Meet Mollie and Donna
Within the span of five years, Mollie Scott of the Bishop/Mammoth area lost her husband and her parents. Two years later, with no family closer than 1,000 miles away, she lost most of her vision to angle-closure glaucoma.
As she dealt with the grief and loneliness of losing her husband and parents, she also experienced bouts of sudden intense pain from the pressure in her eye. Though already legally blind in her right eye, Mollie always could see out of her left eye until the angle-closure glaucoma set in.
“It felt like someone was hammering a nail into my eyebrow and the pain would cause me to get sick,” Mollie said. “Emotionally this has been a rollercoaster for me – up and down and back and forth.”
Over the last six years, Mollie has undergone 18 surgeries on her left eye, including three corneal transplants that required more than a year of recovery each. While she was grateful for her team of specialists, she was losing hope and knew she needed to learn how to live with vision loss.
“I didn’t need work skills because I’m retired,” Mollie said. “What I was looking for was some kind of condensed course for people in my stage of life. I was thrilled when I found Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project retreat. It was six hours away, but I knew it was exactly what I needed.”
Little did she know, she would not only feel empowered as she learned how to live her life independently, she would find her new friend Donna Carrell.
“I was told there was another woman coming from farther away who would need to find somewhere to stay during the retreat,” Mollie said. “I spoke to Donna on the phone and instantly loved her. When we met in Sacramento, it just seemed like we were the Bobbsey Twins. We cracked each other up. Donna’s a remarkable woman and I learned so much from her.”
Donna has been legally blind her whole life, but in the last three years began to experience significantly more vision loss, which she could tell was leading to depression. She had used her cane for decades, but had never had formal training. Then she learned about Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project, which was more than an hour away from her home in Paradise. She wanted to attend a retreat, but was anxious about staying alone in a hotel room, so she asked Society for the Blind if anyone else was interested in sharing a room.
“I was nervous about staying by myself in a town I knew nothing about,” Donna said. “But it felt good to stay somewhere independent of my husband, and Mollie and I had a great time walking around and going out to dinner. We had a lot of good conversations about our lives. It took a lot of stick-to-itiveness for Mollie to come to the retreat from so far away. She’s a neat gal.”
When the retreat break came, Donna knew Mollie was too far away to go home for the weekend, so she invited her back to her house in Paradise.
“I had the most wonderful weekend with them,” Mollie said. “We went hiking and out to meals, and it was very special for me because I would not have known what to do and where to go by myself in Sacramento.”
In addition to meeting Mollie, who she still keeps in touch with, Donna was thrilled to learn new cane skills and sharpen other low-vision skills.
“I especially wanted to be able to go out my front door and take a walk by myself again,” Donna said. “At the retreat, I picked up a lot of tips on how to figure out where you are and how to go where you want to go. Now I can go for a walk by myself and not feel depressed anymore.”
Donna had the lowest vision in the class and loved encouraging other retreat participants who were new to vision loss, noting that in her life she had seen a lot of people with vision loss coddled to the point where they could no longer do anything for themselves. She believes that takes away a person’s dignity and pride.
“It was wonderful to see everyone in our class awaken to the possibility of doing things differently and having some level of independence and self assurance,” Donna said. “I appreciated being able to have some input once in awhile on situations that I’ve experienced. Hopefully it helped some people realize they’re not alone and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. There are so many things that can still bring you joy, including just being out on your own again for a little while.”
For Mollie, who has a chance of her vision improving if her corneal transplant lasts, she was grateful for the hope the class provided regardless of whether or not the transplant works.
“The class let me know there’s a world out there if I lose my left eye,” Mollie said. “I used to donate to another blindness organization, but now I give to Society for the Blind. The class gave me confidence about my future and made a world of difference. Donna was the icing on the cake.”