John and Mary’s Story

John and Mary YatesJohn Yates is a decorated World War II veteran who met Mary, his childhood sweetheart, at a funeral when they were both in their late 70s.

The two had lost their spouses years earlier and were delighted to discover the spark was still there. In a church service before a standing room only gathering of family and friends, John and Mary married.

Barely two months later, John was driving with Mary when he realized that he couldn’t see the car in front of him. Doctors diagnosed him with Macular Degeneration, a disease associated with aging. This fiercely independent man, who had laid the foundation for his home and built much of it with his own hands, couldn’t see well enough to make himself a cup of coffee.

“What was going through my head was, what good am I?” John said. “I grew up doing things. I could wire, I could lay block, work with lumber, cement and build things and now I can’t drive a nail. I couldn’t see the faces of my children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, and worst of all, I couldn’t see Mary’s face.”

John was referred to Low Vision services at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. He told the Low Vision team he had one goal: “I just want to see Mary’s face.”

Dr. Erica Hacker, an optometrist who specializes in Low Vision, examined John and prescribed sun glasses to help with glare, a Closed Circuit TV for reading and writing, a talking wristwatch, and an illuminated magnifier for portable reading such as grocery labels or restaurant menus. To enable him to see faces, Dr. Hacker prescribed the Jordy, a head-worn video magnifier that, at the touch of a dial, allows him to see up close, far away, and anyplace in between.

The Jordy restored some detail vision. Without it, John couldn’t see the big E on the eye chart. With it, he can almost read the smallest line on the chart.

“When I first put it on, Mary was sitting across the room and the Jordy brought her into focus,” Mr. Yates said. “All I could say was, ‘Oh Mary!’ and I’ll tell you the truth, it felt so wonderful to see her face, I cried.”

At home John uses the Jordy to watch his grandchildren play soccer, enjoy the deer in his backyard, the scenery during rides in the car, and the preacher in the pulpit of the Little Red Stone Methodist Church.

“When I speak at Veterans of Foreign Wars meetings, I say, ‘if you have this problem, don’t delay. Don’t wait and sit around cursing yourself.’ And that is what you do, you get down on yourself and that is not necessary because BVRS offers help and hope.”