When is the last time you were in awe over the apples in the produce section or the cookies in the bakery aisle at the grocery store? For most people, a trip to the grocery story is an everyday occurrence. For 9 year old Brady, son of Melissa and Jeremy Hohl of rural Wauseon, a trip to Walmart is more than just an everyday occurrence.
On January 6th, his world became a whole lot clearer when his eSight technology allowed him to see his world for the first time. Diagnosed in 2008 at the age of six months with a rare eye disease called Norrie, Brady has spent his life seeing his world through a blurry lens. He has endured four eye surgeries in his young life and wears glasses but is legally blind and may one day experience total blindness.
This past spring, his parents learned of a new technology to help those with low vision to see. With eSight eyewear technology, developed by a Canadian company, a high-definition camera captures the image of what the wearer is looking at to create a clear image. This innovative technology allows the wearer to not only see up to 15 feet but to also enjoy everyday activities of life more fully such as reading, hobbies, and cooking. For those with low vision, eSight which is paired with glasses enhances the vision that is remaining and can eliminate or profoundly improve issues such as blind spots and blurriness.
At an eSight demonstration in April 2016 in the Cleveland area, Brady traveled with his mother and grandmother to learn firsthand about eSight eyewear. As Brady was fitted with the glasses, he was emotionally overwhelmed. For the first time in his life, Brady saw the world around him clearly, all the blurriness and fuzziness he was so accustomed to, gone. His family wanted this moment to be available to Brady every single day, to open his world to new opportunities which have otherwise been too blurry or distant. Because of its newness and innovative technology, the cost of eSight eyewear at $15,000 proposed a challenge, but not one his family viewed as impossible. Because insurance does not help with this assistive device and grants are not available, the family began to reach out to the greater local and online community, family, and friends for help.
The outpouring of love and support has been emotionally overwhelming for the Hohl family. Community churches and organizations such as the Delta Eagles and the Lions Club offered support. Montpelier Police Chief Dan McGee assisted to raise funds for Brady’s eSight.
Through rummage sales, spaghetti dinners, a Go Fund Me page, a Facebook page Support Brady’s Esight Fund, various media outlets, and word of mouth, news of Brady’s quest to see spread.
On December 22nd, the family received a phone call that Brady would be receiving a discount on his eSight glasses. On Christmas, his parents shared with him the news his glasses were on their way. A touching video of Brady announcing to the world “I have exciting news, I’m getting my eSight” appeared on his Facebook page on Christmas.
Since January 6th, Brady’s world has opened up to amazing new experiences for him. Everyday things most people take for granted are new discoveries for him. The most amazing thing for him was seeing his family clearly for the first time. He saw his mom, his brother Nickolas, sister Mia, his father, and of course, his Boxer Nala. “It made me happy,” Brady said of seeing his family for the first time.
Besides the grocery store visit, Brady has been to the library and was able to pick out his own books for the very first time.
His mother shares, “For the first couple days, Brady was asking, ‘Hey, can we watch TV, can we watch a movie?” Brady echoed this by saying with a smile spread across his face, “I can see the TV much better.”
Brady used to sit inches in front of the TV to see a blurry picture. Now, he sits nestled between his parents on the couch watching favorite movies. Never before was he able to enjoy a movie on the couch with his family. He has played Sonic and other video games with his siblings. With his eSight glasses, he can not only see images, but he can pause images, snap photos of images, zoom in and out, control the color contrast, and even transport an image from a TV or computer directly to his glasses.
His parents relate that his sleeping patterns have also improved. Now, he can distinguish light and dark which is helping him sleep better at night.
His dad Jeremy shares, “It has been overwhelming sometimes. For nine years, our life has been one way, and then it changed overnight.”
He shared he became teary-eyed when his son saw him through his eSight for the first time.
The eSight technology takes some getting used to. Brady has experienced some dizziness and headaches as his eyes adjust to light. As time goes on, these side effects will lessen.
Brady looks forward to an upcoming Toledo Walleyes hockey game compliments of a Facebook group for parents of Visually Impaired. He also looks forward to seeing the Cars 3 movie and Monster Trucks with his family later this year.
For a 9 year old boy, the world has just opened up to brand new opportunities. Each day is truly a gift of new surprises. The Hohl family wishes to expresses their deepest gratitude to their family, friends, and community for the outpouring of love and support in their vision to bring vision to their son.
Tammy Allison may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org