My name is Meghan Schmidt. I was born 3 months early with Retinopathy of prematurity, weighing only 1 pound 11.6 ounces, and completely blind. The doctors did everything they could to make it so I could see, but I can only see light out of my left eye and my right eye is a prosthetic.
For about 14 years, I experienced excruciating pain in my right eye. The doctors told me to rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, and as the years went by it was around the 7 to 10 mark. I had appointment after appointment, surgery after surgery, and the doctors couldn’t ﬁgure out why the pain was so high. On my worst days, I would have to sit in a dark room because the smallest amount of light would hurt. I also had to wear a hat and dark sunglasses in school and outside because the sun and light hurt my eye. I also started having absence seizures and was constantly sick. Every single test for my seizures and illnesses came back negative and no one could ﬁgure out what was wrong with me.
One of the doctors wondered if all my seizures and sicknesses were because of my eye pain, so she recommended us to an Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstruction Surgeon. He agreed with the doctor and told us we have done everything we could possibly do to save the eye. He said our last option was to remove the eye entirely, but there would be a 50/50 chance it would not only make the pain go away, but all my seizures and other health issues go away as well. After talking it over with my family, I made the courageous decision to have my right eye removed.
On April 10th 2014, I had my eye removed and replaced with a temporary conformer with a bandage over it. I had to keep the bandage on it because the conformer was clear and if someone were to look at me, they would see what looks like an extremely nasty looking bloodshot eye. That was my very ﬁrst pain-free surgery and I LOVED it!! It was kind of weird to go home and not have to sleep with an ice pack over my eye like I had to do with prior surgeries. Having my eye removed did end up making all the pain, seizures, and constant sicknesses go away almost immediately. I still can’t believe one sick eye could cause so many problems!
About two months later, I was able to get my prosthetic eye. What I really loved is, the ﬁrst available date to get me in was June 9th 2014, my 15th birthday. The Ocularist, which is the person who makes prosthetic eyes, was able to make it look just like my left eye. First he made a mold of my eye, which felt sort of like play-dough, and then he began to make the prosthetic. It took a few hours, so we just stayed around the area until it was time to go back and pick it up. When I got it, he taught me how to put it in and take it out because I have to clean it once a month with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. I got to take it home that same day. I repeatedly thanked my parents and told them that was the best birthday present ever!
About 6 years ago, I went to a technology camp for the blind and learned how to use Voiceover on an iPad. I now have an iPad mini with a bluetooth keyboard I got from Sophie’s Run, and a Refreshabraille 18, on loan from the American Printing House for the Blind. I do most of my assignments on my iPad, unless my iPad is needed for another purpose. I like sending my ﬁnished assignments to my teachers, as opposed to remembering to print them out the next day from my Braille Note. My Refreshabraille allows me to read what’s on my iPad in braille, so I don’t have to constantly use voiceover. I type with both my Refreshabraille and keyboard, but mostly my keyboard because I feel like it’s faster. My Refreshabraille makes it convenient for me to get to the top and bottom of a screen quicker, copy and paste if needed, and it just makes it easier for me to navigate through apps on my iPad.
Math is one of my weakest subjects in school. I’ve struggled with it since elementary school. I even had to retake Algebra 1B my Junior year because when I took it my Freshman year, I didn’t do so hot. I passed with a C minus, but my TVI, school counselor, and parents believed I could do better. I wasn’t happy with the idea of retaking it, but I did it anyway and passed with a B plus. Past teachers often found it difficult to help me and would get frustrated when I would ask them to slow down because I couldn't see what they were writing on the chalkboard. I had a much better teacher the second time, and there were actually two teachers so while one was teaching, the other would sit with me and help me and I think that’s one of the things that made me improve my grade.
I’m now in Algebra 2A and I’m currently at a B. In the past, all my math assignments had to be modiﬁed because if I were to do the whole thing, it would take me hours every night. It would upset me because I would spend all night trying to get homework done and it was very stressful. My assignments aren’t modiﬁed anymore and at the most, every once in a while an assignment will take me 3 hours but that’s nothing compared to the time I get home to the time I go to bed.
My Algegra teacher’s name is Mr. Agee and I really like him. For the first time, I feel I have a teacher who is interested in giving me the additional help I need to succeed in math. I’ve never been conﬁdent in saying answers out loud in math, but now I do it to the point where he jokingly says, “Can someone besides Meghan answer this time?” He reads what he’s writing on the board and waits until I’m ready to move on. If I have a question, he’ll stop and help me until I understand it and that really makes me happy.
A couple months ago, we watched a movie in his class. We took a test the day before, and we had a shortened schedule that day so he decided to put on a movie while he graded the tests. When I sat down in class I didn’t feel my Braille Writer on the table and when I asked him what we were doing that day, he said we were doing an activity, but he was trying to ﬁgure something out ﬁrst. A couple minutes later, I hear Moana and Audio Descriptive!! That’s what he was trying to ﬁgure out! He was trying to turn it on so I could enjoy the movie like the rest of my peers! I didn’t even ask him to do it! I honestly felt a little tickled because I wasn’t expecting that at ALL! If people would complain about the extra voice in the background he would tell them to be quiet and it’s rude. At one point, he accidentally got out of the visual part of the movie and the other students were asking him to turn the visuals back on. I jokingly said, “Technically they don’t need to see it. They can just listen,” Which made Mr. Agee laugh. After class I thanked him for going out of his way and doing that for me.
About a week ago, there was something on a quiz I had to look at a graph on my graphing calculator to get the answer, and it doesn’t read me the graphs out loud so I put the equations into my calculator, and Mr. Agee sat next to me and told me the answer on the graph. There was one time he sat next to me for an entire class period to help me understand a lesson and I really liked that. Just today, we were playing a review game where you have to get on a website on your phone, and my phone wasn’t working because I had bad service in the classroom, so he got on the website on his phone, turned on Voiceover, and let me use his phone for the game! I’ve never had a teacher do anything like he does, and I’m his very ﬁrst blind student. Math is still not my favorite subject, but I love my teacher and I love that I’m getting a lot better at it! Sometimes if I feel guilty about one of my test scores, he’ll tell me my score is better than most of the kids in my class.