What It Feels Like to Have Low Vision

Photo of senior Maddie Eul edited to appear as the way she sees.
Photo of senior Maddie Eul edited to appear as the way she sees.
Annie Maciejewski

 At first glance, I am your typical teenage girl; I love fashion, music and hanging out with my friends, but if you take a second glance you would notice that my eyes are not normal. 

  Since I was 18 months old I have been wearing glasses. When I first went to the eye doctor it was because my mom insisted that something was wrong with my eyes. Since I was about six months old, the doctor told her I could only see about 10 inches in front of my face. The doctor also told her I had a pretty bad astigmatism and a lazy eye. In an attempt to fix the lazy eye I had to wear a patch over my eye every day to try to get the eye normal. 

My first few pairs of glasses were heavy and had very thick lenses, but I never complained about them. I called them “my windows to the world” because without them I could not see at all. That did not stop kids from making fun of me. I remember in kindergarten we had morning recess with all the grades out on the playground together. A second grader took my glasses off my face and threw them, leaving me standing in the middle of the playground without being able to see anything. Then in second grade a girl threw my glasses down the sewer. 

When I was in fourth grade two key things happened with my vision: I got contacts which greatly improved my vision and I found out that I am at high risk for retinal detachment, this meant my retinas could detach if I were to be hit in the head. Growing up I wanted to play sports, basketball especially. I loved soccer too. In fact, that year I was planning on asking my mom and dad to sign me up for soccer. So no contact sports or anything involving a ball. This meant I had to sit out of gym class a lot and I was left feeling left out of many activities. 

Middle school is when things took a turn for the worse. In seventh grade I detached both my retinas. No one knows how I did it. I had my first retinal surgery in February that year with the second surgery a week later. I missed about eight weeks of school and the recovery process was not fun. I had to lay on my stomach face down for the majority of the day. It also caused issues with my friends. My best friend since second grade quit speaking to me when I came back to school because she was annoyed I did not tell her I was going to be out of school for that long. The retinal detachment also caused more problems, I had to have a surgery to remove a gas bubble in my eye caused by the surgery. 

In the fall of my eighth grade year my family and I went to Disney World. What was supposed to be a fun filled family trip became a challenge when suddenly I could barely see out of my left eye. We called the doctor and they told us to just come in when we came back, though looking back I probably should have gone to a doctor in Florida. When we got back we went to the doctor. My eye pressure was 50 (normal eye pressure is under 20) and a cataract had rapidly developed on my eye. I had to have emergency surgery later that week. My right eye developed a cataract a month later that had to be removed and the doctors put artificial lenses in both of my eyes at that time. The artificial lenses are amazing, they make it so I no longer have to wear really thick glasses and allow me to see some things without glasses. 

My field of vision is not great, but has improved. In Illinois I am eligible to drive this year because my vision has improved, but during daylight only. I also lack the ability to see 3D which also means I lack depth perception. I have a hard time telling how close things are to me. 

Not everything about my vision has been negative though. Because of my vision I have learned how to adapt to things. For example, doing my makeup is something that is pretty difficult for me because I can not see well. My mom found glasses that have one lens that you can flip from side to side to help me see when I do my eyeshadow. It has also taught me to advocate for myself. I have sent numerous emails to companies and posted on social media about issues I have had with certain companies not following the ADA guidelines. For example, one website would not allow me to zoom in and I got them to change that by writing them an email. Because of my vision I have become proficient in braille. 

Overall, I have learned to not let my vision define me. It is just a part of my life much like my music or school. I wish other people would see it the way I do. Once people know about my disability, they just know me as the girl who can not see and I wish people would take a second glance and get to know me for something other than my eyes. 

     

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About the Contributors
Maddie Eul, Tom Tom Staff
Maddie Eul is a senior and this is her first year on staff. She is a member of tri-m, NHS and the varsity scholastic bowl team. In her spare time, she enjoys writing her own music, reading, training her cockatiels, Tweety and Stormi and hanging out with friends.
Annie Maciejewski, Tom Tom Staff
Annie Maciejewski is a senior and this is her second year on staff. She enjoys running, weight lifting and drinking Poppi. Annie is graduating early to get a headstart on her career.

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