Routine surgery leads to vision loss, total life change.
Suellen Porter never would have thought a corrective surgery on her eyes would leave her legally blind – no one really would. But three years ago, that’s exactly what happened.
Suellen went in for routine lasik eye surgery in 2012. She spent weeks telling her eye doctor that something just wasn’t right, only to be told that her age – 49 at the time – was causing her to take longer to heal.
But one particular day, she lost vision in the lower part of her eyes. She could no longer see her feet. That’s when she insisted that something was wrong. She was right.
“I went in and they did a glaucoma test on me and realized my glaucoma pressures were in the 50s, which was extremely high,” Suellen said.
After weeks of being told to be patient with the healing process, Suellen was finally told to stop the required steroid drops. An allergic reaction was suspected. Although her pressure went down, Suellen insisted that something still just wasn’t right.
“After 6 to 8 months of this, they finally realized that I still had – or that I did have – permanent damage to my optic nerve,” she said.
Now declared legally blind, Suellen contacted WillsEye Hospital in Philadelphia, where she said she got the best care possible for her situation. She continues to receive follow-up care at the facility.
She also called North Central Sight Services, Inc., a not-for-profit agency based in Williamsport that provides blindness prevention education, vision screenings, services and employment to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
Not only did North Central Sight Services provide her with the support she needed to get through her sudden vision loss, but they also offered her employment.
Now employed in customer service and order processing at the agency, Suellen said she was happy to not only be able to contribute to her household again, but also to connect with other individuals.
“At my previous jobs, I was very active in the community,” she said. “Ironically, I was a United Way volunteer for a long time and I loved it, I had such a good time doing that. And I did Leadership Lycoming and things like that. I was always on the go and very independent. To lose that independence has just been hard. It was very … life changing … you don’t realize how much you take your vision for granted and when you can’t see and you can’t do some of the normal things, it’s hard.”
At 53, Suellen has been told she has the vision of a 90-year old glaucoma patient. North Central Sight Services, a Lycoming County United Way Program Partner, has afforded Suellen the opportunity to overcome the challenges associated with vision impairment. From the agency’s low-vision store, to its transportation services, kitchen classes, prevent of blindness and social service programs, Suellen has become empowered by employment at NCSS.
“During the many years Suellen dedicated her time and efforts helping our campaign raise funds to improve the lives of others, she never imagined that those campaign funds would one day be of help to her,” said LCUW executive director Scott N. Lowery. “Suellen’s story explains the very nature of what we do each and every day – work in conjunction with our Program Partners to improve lives. NCSS provides the tools necessary to help clients remain as independent as possible. Seeing literally is believing.”
Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $33,185 to North Central Sight Service’s Social Services and Prevention of Blindness programs. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit www.development.lcuw.org.