Editor’s Note: In recognition of World Sight Day, which is Thursday, Oct. 9, please take the #EyePledge and get your eyes examined.
At age 27, I hadn’t really failed at anything in life – until I failed a recent eye exam. Although I have always kept a real focus on my health and wellness, it never dawned on me that my eyes were on a completely separate course than the rest of my body. But through a chance set of circumstances, I was diagnosed with a serious eye condition and today I’m grateful to have avoided blindness.
The chain of events began when, as a member of the African American Leadership Council, I volunteered to provide free vision screenings at the National Urban League conference this past July. Working alongside local optometrists at a company-sponsored booth, I thoroughly prepared to answer any questions that might come up. And even though I had an eye check-up two months prior, my commitment included taking the same vision screening that passers-by would receive. It was an action that changed my life forever.
After a productive day on the conference floor, I was shocked to learn that it was my test results that stood out among the many eyes screened. I stared at an over-sized picture of my retina while optometrists explained that I had a few holes, extraneous fluid, and partial retinal detachment in both eyes. They were describing my eventual diagnosis of Lattice Degeneration, a condition typically characterized by oval or linear patches of retinal thinning. I learned this condition usually occurs in about 10 percent of the general population and is more commonly found in people who are nearsighted.
In that moment I was incredibly nervous and scared. Even though I work in the vision care industry and get my eyes tested regularly, the events of my diagnosis came down to luck. Many people believe that if you have good vision then nothing is wrong, but I learned that it can not to be taken for granted. Fortunately, my diagnosis was made in time and a corrective procedure called grid photocoagulation was scheduled immediately.
In honor of World Sight Day, Oct. 9, I encourage you to get your eyes tested as it could be a critical first step in diagnosis and treatment of an eye-related condition. The World Health Organization reports that approximately 285 million people worldwide have visual impairment, and an additional 39 million are blind. However, even though it remains a major international public health issue, they also note that 80 percent of that visual impairment could be prevented or cured with regular, comprehensive eye exams.
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care has numerous, impactful programs that support its mission to bring healthy vision to everyone, everywhere, every day. One of my favorites is Sight for Kids, a partnership with the Lions Clubs International Foundation that has provided free vision screening to 20 million children in need globally. To learn more about this great program, watch this video.
I feel lucky to work for a company who backs such a meaningful effort, and I’m now motivated to do my part in spreading knowledge and encouraging action. Holding on to my vision is a gift I will value daily, and through my challenging health care journey, employees reached out and rallied around me.
I’ve seen Our Credo in action and ask that you help me continue in this spirit to help yourself, and help others. Take the #EyePledge and promise to get your eyes tested, and then share that message on social media channels, with your friends and family, and wherever you think it can make a difference.
Tier Brown Acker is an licensed attorney with the Florida Bar and has been a Contract Administrator with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care for two years.