- A woman who was born legally blind recently shared her experience of seeing of the first time.
- In a series of TikToks, she described what it was like to grow up unable to see beyond her nose.
- She also spoke about adjusting to sighted life and seeing her reflection for the first time.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Olivia Durant’s world was once blurry beyond the tip of her nose. But at age 36, she got a series of life-changing surgeries that allowed her to see clearly for the first time.
Durant grew up legally blind due to an irregularity in her eye shape. She also struggled to walk because of a condition called ligament laxitity, and she was bullied for her differences, she told BuzzFeed.
When she was finally able to see herself in a mirror, Durant said she had to adjust her perception of herself – along with getting used to things like body language.
“I shocked myself. I had trouble recognizing my own reflection in the mirror, and I had to deal with the fact that I looked differently than what the bullies in my life had told me,” she told Buzzfeed.
Unfortunately, when Durant felt prepared to explore Los Angeles with her full sight, the pandemic hit.
“I felt sort of adjusted to my new life at the beginning of 2020 and was prepared to explore my new city, but we all know what happened that year,” she said.
Confined for most of 2020, Durant took to TikTok to share her experience.
Surgeons replaced Durant’s lenses with laser surgery
In 2016, Durant began the process of gaining sight at age 36. It involved four eye surgeries between January and October of that year, all performed at the Eye Center of New York.
First, the surgeons replaced Durant’s natural, microscope-like lenses with new ones injected into each eye. After that, there were two laser surgeries to finish correcting her vision.
“It was awful and terrifying beforehand, but really, the surgery wasn’t painful or difficult,” Durant told Buzzfeed. “I was just scared that I’d have a retina issue, because my retina is very delicate and that was a risk for me.”
The procedures Durant underwent – called intraocular lens replacements – were partially covered by insurance because she developed cataracts at an early age. Even after qualifying for some coverage, she told Buzzfeed she ended up paying around $US10,000 ($AU13,771) for her surgeries.
In a TikTok, Durant explained that most people get perfect vision from the lens replacements, but her best bet was 20-25 vision with corrections. After the procedures, she has to wear reading glasses to focus on objects that are close or far away – “a small price to pay for what I got,” she said.
Very few blind people see a simple black field
Before the surgeries, Durant could see some colors and shapes. She explained in a TikTok that she was born with eyes shaped liked a football, resulting in her vision being similar to someone looking through a microscopic lens.
“I also had floaters, flashers, and a weird flame effect over the top of my field of vision,” Durant added in an interview with Buzzfeed. “So I could see the tiny threads in the carpet if I pressed my eyes up to it, and the fibers in the paper where words were printed, but not anything in life past my nose.”
While some may assume that blind people can’t see at all, very few people have a “simple black field,” as portrayed in movies, she told Buzzfeed.
“People really don’t understand what being blind actually is,” she said. “You can be blind for any number of reasons – injury, genetics, disease, etc. – so of course, a person’s own experience being blind will be different than someone else’s.”