Marty: Knowing That You Are Not Alone
Originally from upstate New York, Marty and her husband became “snowbirds” after retiring. She enjoyed living In New York during the summer and in Florida during the winter where they played golf and enjoyed other fun activities.
While enjoying retirement, Marty noticed something different about her vision, but she could not pinpoint the issue. Visiting her optometrist, he told her to see a specialist for specific issues regarding her retina and a diagnosis of macular degeneration. “I had no idea what he was talking about,” she said, but she scheduled an appointment to be seen. Over time, Marty’s macular degeneration, glaucoma and retina issues continued, but treatment by eye specialists has at least slowed the progression of the diseases.
Marty was extremely independent when she was diagnosed, but last July, she was directed to stop driving, for her safety as well as the safety of others. Marty says that she hasn’t stopped doing things she enjoys, just figured out another way to do it. She briefly moved in with her daughter, in an area accessible to public transportation, so she could still travel around town when needed.
Marty learned about the Lighthouse through a former coworker and contacted Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center to register for services. She took the bus to attend classes in Port Charlotte and enjoyed being around others who were affected by vision loss; everyone was in various states of vision loss, but they were there for a common cause – to remain independent.
Since the Coronavirus, the classes have transitioned to virtual learning. Marty, who was not computer literate before the pandemic, feels that she’s gotten more out of the courses online because she’s able to attend more classes than if she had to attend in person. She takes the Assistive Technology course to learn more about using electronic devices, Adjustment to Vision Loss courses and even the cooking and crafts classes.
Lighthouse Instructor Maddy Spencer taught her it’s OK to use a “Red and White Mobility Assist Device” (White Cane), and not worry about what other people think. ”It’s how you navigate and not run into things. It goes in front of you and feels the road and the floor so you’re not tripping over something. It makes you more aware, safer,” Marty said. Zena, her 4-year-old cat, knows to stay out of the way when Marty is using the white cane.
Marty says a big part of her experience with Lighthouse is, “Knowing that you’re not alone. There’s other people out there, more than you think, that have eye problems.” She noticed another individual in class, who was quilting, though she was almost totally blind. Marty was curious how she was able to continue quilting after losing her eyesight and the woman responded that she still uses her fingers the same way she did before losing her vision. This motivated Marty to start knitting again, something she stopped after having cataract surgery.
Marty’s advice to anyone with vision loss is, “Go to the Lighthouse. Call them immediately, don’t wait. Don’t stop doing everything. I still make cookies, I still knit. Let your family help but don’t let them be overprotective.”