Woman can now see colours thanks to generous community

The rainbow that arched over an eye clinic in Mississauga was the omen that Janice Wilson needed to be­lieve that everything would work out just fine.
She was correct, no thanks to the health care system, but with much thanks to the gen­er­osity of neighbours and friends who live in Arthur and area, and who were ready to lend a hand when one was needed.
Wilson grew up on a farm in West Garafraxa Township, just outside of Arthur, and went to elementary and high school there. She got a job at Bell Thread, later Coats Bell, and worked there for 28 years, until the plant closed. All her life, she had a vision impairment, suf­fering from albinism. That means pale skin and hair, but also no pigmentation in her eyes. Bright lights are blinding to people with the affliction.
The loss of her job left her feeling more than a little help­less. She did not qualify for un­employment because she was unable to work – or, actually, unable to find a job. She said prospective employers simply ignored her requests for work, figuring the cost of training her would be too high. She applied for disability, and got a pension from that – $808 per month.
The total cost of her two eye operations, though, ran about $4,000, including such things as transportation.
She discovered in mid-2006 her eyes were getting worse. She saw a doctor in Guelph, and learned she had a number of ailments with her eyes, and was sent to a doctor in Toronto for more evaluation, and then back to Guelph doctors, who dis­covered during her pre-operation tests that she also had sev­ere astigmatism, and that her scheduled cataract surgery would leave her with less sight than she already had.
Five months prior to her first opera­tion, she was using a white cane and was legally blind, even though she still had some sight.
In order to correct her eye problems, Credit Valley Eye Care, in Mississauga, decided to use some special implants to help her eyes to funcion better. That caused Wilson some big diffi­culties with the expense.
“The Ministry of Health calls it cosmetic surgery,” she said. “In some cases, it is cos­metic – but not when you’re going to go blind.”
Despite notes attesting to her medical need from two doctors, the ministry denied her the funding through OHIP.
“The Ministry of Health would not offer any assistance, even though this was my only hope – despite the efforts of Dr. Bon and Dr. Neufeld, and a wonderful lady at John Tory’s office. OHIP only covered the operating room and the sur­ge­on, the same as in regular cata­ract surgery.”
In all, she got six implants. She received two intraocular lenses (IOLs) at a cost of $900 each. They are artificial lenses the surgeon uses to replace a natural lens that has clouded over. As well, she needed two iris sector shields per eye, at a cost of $325 each, for a total of $3,100. Her other costs includ­ed eye drops, travel, hospital parking, tests, and meals for herself and her volunteer driv­er. In all, she spent about $4,000, plus she had to pay for glasses. Being on a pension does not provide any benefits.
“It was worth every penny,” she said of her vision improve­ments.
She paid for the first surgery herself, the day after which she arrived at the clinic for post-operational checks and saw the rainbow. It was then she decided somehow the remaining costs would be worked out.
In the meantime, the Arthur Lions Club heard about her plight and immediately pre­sent­ed her with $1,500 for the second operation, which she said was a real lift, given her financial status. The  club also offered to provide transporta­tion.
She said she had planned to have the surgery, no matter how long it took to pay it off.
“It was tough, but it was worth it,” she said of her de­cision, adding, “I don’t like to ask for handouts.”
Instead, the community gave her a hand up.
“Everybody from Arthur came out to help,” she said.
She said three women made sure she had transportation to medical appointments. “I can’t drive. I can’t see the speedo­meter,” she said.
She added that everyone in her church community at Arthur Presbyterian prayed for her, and many called or came by to offer comfort and sup­port.
And the eye operations worked beyond anything she had hoped for.
“The astigma­tism was five diopters. It’s now down to 0.5 diopters in both eyes,” she said.
Wilson is ecstatic with her new vision.
She had her first surgery on Sept. 14 and the second operation on Jan. 14.
The Mount Forest VON has pro­vided her with a visitor and, while there was a waiting list for visits, when officials there heard her story, “They put me right at the top of the list.”
Wilson has memories of what her sight had been like prior to the operations, and what it is today.
“I wasn’t able to see much more than light and dark out of my right eye prior to that sur­gery,” she said. “As a result of this, the right eye became lazy and turned outward.”
Today, Wilson can look out at the snow and she sees things that Canadians, now tired of snow, often overlook.
“I’m see­ing things so clearly,” she said. “I’m seeing col­ours I didn’t know existed. They were sort of dull before. I knew the sky was blue, but I never realized how bright it was. I never even realized that snow glistened. It’s out of this world.”
“The Lions, the VON, they all made it possible,” she said.
While she is still enjoying watching the snow glisten, like many other Canadians she is anxi­ous for spring to arrive.
“I am really looking for­ward to seeing the flowers. The colours will be amazing,” she said.