A Safe Place to Learn: Meet Trena

When Trena King first walked into Society for the Blind, she was skeptical and scared. She almost walked out as she wondered how anyone there could understand the challenges she was facing losing her vision.

Trena King wearing a blue Society for the Blind apron in the SIP teaching kitchen

Trena King

One question changed her entire outlook: “Ms. King, “What if I told you everyone here teaching you is either blind or has low vision, including me?”

Trena said she was flabbergasted: “Experience is the best teacher, and I felt relieved and was overwhelmed with joy for the first time since starting to lose my vision.”

Trena was working as a supervisor at Walmart in 2009 when she noticed her vision changing. She began trying on reading glasses in the store’s pharmacy, but her vision kept declining. She was diabetic and thought maybe her sugar levels were off. But she knew something was wrong when her optometrist referred her upstairs to the ophthalmologist. 

She was diagnosed with a total retinal detachment, which meant the retinas had detached in both her eyes due to diabetes. She needed surgery immediately and had two procedures within 72 hours. She had to lay face down for 10 days without turning her head, which was even more difficult due to the pain she was feeling.

When those procedures did not work, she had to do them over again. Still, she began seeing floaters and had to endure yet another surgery and recovery to no avail. Nothing was working.

“I started confining myself to my room, and my family was really worried about me,” Trena said. “Nothing would get me out of my room. I just did everything there because I didn’t want everyone staring at me.”

Fortunately, Trena’s sister and ophthalmologist were both working to get her an appointment with the Department of Rehabilitation, which eventually referred her to Society for the Blind for our Core classes.

During her assessment, she remembers laughing with the instructors as she took a typing test because she had never typed in her life even when she had sight. She remembers touching the Braille dots and not feeling them because of her neuropathy from diabetes, and she could not help but laugh when the dots came off on her fingers. She was stunned when she received several adaptive tools at no cost, and she learned how to use her iPhone, cook, organize and more while building her confidence.

At age 59, Trena no longer has any vision but has become a steadfast student at Society, now taking classes through our Senior IMPACT Project. She even participated in a Good Day Sacramento segment in the Senior IMPACT Project teaching kitchen earlier this year. She also is a dedicated member of our Black Americans Senior Support Group (BASS). She and a few members of BASS have started organizing outings to practice their skills, including bowling.

“We all come up with ideas and then I call and organize our activity,” Trena said. “We go out to lunch, have fun and enjoy ourselves. I’ve gained my independence back and my faith. My normalcy of life has been restored, just in a different way. I’m so thankful to my grown children and friends who have been such big supports through this journey.”

Trena is now working to address the panic attacks she developed when she started losing her vision, particularly when she is in a crowded room and does not know where the exits are. She is grateful to her classmates and Society teachers for helping her as she works through this – and she refuses to let it keep her from doing activities she enjoys at Society.

“I love everything I do at Society, so whatever they’ve got going on, I’m there,” Trena said. “I don’t ever want to leave. It’s my outlet. I couldn’t be in a safer place.”