Tracy Turner* has a permanent visual impairment that cannot be corrected by conventional glasses, surgeries, or medical interventions. She was having difficulty reading, writing, and performing daily living activities. Her low vision optometrist recognized the need for low vision services to help her remain independent and improve her quality of life. This includes using low vision equipment at home.
William Smith, OD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh, and Director of the Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation Service evaluated and assessed low vision devices to achieve Turner’s visual needs and goals. He then made a referral to the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Occupational Therapy Low Vision Rehabilitation with recommendations for low vision evaluation, including equipment and device trial.
Working with Holly Stants, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, CLVT, UPMC CRS OT, Low Vision Rehab Team Leader, Turner was able to learn vision skills and how to use special low vision equipment and devices to promote using her current functional vision. She was able to read, participate in crafting, see faces, watch TV, and engage in daily tasks that had recently been impossible. Following her low vision occupational therapy, “she identified that she now has hope for the future,” Stants stated.
This equipment, however, costs almost $5,000, which Turner could not afford. Her 72-year-old mother took on a part-time job trying to save money in the hopes of purchasing some of the equipment. Dr. Smith made referrals to local agencies to cover the cost of the devices. Unfortunately, Turner did not meet the qualifications/guidelines to receive services and funding.
Thankfully, the Eye & Ear Foundation had received a special grant from the Addison Gibson Foundation, whose goal is to help alleviate financial burdens stemming from medical care. After exhausting all possible options for Turner, Dr. Smith enlisted the help of patient navigator Dana McGinness-Thomas to see if Turner qualified for the Addison Gibson grant.
Several months later, success! With the help of this grant, the low vision equipment that Turner had been using with Stants at her appointments was purchased. This equipment includes:
- CCTV Merlin HD CCTV (closed circuit television)
- +8.00 prism half eyes low vision microscope
- Max detail clip-on loupe
- Max TV spectacle-mounted telescope (clip-on)
With this equipment, Turner can remain independent and minimize the effect her low vision has on her daily life. “It was essential for her to have these devices to enable her to function in a visual world. It is similar to a person that might need a cane or a walker for mobility,” Dr. Smith said.
Now Turner can read anything. She had not been able to read paper and magazines for two years. She can watch a movie and see the details. With the clip-on glasses, she does not have to sit close to the television and can sit in her rocking chair, which is two to three feet from the 32-inch television screen. “That’s a miracle,” she said.
Low vision rehabilitation services significantly impact a person’s ability to remain independent and overall improve quality of life, Dr. Smith said. There are many barriers to services such as funding and cost of devices. “We are extremely grateful to funding sources such as the Addison Gibson Foundation to help make a difference in people’s lives,” he added.
Turner is appreciative as well. “I’m happy,” she said. “I can go on with my life.”
*Name changed for privacy