LORETTA SCHOOLS’ AMAZING STORY
Loretta Schools, 81, has experienced a pattern of unusual and unpredictable vision losses throughout much of her adult life. At 34 years of age, she woke up one morning completely blind in one eye. Shocked and scared, she sought medical help and received a diagnosis of optic neurosis, then treated with the corticosteroid drug Prednisone to fight inflammation. Over time, she regained about 70% of her vision. Unfortunately, that was not a one-time event. Loretta would later suffer several recurrences of this unpredictable condition. At times, headaches and eye pain accompanied these attacks. Despite this alarming eye disease, Loretta lived much of her life normally, working at a bank (SunTrust 13 ½ years) followed by four years for a travel agency, then 17 years as a full-time nanny, one of her favorite jobs. During most of her working years, she retained enough vision to drive with a valid driver’s license until age 65. She has now been happily married for 62 years and has five children, 12 grandchildren, and 9 great grand-children.
However, as luck would have it, additional eye maladies followed her optic neurosis starting with glaucoma, then macular degeneration late last summer. That is when Loretta was forced to face the reality of being permanently visually impaired. This was a major blow for her, even after all of the on and off eye problems of her earlier years. This led to bouts of anxiety and depression from no longer being able to do many of the normal day-to-day activities she used to do without a second thought. One day last year in late summer or early fall, Loretta’s daughter suggested going to the (Tampa) Lighthouse for help. Reluctantly, Loretta did just that, not knowing what to expect. Once she started coming, it didn’t take long for her to realize that, there was indeed life after visual impairment. She began learning the many tricks, techniques, and tools that are available for those with vision loss. The many tasks she had given up on were being restored a day at a time with each class attended. Her depression and anxiety quickly vanished, giving her new enthusiasm, energy, and a zest for life. “I cannot tell you how much difference the Lighthouse has made” she proudly proclaimed during our interview. “It was the best thing that has happened in a long time,” she added. She also acknowledged that, one of the best benefits of coming to the Lighthouse was coming to terms with her visual impairment and accepting it.
Loretta’s spunk and positive attitude belies her age and all that she has been through as she approaches the completion of her daily living skills classes. She is far from done at the Lighthouse as she has further plans to take adaptive computer training along with Braille – she relishes the challenge of learning something that approaches the complexity of a foreign language and wishes to be prepared for when she might not be able to read large print. She is currently using an iPad for the same day-to-day activities undertaken by others with tablet computers. She also wants to be a spokesperson for the Lighthouse so she has a lot on her to-do list. With her large family and her many interests, there is no retirement in the cards for Loretta as she is doing what she loves every day. And, by the way, she is also a talented artist who loves to paint and has her own calendar (put together by her son) featuring a lighthouse painting of hers on the cover and a painting for every month of the year.