Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday September 25, 2010. Reproduced with permission.
By: Matt Preprost. Photos: Trevor Hagan.
Her sudden loss of vision sent her into depression.
Shirley Matheson’s blindness remains a mystery to her.
It’s been nearly five years to the day that she lost most of her vision in, quite literally, a matter of seconds — there one second, gone the next.
It was a Monday, and the human resources consultant had left her office to drop off a handful of mail.
“I dropped the letters in the mailbox, turned around back to my office, took a few steps and I heard voices, but everything was blurry,” said Matheson, who’s legally blind in her right eye and has only 30 per cent vision in her left.
“I was scared to death. What was happening to me? Have I had a heart attack, a stroke… what’s going on?”
Two years and endless appointments later, Matheson was told she wasn’t a candidate for restorative surgery to remove the blockage preventing blood flow to her retinas. Her doctors could not determine how or why the blockage occurred.
Matheson’s life quickly plunged into the darkness associated with her medical condition.
“I cried and sat in my house and did nothing for two years,” she said, adding she refused to go the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for help. “I was very confident that my vision was going to come back. I was stubborn. I did not want to give in to the fact this was going to be my new way of living.”
Matheson eventually accepted the loss of sight and has become one of the most popular speakers for the CNIB, sharing her story to people across the country.
This year, the Manitoba and Saskatchewan division of the CNIB received more than $400,000 from the United Way to help fund their counselling and support programs.
“Once I attended a couple of the sessions, I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad,’ ” she said. “I saw people who had gone through the same things I have and they’re living through it, so why couldn’t I?”
It’s still a tough battle for Matheson, who said she still can’t hear someone say, “See you later” without being brought to tears, but she continues to battle through it.
“Until I went to the CNIB, I wasn’t really living. I was like a hamster on a wheel trying to find that miracle cure so I could have my vision,” she said. “I didn’t have the confidence to do anything. But I can do anything; I’ve just learned how to do it differently.
“I just do more of what I can do and life is good.”