This is Leah Haymaker, an eSight User from Virginia who was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease.
Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Leah was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease when she was 6 years old. At the time she was given glasses with blank lenses with the intention of protecting her vision while she was on the playground. However, she chose not to wear them since they offered no improvement to her vision, were uncomfortable and were not stylish at all. It wasn’t until she was 10 that her family found a doctor that actually understood her condition.
eSight was the first and only assistive technology that Leah ever tried! Earlier on she had seen reviews for companies like Orcam, but was uninterested in trying them. Later she saw a video from The Blind Life that featured the eSight 4 device. That same week she called eSight and got started on her telehealth journey.
Leah was originally a bit cautious about trying eSight since she felt apprehensive about the full coverage look of the device. But by the end of her first telehealth session Leah was in love with the device. She was able to see the 20/20 line of the eye chart from over 5 feet away! It had been a long time since she could see small print from that far away.
“It was love at first sight!”Leah
That same day Leah had her daughter drive her to the bookstore and she bought a book for the first time in 20 years! She even stopped periodically throughout the store so that she could read the signs at the other end. Leah says that eSight has given her a “watch me” and a “look ma no hands” type of attitude.
“It was like a kid with a toy that wanted to show everybody and do everything possible”Leah
Adjusting to eSight
The transition to eSight was not difficult for Leah at all – she feels like she has a good understanding between when she needs her eSight and when she doesn’t. For example, if she needs to run quickly to the grocery store, she feels like she doesn’t need her eSight as she knows where things are. However, if she is going somewhere by herself and wants to see directly on her own or somewhere new, bringing her eSight is an absolute must!
Previously, when out in public a member of Leah’s family would wear their keys around their neck so that she could hear and follow the noise. Leah had built her life around the fact that sound was more important than sight. She would even have panic attacks when she was alone in a new place. Here and now, Leah enjoys that she can walk around freely and confidently with her eSight device. She enjoys that she doesn’t have to take it off to walk around and then have to put it back on when she wants to view something.
Life With eSight
The highlight of Leah’s experience with eSight was being able to see her son graduate. His graduation took place on his high school’s football field in the endzone. The parents had been seated in the bleachers and normally she wouldn’t have been able to see at that distance. But with her eSight Leah was able to increase her magnification and see the stage. She was actually able to see her son walk across the stage and get handed his diploma
“Being able to see him, literally see him graduate and everything was the highlight”Leah
Accompanied by her eSight, Leah is continuing to participate in one of her favourite hobbies, cross stitch. Cross stitch can provide many challenges for low vision individuals as it can be difficult to differentiate between the colours and markers in the patterns. Leah did look for other options and solutions that would help her complete a cross stitch. But eSight was the only device that ever worked for her.
“There is no way you can do cross stitch with Stargardt’s or any I think, without the eSight”Leah
Living in the Moment With eSight
Looking ahead to the future, Leah is planning on completing more road trips, attending a wedding and going to plenty of live shows with her eSight device. Her new dilema is choosing a seating location when booking tickets for concerts. Should she book tickets up close to the stage and not have to bring her eSight? Or should she book tickets far enough away from the stage that she would need her eSight?
“Let’s not get the front row, because then I won’t be able to use eSight!”Leah
In the end she decided that she wanted to use her eSight and booked tickets in a row further to the back. She made this decision because she is exhausted with having to feed off the crowd in terms of reactions. Everything she does is a few seconds delayed compared to what everyone else is doing. With eSight she is part of the moment – there is no delay, nor does she need anyone to narrate what is happening.
“With me going bowling, you’ve got that real time reaction. You can now interact with everybody instead of what’s going on”Leah
Leah is so excited to use her eSight in this type of setting that she booked tickets for herself for an upcoming live show. As she no longer needs anyone’s help to experience the moment and be her eyes.
“To just be able to experience something on your own without feeling the need to bring somebody along to be your eyes and stuff like that is a bit scary. It is a step in the right direction, but it is still scary.”Leah
Hear Leah talk about how eSight has helped her to live her life in real time…