Krista: Regaining Confidence and Independence

Krista, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was five years old, managed her condition without any complications for most of her life. But, at 20 she noticed a change in her vision. At a regular eye exam, she learned she was showing signs of Diabetic Retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that could lead to vision loss if left untreated.

Better control of her blood sugar levels would help slow the progression of Diabetic Retinopathy. Krista worked hard to maintain her blood sugar levels and continued seeing her regular eye doctor to monitor her condition. After finding hemorrhaging and scar tissue during one check-up, a series of surgeries helped maintain her vision, but eventually she lost peripheral vision in the right eye.

Facing additional vision loss in the future due to the progression of Diabetic Retinopathy, Krista reflects on how she felt after losing vision in her right eye:

“My worst fear was coming true. I had always been scared of the dark.
Now I felt I couldn’t run away from it. I was helpless and hopeless.”

Then a family member recommended she contact Minnesota State Services for the Blind who connected her with the Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss.

At the Lighthouse, Krista learned Orientation and Mobility skills that helped her get around independently. “There were a few huge turning points for me while training at the Lighthouse – I was being taught how to be independent and my confidence returned slowly. I no longer had to be on someone else’s schedule to get a ride somewhere. I could go all by myself and be alright.”

Krista also learned Braille and how to use different assistive technologies with computers, smart phones, and tablets. These alternative ways to read enabled her to first earn an Associate’s degree and then a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior with a minor in Psychology.

Krista is currently volunteering with Lutheran Social Services’ Employment Services Program, where she is helping create learning modules for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

When asked for advice to others experiencing vision loss, Krista shares: “For those just starting to experience vision loss – I would have to say, don’t give up on your dreams and your passions in life. It’s scary at first and there are so many unknowns. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and hopeless. I didn’t know how life was supposed to keep going, how was I to keep going? Then I took a deep breath, and said to myself, ok, this is what is happening, I want my life back.”

Krista reached out to the Lighthouse when she received her Leader Dog, Kaiser and to give an update on what she was doing. Acknowledging that training was difficult at first,

"Regaining confidence and independence in life is priceless and the Lighthouse was an essential partner in my journey to finding those pieces of me that I thought I lost. I will be forever grateful for all the individuals at the Lighthouse for being a part of that journey that led me back to my life."

Connecting with the Lighthouse helped Krista find the training needed to accomplish her goals.