Today’s blog post comes from Tres’Rionna Whitlock, a CIS alum from Kansas.
When I was 14, I was diagnosed with a genetic eye disease called Keratoconus, that affects the structure of the cornea. With Keratoconus, the shape of the cornea slowly changes from the normal round shape to a cone shape causing the eye to bulge out. Usually the disease can be corrected with eyeglasses or hard contacts, but not in my case. The disease had progressed so drastically, that I was considered legally blind by 16.
Typically the disease progresses in 10-20 years, but mine was more severe and rapidly progressed in only 2. Since my case was serious, I was told that I’d need a corneal transplant where the Keratoconus cornea is surgically replaced by a healthy donor’s cornea. Since my mom and I didn’t have health insurance at that time, a corneal transplant just seemed impossible. My doctor at the time tried correcting my vision with a stronger eyeglass prescription, but it didn’t work.
I was only a freshman in high school and I remember my vision just kept getting worse and worse. I’d get so frustrated because I’d always tell my teachers that I couldn’t see the board, and they’d either have me copy from one of my peers, or sit in the front of the classroom. Neither of those options helped. My vision was so bad, that it didn’t matter where I sat, I still couldn’t see the board.
I honestly don’t think any of my teachers or peers throughout my earlier high school years understood how severe my vision problem was. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I met CIS site coordinator Mrs. Ahmad. Mrs. Ahmad, along with my school nurse, administrators, social worker, counselor and my mom set up a plan for my teachers so that they could accommodate me. My teachers were to print out my notes, assignments, and tests in large font, give me extra time to complete homework and tests, limited computer work, assistance while doing computer work, and shorten my math assignments.
All of my teachers had struggled with getting my accommodations met, but eventually they got better. Throughout my sophomore and junior year, my teachers informed me that they had never had a student like me, and that it was all new to them. When I had Mrs. Ahmad, she made sure that my accomodations were being met and that my teachers were doing what they were supposed to. I was so appreciative of that. She’d always come and check up on me and make sure that I was doing okay. She was an advocate for me and would help explain things that I wasn’t able to. If it wasn’t for CIS and Mrs. Ahmad, I would’ve never gotten those accommodations and there’s no telling where I’d be.
Mrs. Ahmad tried helping my mom and I get health insurance a few years ago, and we finally got it. With prayer and Gods favor, this past summer, I had one of the corneal transplants and my vision is much, much better. Just imagine driving a car with a dirty windshield that you’ve tried getting clean for years, and the dirt just wouldn't come off. That’s how my cornea was, and it was finally cleaned! I’m due to have my second corneal transplant sometime this coming winter.
Mrs. Ahmad was there for support when I had my first surgery and it meant a lot to me. I now have 20/50 vision, and it will only get better in time. My grades have drastically improved and I am now a senior in high school graduating in May of 2015. After graduation, I plan on attending college and majoring in fashion design.
I am very proud to say that CIS helped changed the picture for me, as they’ve done for millions of children going through different obstacles in life that may affect their education.
Update 2015: Tres'Rionna is set to graduate and will continue her education in the Fall. Her second corneal transplant is scheduled soon and she's looking forward to an even brighter future.