Lavender Farmer Embraces Low Vision Support, Thrives After Recurrent Retinal Detachments
Jack Wilson and his wife Kathy tend to 6,000 lavender plants on their Kansas farm, selling lavender products and plants from their farm store and occasionally at area farmers markets. One afternoon at a local farmers market, Jack noticed tiny black dots in the vision of his right eye. At first, he didn’t think much of it, but as the market was closing, he happened to mention the spots to a long-time friend who recommended he call an eye doctor right away. By 3pm the next day, Jack was headed in for emergency retinal surgery.
“I showed up for the appointment with the eye doctor the next day at 8 am and after a slew of tests and having my eyes dilated the doctor said I needed an operation,” Jack said. “So, in my mind I was thinking about things that needed to get done at our lavender farm and when I might be available for surgery and the doctor said, “No, you need to have surgery today.” I was stunned, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.”
Little did Jack know that the emergency surgery to repair a retinal detachment in his right eye would be the first of many surgeries and treatments in both eyes in the years that followed. Recurrent retinal detachments left Jack with impaired vision, but he credits his wife and the team of retina specialists who have treated him with helping him thrive despite his limited sight.
Under the expert care of multiple retina specialists in a Kansas City-area practice, Jack’s retinal detachments have been addressed urgently as they have happened, helping preserve as much of Jack’s vision as possible. Most recently, he has been under the care of ASRS member, Steven Cohen, MD. Once Jack’s condition had stabilized, Dr. Cohen also suggested that Jack see a low vision specialist, an optometrist or ophthalmologist trained in helping individuals with low vision find and use devices and equipment that help them overcome their limitations.
“Everyone who experiences severely impaired vision should see a low vision specialist if they can,” Jack said. “I realized that if I wanted to maintain a good quality of life, I would have to make some changes in the way I do things like using my computer and the low vision specialists helped make that possible.”
Now Jack has reading glasses, distance glasses and sunglasses that have made a marked difference in his sight. Between apps on his cell phone to increase text size and “tricks” on the computer to magnify his computer screen he’s still able to do all of the computer work for the lavender farm, including maintaining the website and managing the social media channels.
Low vision aids have also allowed Jack to continue volunteering for AudioReader in Lawrence, Kansas, an activity he committed to well before experiencing his own vision issues. Drawing on his career as an Emmy-award winning broadcaster and radio host, Jack reads and records magazines, newspapers and programs for others who are visually impaired and blind.
His advice for others is to know the symptoms of retinal detachment and not to delay critical treatment if they appear. “If someone experiences low vision, sees any kind of floaters, however minor, or any kind of flashes of light, they should get to the eye doctor right away to have a chance of maintaining their sight.” Jack said. “If you end up with a retina issue, go to a retina specialist and know that you’ll be in good hands.”