I am a 39 years old female, working as a psychiatric nurse in the United States.
I have been severely myopic since birth. I have never gotten to use my left eye in my life because it is too myopic and I could not benefit from corrected vision. I come from a Korean working class family. My father has the same eye condition as me. He is now legally blind. I remember my father taking me to an eye doctor when I was five or six. Every 6 months or a year I had to get new glasses, and that was a big financial burden for my family. When I was in elementary school I had an accident in which my classmate broke my glasses. My father was very frustrated with his financial situation and I could not wear glasses for months. As a young child with severe myopia, I had to look at board and other materials in a classroom without having correct glasses. Everything was a blur but I didn't really understand it that time. I was often blamed and teased by my family, teachers and friends about how clumsy I was and the strange way I moved and acted.
In high school, whenever I lost or damaged my contact lenses, due to my family’s poverty, I had to survive for months without having corrective lenses. I managed this challenge as well and made it to college. Life with ophthalmological advances such as special contact lenses made me grateful about life. I felt very lucky to be able to see.
I moved to the USA and later on, got married. Unfortunately, I ended up in a physically and sexually abusive marriage. Because of my eye condition, I had low self esteem, was afraid of being alone and felt trapped. In 2015, I decided to end this trauma and got divorced.
I chose to be independent once again and enrolled in a nursing school to create a meaningful life by helping the most vulnerable people who suffer from mental disorders. At the same time, my eyes were slowly getting worse. One day I noticed that I cannot distinguish whether I am using a black or blue pen and cannot find a mouse cursor on the computer screen. In spite of this, I graduated from nursing school and got a job as a psychiatric nurse in a big US hospital.
My happiness and sense of accomplishment did not last long as around the same time, I suffered from my first bleed in the good eye, which resulted in further sight loss. For the next two years, I thought about death every single day.
I am 39 and already have lots of blind spots and can barely recognize people’s faces at this point. I will still continue to pursue my Master’s degree to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I keep reminding myself that I have made it through school without having proper glasses and also survived marital abuse. I have come to the conclusion that the purpose of my life is to help people who go through other horrible things in their lives.
I still have hope. When I read about how promising stem cell research could be for retina, I find the courage to stand up again and go on. My dream is your dream, to find a cure for retinal disease. For all the young adults out there who have dreams of their own and want to be a productive part of society, so that we can help others. I understand that all current research is more or less focused on AMD patients. Please consider working with us MMD patients as well.
There is an old saying in Korea, my home country: “If a body is 1000 nyang, the eyes are 900 nyang.“ (nyang is an old Korean currency unit)
Your work is that significant. Thank you very much for your dedication and hard work.