes using the writing guide. I was so happy to be able to thank all the wonderful people who came to my party.

Are you able to cook for your family now?
I couldn’t see the buttons on my microwave, read recipes and measure things. I was using a flashlight to try and read the dials on my stove. I love having my family over for dinner and I just couldn’t do it. It was really awful.
Katrina gave me bump dots to put on the buttons of my microwave, and now I can work it without any problem. She also taught me how to take a picture of the recipe on my iPad and then enlarge it! Katrina recommended ordering some kitchen supplies that had better contrast and large print so I can measure my ingredients. Just last night I made a pork roast and all the fixings.

“It is just so wonderful to be able to have my family come for dinner again!”

Are you able to go out and do things now?
I love to go grocery shopping. It was really hard for me to see in the stores and I had stopped doing it. Katrina helped me develop a plan so that I could go back to the store. She gave me some yellow Cocoons, wrap-around sunglasses that fit over my prescription glasses, to help with the inside glare. They work great. It is like everything is electrified. I just love them.

This summer I have been to 19 of my grandson’s baseball games. I’m using green Cocoons for outdoors and with my new glasses, I can see the games.

How do you think your future looks now?
I am going to be volunteering with a group that helps people with disabilities. I am so excited to be able to help others again. My boss asked me if I wanted to come back to work, but I told him I am retired. I feel like there is nothing I can’t accomplish.

What would you tell other people in your situation?
I carry your cards in my purse and I hand them to everyone who might need them. I say, go now! The team at Spectrios can give you your life back. The techniques I learned from Katrina and having the right glasses has made a world of difference.

“With the help from my family and all the tricks and tips of the trade from Katrina, I don’t think there is anything I can’t do.”