My Unfinished Story


I think I have a very special story to share with those who find themselves alone in a world of darkness and feel like there is no hope or light at the end of that long, narrow tunnel. I'm here to let you know that there is life after becoming blind. With the proper training, faith, perseverance, and inner strength; you too can accomplish what's in your heart and mind. It just takes some work, patience, determination, a lot of discipline and a positive attitude.

My name is Sylvia Lopez. My life drastically changed in 1984, at age 12, when diagnosed with Diabetes; then again in 1995, when I married my husband Daniel, lost my sight, became pregnant and lost my baby; and again, two years later, when I got new Kidneys and a Pancreas. I've gone, and am still going through, many changes and I'm constantly having my inner strength and faith put to the test. I believe my story will show how I managed a difficult life and hope it can help you get through the difficult process of getting used to blindness and still live actively.

I come from a loving and supportive Christian home. My parents are pastors and I have 3 siblings. Being a P.K. (pastor's kid) was tough, but I am grateful that my parents grounded me in Christian living when I was a little girl. My family has been my support system during the many times I've come close to death, but it's my faith and support from loved ones that has helped me pull out of these rough times.

I was diagnosed with juvenile Diabetes shortly after my 12th birthday and I've struggled with it for all of my life. I was considered a "Brittle" diabetic, taking up to 10 injections of insulin daily just to keep my blood sugar at a reasonable level. I was first diagnosed at US Medical Center in L. A. and continued at Loma Linda, which I considered my second home for the next few years.

Though I was every doctor's "perfect diabetic," following my diet to a tee and doing what I was told to do, I could never keep my blood-sugar at normal levels, and it was more convenient for the hospital to use the cheaper type of insulin. There were countless times I went through Key Tone Acidosis, where there is so much sugar in the system that your body just can't handle it and lapses into coma. Technically, I should have died at the age of 15.

The years went by, and, still struggling with diabetes, I never gave up; I fought it all the way! I had home schooling through almost all of my high school years, but I was determined to walk with my class to graduation. The doctors told me that it was safer to just accept my diploma and stay home, or in the hospital. I receive my diploma with my class in 1989.

In August of the that year, I enrolled at Vanguard University and majored in Psychology, but could not finish due to diabetes. Yes, once again, I had fallen out of control and there was nothing that could have been done to get back into the swing of things. I tried to treat myself at my dorm but couldn't do it; I went back into Key Tone Acidosis. So I went back to the hospital, my home away from home, fell behind and had to drop out.

In 1995 my life changed again with a double-blessing sent from above: my husband Daniel and our step-daughter Stephanie. I felt even more blessed because both my father and uncle married us.

In 1997, I started to notice changes in my vision. I continued to work and drive until I couldn't see the lines on the freeway; most of the time I just played "follow the leader" and prayed that the car in front of me knew where it was going. I couldn't believe what was happening, didn't know what was going on. I had been in good control for some time now! Little did I know what I was going to face.

One day, as I was sitting in front of the computer at work, I couldn't see the numbers. I wore my reading glasses, tried a magnifying glass, and still my nose was right up to the books and computer-screen. This scared me so I called Daniel, and we went to see a specialist. I was told that a little laser work might clear it up. Well, after a couple of laser procedures, my sight was taken from me. I didn't want to be a burden to anyone; I didn't want to have a husband out of obligation.

As I lost my sight, I was scared and felt alone. I didn't know what to expect from myself anymore, and I thought that there wasn't anyone who knew what it felt like to have their sight taken from them. Even though I never went through a deep depression, this didn't mean I wasn't hurting and missed all the things that I once did when I had my sight. I realized I had to get out of my slump and get into motion. I realized that I could still do many things I used to do before, but now I had to learn how to live a different life in a different way.

In 1998, I had another eye surgery done and I was nauseas for weeks. When I was asked if I could be pregnant, I just giggled, and said "no." I told the nurse that I couldn't get pregnant; the nurse just kissed my hand and told me that there's a plan for me. The nausea continued so I called my eye doctor and she gave me some pills to help, but they didn't. She sent me to the E R, and it was there, while waiting in the lobby to go home, that I was told I was indeed expecting. I couldn't believe the news. Here I was a blind woman, who is learning to take care of herself all over again, and now was going to have to take care of a baby!

When I told my eye doctor about my gift, she laughed because here we thought that the reason why I couldn't stop vomiting was because I was still trying to rid myself of the anesthesia from the surgery.

In my 6th month of pregnancy, I developed Chronic Reno failure, due to complications to diabetes, and soon would need to be on dialysis. I, of course, didn't agree; I was feeling fine, physically. I refused the treatment.

A month later, having weathered constant urgings to abort my fetus, I had an emergency Caesarian but the baby died. Though God let me clearly see a healthy son, Daniel said he'd "gone to sleep."

I refused dialysis for 3 years. I have received some training at a local facility where blind and visually impaired people are trained to live independently. I learned some mobility, Braille and computer skills; doing most of my work at home by myself. I was determined to make it work; I wanted to regain my independence, again. I pushed myself as far as I could go and learned all I needed to learn to start over.

By 2001, my kidney disease had progressed to the point where had to be on dialysis. Still I stubbornly refused, hoping for a donor. My Uncle Tony called one Sunday night and asked what could he do to help? We told him that I needed a donor, quickly! The next morning we were in Riverside Community Hospital, getting blood tests to see if we were a good match; and, in

December 2001, we were on our way for a kidney transplant.

My next step was to receive a pancreas which happened 2 years later on Mother's Day. There were many trials and scary moments, like the possibility of having liver cancer. Now I am free of diabetes, kidney disease and God still has a plan for me!

Through my trials as a blind person, I've learned that, for every bad thing, there is its good; and that attitude defines how we perceive this life and who we are. I am, and have been, active in the community. I'm past-President of the Inland Empire Chapter for the California Council of the Blind, and very proud of it; I've sat on the Advisory Committee of Disability Issues, I am a member of California Disabled Rights, and have sat on the board of directors for Community Access Center for the city of Riverside.

If you feel there is no life after becoming blind, I want you to know that if I can do it, so can you. You will reach your goal as long as you do your best, strive with determination and remember that you'll need help along the way; you can't do it all alone. Find a good support group such as your family, as mine is; or a center in town. Most importantly, don't let anyone underestimate you and your abilities; you know what your limits are. Always trust in God and believe in yourself to make it through rough times. Picture the many good things you can bring to others by your attitude and perseverance, and be an example to others who may be in a more serious situation. Look forward to another day and know that tomorrow can only get better. It's never easy, what is? Learn to deal with what life has placed in front of you, it all depends on what you do with it. Everything will fall into place sooner or later. Don't give up!

In Memory of Daniel Edward Lopez Jr.

Sylvia C. Lopez sugarsyl71@sbcglobal.net

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