Mum Connie Parke hadn’t seen her children’s faces for more than a decade when a simple procedure changed her life.
After being misdiagnosed, she found her life getting much smaller as her vision gradually declined.
She had no idea how her adult daughter looked, and last saw her eldest grandchild when they were just three weeks old.
Doctors told her that she was suffering from detached retinas or glaucoma.
But the diagnosis was incorrect – she actually had cataracts, which could be removed easily and restore her sight.
After having the surgery, the mum now has 20/20 vision in both eyes after being left blind for 15 YEARS.
Emotional Connie has spoken about how it felt when surgery finally restored her vision last year, after an ophthalmologist diagnosed cataracts, one of the most common adult vision issues.
Connie, from Aurora, Colorado, USA, said: “People need to get rechecked because I was blind for 15 years probably for no reason. They’ve been doing cataract surgeries for years.”
She added: “The day the retina specialist told me he saw no diseased retinas, my husband and I instantly got upset.
“I had a little resentiment towards the doctors that couldn’t find anything wrong or told me all these things were wrong, but the God’s honest truth is the day they took the patch off my eye, and I could see, it took all that anger away.”
Connie first began noticing halos and prisms on car lights while driving in 2003 and went to a doctor who told her she had glaucoma.
“Three weeks later, I had lost even more sight and peripheral vision,” she said.
The mum was told that her loss of vision was sadly inoperable and she would become blind.
“I didn’t believe it until I started hurting myself,” she said.
“I was getting lost, falling down stairs, falling up stairs and setting myself and my house on fire. I had lost over 85% of my sight in five and a half months.”
In a drastic move to reclaim her independence, she relocated from Montana to Denver, Colorado in 2004, to attend blind school.
Determined not to let her blindness stop her, she continued doing outdoorsy things she had always loved, such as ice skating, kayaking, camping and attending sporting events and concerts.
“I was so happy to be in the nosebleeds screaming my lungs out and not seeing anything,” she said. “I just lived life as much as I possibly could the way I did before I lost my sight.”
But there were some major things that were difficult to adjust to – and she lost some of her independence.
“I wasn’t really sure to how to use a cane and I would keep walking into bushes,” she said.
“I had to have somebody with me when I cooked to make sure the food looked okay. I couldn’t vacuum and had to sweep in a pattern.”
In 2018, Connie was referred to the UCHealth Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center and the ophthalmologist told her she was suffering not from a detached retina, but very dense cataracts and suggested surgery.
“On November 12th, the doctor did my right eye. When they took my patch off the next day the first thing I saw was the nurse’s eyebrow, eyelashes and pupil and I started crying,” Connie said.
“She had me read an eye chart and the first line I read was 20/20.
“I think the doctor was as surprised as me because he had made it perfectly clear he wasn’t promising me measurable vision.
“I had the second eye done and right after Thanksgiving, I was seeing 20/20 out of both eyes.
Now, Connie has retired her guide dog Talulah Mae to a regular dog and has a job as a unit clerk with UCHealth.
She has been able to see her eldest grandchild for the first time since she was an infant, and her other eight grandkids for the first time ever.
“The eldest doesn’t look anything like she looked when she was three weeks old,” Connie joked.
She also enjoys watching things that most people take for granted.
“I got to watch all the flowers bud and the trees grow leaves,” she said.
“People think it’s tedious to watch grass grow, but when you haven’t seen a blade of grass in years, you watch the grass grow.”
She added that it was painful to see herself ageing.
“The hardest thing was looking in the mirror, because I never thought about myself aging,” she said.
“I had no idea who that was looking back at me.”
She was, however, happy to see her husband Robert again.
“He’s still the most handsome man ever and I’m still completely in love with him,” she said.
Now, she’s excited to retake the vacations the couple had been on when she was blind.
“He took me to the Oregon coast, Yellowstone and all through the Rockies. Now I just want to go see it again,” she said.
“Well, I want to go see it.”