From Peers to Friends
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting in person for the first time, my multi-lingual friend, peer adviser, author, speaker, blogger, world traveler, and now winner of the Literature Medal of Merit award for her memoir, Amy Bovaird. I originally met Amy virtually a couple of years ago as a fellow peer adviser for VisionAware. Shortly thereafter she asked me to be a beta readers for her first book, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith.
Not only was I delighted to read Amy’s book, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I’d decided to go through a more intense Orientation and Mobility Training to improve my technique with the white cane. Since her book grappled with personal issues relating to the denial and emotional aspects of her vision loss it spoke to me on a deep level and validated many of my feelings.
So when I received the Facebook message that she would be coming to Pittsburgh in a few days for eye tests I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see her. I knew the hospital where we were meeting was going to be big but I severely underestimated just how big. I almost sobbed (well, not quite cause I woulda ruined my makeup) with relief because out of nowhere a hospital volunteer appeared to ask me if I required a sighted guide, a request that I gladly accepted.
I have to admit that as the volunteer and I navigated the long hallways I was intimidated by the amount of fuzzy blurs (people) and just how much I couldn’t see. In retrospect I’m thinking I probably need to adjust getting out more to acclimate to crowds but I digress.
Upon our arrival at the eye center, the receptionist guided me to where Amy and her friend Judy sat. After brief introductions we hugged and it took next to no time for Amy to be taken for her tests while Judy and I waited. Afterward we grabbed some lunch and caught up with one another.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to talk with Amy about the recent publication of the audio version on her book and her latest project scheduled to be complete in April. She writes everyday, maintains her blog (Amy’s Adventures), does speaking engagements and encourages others who are experiencing vision loss.
People fear being treated differently or looked down upon. They might feel more vulnerable or unsafe in public, as if, by using a cane, they broadcast their weakness and invite danger. ~Amy Bovaird, Author | Mobility Matters Stepping Out In Faith
Amy, who has Usher Syndrome, a condition characterized by hearing loss or deafness and progressive vision loss was told at 28 she would lose her vision to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) a genetic condition that causes retinal degeneration then blindness. This was devastating news to a person whose job took them overseas to teach. Even so, Amy went on to travel to a number of countries including Colombia, Indonesia, Japan and Egypt. It wasn’t until later that she found out that her RP diagnosis was in fact only part of the larger diagnosis of Usher Syndrome.
In view of Amy’s accomplishments it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that she would be honored as one Ohio Valley University’s outstanding alumni on her published book. I’m just glad that I had the chance to sit with this beautiful soft-spoken woman who I got to know a little bit better.