Living with Leber Congenital Amaurosis: Dami’s Story
By Damiana Harper
I was born in 1976 in Spokane, Washington. By the time I was born, my parents’ relationship was basically over, so I was raised by a single mom. It was clear from a very young age that I had significant vision loss. I started wearing glasses at 18 months. I went through lots of grueling tests as a toddler to figure out the cause of my vision loss with no real answers. Despite this, I lived a very full life. I was a Girl Scout. I did gymnastics. Basically, I did everything my friends did.
When I was 10, my mother took me to a research hospital in Portland, Oregon. After two days of testing, they told my mother I had Leber congenital amaurosis type 1. They told her I would likely be totally blind by the time I was 17.
So, I lived my days after that doing and seeing what I could because my vision had an expiration date. I didn’t just do the same stuff as my friends. I did more. I also got involved in the blindness community. I did public speaking in high school. I worked with blind kids, noticing that parents were not doing their children any favors by treating their children like fragile flowers. I worked with children with so few social skills because their parents didn’t expect them to act like the other kids. All that did was hurt them. But, I digress from my story.
So, I turned 17, and I could still see. Now, instead of vision having an expiration date, every day with vision was a gift. I went to college and met an amazing boy. We were married and pregnant with our first child within a year of meeting because I couldn’t stand the thought of not seeing my baby’s face.
I could go on forever about my life, but most of it is only interesting to me, so I’ll fast forward. I am 43, still married to that amazing boy, and we have two amazing boys of our own. I earned a Master’s degree in communications, and I work for a state agency that does vocational rehabilitation for people with visual impairments. I also still have a decent amount of vision, from my perspective.
A few weeks ago, I read a Facebook post about genetic testing. Nobody had ever talked to me about this before. I have regular eye appointments, but they really just check my vision and cataracts. I want to know more. I have started thinking I may have been misdiagnosed years ago, but I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve signed up for the genetic databases, but now what? It is such a strange feeling to doubt the one thing that had seemed certain my whole life.
So, that’s me. I’m not inspiring or pitiful. I’m just me, trying to figure out where I go from here and so glad to know I’m not alone.