This is part of a series that looks at extraordinary experiences in personal health. Share yours at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other night when there was a meteor shower, we got out a blanket and some popcorn and lay down in the park across the street and stared at the stars. My kids began yelling when they started seeing the meteors and I got to see the streaks across the sky. It was amazing.
The littlest things people take for granted, I can do now.
I have keratoconus, a thinning and bulging of the cornea. I was diagnosed when I was in Grade 11. I had glasses then, but I was constantly having to switch prescriptions and we didn't know why. My eye doctor ended up doing some more tests and found out I actually had keratoconus. My vision got worse and worse to the point where glasses didn't help, so I had to wear specially-fitted contacts. But eventually, the contacts didn't help either.
My vision at its very worst was, I believe, 20-200 (which means being able to see at 20 feet what an unimpaired person can see at 200 feet). I knew people by their voices over anything else. For the most part, if I went anywhere with my mother or girlfriend, I always had my hand on them.
About a year before my son was born, I found out my vision was so bad that I had to go on a donor list to wait for a cornea transplant. You're only allowed to do one eye at a time, so they ended up doing a transplant on my left eye first because that eye was the worst. I was very, very pushy with my eye doctor to have the surgery done before my son was born. I was ecstatic when it was done, but I wasn't able to hold my son because, for a few months, I wasn't able to lift anything over 10 pounds. I had stitches in that eye for a year and after they took them out, they did all this fine-tuning with micro-cuts to adjust for the warping from all the stitches My second surgery was in June two years ago. The day after my second surgery, I went to the bathroom and was washing my hands. I was able to see slightly out of the corner of the bandage over my eye and I could see myself. It was overwhelming. I could actually see out of both eyes. It was something I hadn't done in a very long time. My vision still wasn't great. A normal person would be like, "Oh, that's still blurry." But for me it was, "Oh my God, I can see this much already!"
Then, two months ago, I got a pair of glasses so I can finally see perfectly. I went to Costco to pick them up and as soon as I put them on – I don't care, I'm a big guy – I almost broke down in tears instantly. Even though the first time I could see clearly was staring out at a whole bunch of TVs at Costco, the clarity was amazing. On the drive home, I just stared out the window. I remember the first time I got glasses when I was in Grade 7 and being like, "Whoa, I can see again." It was like that. Just looking out the window and seeing everything. Seeing the clouds. Seeing birds in the sky.
It was as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can see the smiles on my kids' faces. My confidence has gone through the roof. I can do things I couldn't do before. I have depth perception. I can read things from far away. I've picked up tons of novels because I can read again. It's a silly thing but I can watch 3-D movies now, and my kids love 3-D movies.
I like it now when my kids are like, "Hey Dad, look! An airplane!" I'm like, "I can see it too!"
Justin Ross, 30, lives in Brantford, Ont.
Read more stories in this series here.