Blind Chick Moment 1,357…

As with many blind and low vision individuals, I often find myself doing stupid stuff because I misread a sign or label or just plain missed something. I thought of this often this morning as my husband I were both working in the kitchen trying to get lunches made and breakfast eaten before heading out the door to work.

My husband is often cleaning up after me as I don’t see that I spilled something on the counter tops, especially because they are a crazy black, white, and gray granite, talk about low contrast and busy patterned background. This morning it happened to be that I spilled sugar on the counters which also happened to land on his cell phone… let’s just say that didn’t make him too happy. At least we can laugh about it now.

I have bought the wrong type of milk or other ingredient at the store because I misread the label.

I have almost walked into the men’s restroom more times than I can count, but luckily I now have my guide dog, who to my amazement takes me to the woman’s restroom (even in a strange airport or restaurant) about 99% of the time!

I have often missed a hello from a friendly co-worker or classmate because I didn’t see them wave to me in the halls as we passed by. Or I may miss the discreet head nod of a teacher point out a student to me because I didn’t pick up on the detail of their gesture.

Once, I was opening a bottle of wine and my face was too close to the cork and opener as I pulled the cork out, leaving a huge goose egg of a bump on my forehead.

Luckily I havn’t done anything too embarrassing, yet…

For my blind and visually impaired friends, do you have any stories to share? Leave them in the comments!

Low Vision OT

As I embark on my Graduate Certificate Program in Low Vision Rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists starting February 1st, I am getting more and more excited to pursue this specialty area of practice. I sure hope everything works out as I am thinking it will and I will land a job in this specialty area soon! Fingers crossed.

As an individual with low vision myself, I find that I can relate to my low vision clients and I am so excited to work with this population and be able to share my insights and experiences, promote the proficient use and training in assistive technologies both low tech and high tech, and get my clients back to doing the activities that are most meaningful to them.

I have started reading one of my books, Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Maximizing and Saving Your Sight, and I am loving what it has to say so far. First of all, it has mentioned occupational therapy several times in general and in regards to low vision rehabilitation and that is exciting to me. Second, it is describing all of the things that are important to know about when first diagnosed with Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), as it was written for patients with AMD. It describes how depression is common with a diagnosis of vision impairment as it is with any major life change or stressor. It talks about how important getting connected with low vision rehabilitation right away will help clients learn new ways of doing things and coping with their change in vision. Good exercise and becoming connected with support groups are also essential. And that one should not be ashamed of their vision loss, not hide it or isolate themselves from others in fear, but embrace it, laugh at yourself, and know that those around you love you for who you are despite your decreasing vision and ability to do things as independently as you once might have been able to do.

This reminds me a lot of my growing up years as a child with low vision. I always wanted to hide my visual impairment and I didn’t want to stand our from my peers. It wasn’t until high school that I truly embraced my vision impairment and my story and accepted it as part of who I am. It was with the help of a great vision teacher and a friend who was also visually impaired that I was able to make this transition. I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had not accepted it and was willing to use the tools I needed to be successful and I would most definitely not have my wonderful guide dog, Nabisco!

I still feel like I have a lot to learn when it comes to using my adaptive tools (magnifiers, monoculars, VoiceOver, etc) but I sure have come a long way since I was younger. I recently received my training in VoiceOver and while I use it quite a bit on my iPhone/iPad and feel fairly proficient, I havn’t used it as much on my computer and so I feel like the skills I did learn havn’t stuck as well as they should. It just goes to prove that if you don’t practice a new skill, you will never learn it and you will never become proficient. This is a great thin for me to remember as I enter into the low vision field as an OT!

I am so excited to start my program and meet my cohort! I am so curious what brought them into the low vision specialty program and what practice settings they work in or plan to work in. I will be sure to keep y’all updated on my progress through the program.

I am still looking for financial assistance to be able to complete my Low Vision Certificate program, so if you are willing and able to help me out, I would greatly appreciate it! I can’t wait to start helping others with low vision. Click here to access my GoFundMe page to donate. Thank You!

Micro-Preemies

I just finished reading Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon. It was a memoir written a couple about the birth of their premature daughter, Juniper, at 23 weeks gestation. As I read through the pages, I could relate so closely to the stories of my own birth and 6 months stay in the NICU that my parents shared with me. From the nights of almost losing me and my Dad spending countless hours reading to me and the dedication and care that the nurses and doctors gave me or my Mom’s dedication to making sure I had her breast milk to eat. I am thankful to the authors for being willing to share their story. I am amazed at the strong willed nature of those born too soon like myself and Juniper.

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Thinking back on the stories of my early birth and stay in the NICU I am reminded of the amazing opportunity I had in 2009 when I got to participate in the NICU Reunion at Minnesota Children’s Hospital. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many strong and talented people who share a similar story to myself. I was thankful for my ability to give back by participating in their 20 year follow up study on the outcomes of micro-preemies like myself. Again in 2014, I had the opportunity to observe Dr. Ronald Hoekstra and nurse Lois Gilmore in the NICU Follow Up Clinic at Minnesota Children’s Hospital and I even got to read through my chart from when I was in the NICU and went through the follow up clinic. It was amazing to see that. I am so thankful to all of the doctor’s and nurses that cared for me and supported my family.

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Growing up, I was always reluctant and embarrassed to share about my prematurity and I didn’t want to share about my story as I didn’t want to be seen as different than others. I soon came to realize that my prematurity, vision impairment, and all that comes with it is just part of who I am and it is my story. I am now proud to share my story and about my struggles and adaptations that I have had to make in my life. I would not be who I am today without living this life. I truly feel that in order to survive what I did, I had to have the tenacity and “me do it”attitude that helped me through it. These personality traits have stuck with me and contribute to my drive to go after my dreams. I am so thankful that my parent’s supported me and never held me back from pursing what I wanted to pursue because I coudn’t see as well as others. I am lucky that my vision is my only remaining complication of my prematurity and that I got to take advantage of the early lung studies that were happening at that time.

I was born at 25 weeks gestation, weighing 1 lb, 6 ounces and I was 12″ long. My head was the exact size of a tennis ball and I could wear my Dad’s wedding ring as a bracelet.

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During my OT internship at Minnesota Children’s Hospital in 2014, they wrote a blog story about me describing my NICU stay and return to Children’s for the internship. You can read the story by clicking here

When I lived in Tacoma, WA, I volunteered in the NICU, rocking babies. I really miss this opportunity since I moved back to Portland, OR. I felt as though baby rocking in the NICU was my one way of giving back… of silently sharing my story.

I have always wanted to work as an OT in the NICU, but I know this is a very difficult setting to get into. Maybe at some point in my career… I do have a long career ahead of me. I want to find a way to share my story with others to provide just a little bit of hope to the parents going through so much with their little one. To say, it can turn out okay in the end.

Another book I really enjoyed reading was Before Their Time: Lessons in Living from Those Born Too Soon by Daniel Taylor and Ronald Hoekstra. This book had special meaning to me as Dr. Hoekstra was the one who was on call at the hospital the night I almost died.

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To all the parents out there who have faced a stay in the NICU due to the premature birth of their child, my thoughts are with you and may you hear my story and gain a little hope that your child too will make it.