David Hie says the key to successfully living with a visual impairment is being the same person you were before you lost your vision.
“You do things a little bit differently than you used to. A little bit slower than you used to. But, besides driving, you can still do everything you did when you had vision.”
David began having issues with his vision in 2007 at the age of 44 years old. “From the couch in our living room, I could look into the kitchen and see the clock on the microwave. That is how I would find out the time,” he says. “One day, I looked over, and I could not see the time. I thought, ‘what happened to the microwave?’ It turns out it was there. I just couldn’t see it.”
David had developed cataracts in both eyes, resulting from increased pressure caused by glaucoma. Despite surgeries to remove cataracts and drains to reduce pressure, he ultimately lost most of his vision. Today, he only sees shadows, changes in light, and some colors.
In the beginning, David says, there was a lot of sadness and stress. “I lost two-thirds of my income because I was not working, I lost my freedom and my flexibility. I did not want to be a burden to my wife and daughter. I was always the person that was there to give people rides places, now suddenly I was the one that always needed a ride.”
He remembers one day asking his daughter to take him to Marshall’s to buy underwear. “I had been to the store dozens of times, so I knew where I needed to go. I told her to go off and shop and that I would be fine. I found the underwear without a problem, but then I realized I could not read the sizes. It hit me. When my daughter returned, I told her I just wanted to leave. She offered to help, but I was just too frustrated.”
It was David’s wife who found IN-SIGHT. Here, he says he found the support he needed to get back on track. “There are people who helped that don’t even know it.”
He says that coming to support groups, Yoga classes, ceramics workshops, and other programs at IN-SIGHT has helped him to meet other people. “Listening to people’s stories and knowing that they are facing the same challenges has helped me to feel normal. I hope that sharing my experiences has helped them too.”
After being out of work for sixteen months during the early days of his vision loss, David returned to his longtime job at M-F Athletic, where he works in the warehouse part-time.
David says he likes to keep busy when he is not working. He particularly enjoys the weekly Yoga classes. Stretching and other exercises have helped him to stay in shape. “Some of my friends can’t believe that I take Yoga, but I tell them that I can bend down and touch the floor, which is something I had not been able to do for twenty years!”
David has also taken up a new hobby, indoor rock climbing. With help from his friend Steve, he has been able to learn how to climb the rock walls at Rock Spot Climbing, where he recently made it to the top of the thirty-foot wall.
He also maintains a good sense of humor when things don’t go as planned. He laughs when telling the story of mistakenly putting on his wife’s bathrobe, which was hanging on the hook next to his. “You look good in pink,” his wife told him when he came out of the bathroom.
David, who uses a long white cane to assist with mobility, says it used to bother him when people stared at him. “I realized, though, that the reason they are staring is that they have really never seen someone who is blind out in the community,” David says that by using his cane out in public, he can show that people who are blind can be independent.
While leaving Rock Spot Climbing recently, a fellow climber saw David using his white cane to navigate the building. She approached David and said that her husband had recently lost his vision and was struggling. David could answer her questions and offer advice, including that he connects with IN-SIGHT for services.
David is the first to admit that living with a visual impairment is not always easy. “I miss driving every day. People tell me I’ll get used to it, but I won’t. If I plan to have dinner at Chelo’s and then decide at the last minute to go to Davenport’s instead, I can’t make that change because too many arrangements had to be made to get me to Chelo’s. That’s the part that people don’t understand.”
Despite the challenges, David has used his humor, determination, and support from his family to live a full life. And he is always open to adventure, including plans sometime soon to try out axe throwing at a center next to the rock-climbing gym.