A UIC employee regains his vision and freedom

Dr. Joan Stelmack and low vision patient, Aaron JacksonAaron Jackson has been an employee of UIC since 2000, and currently serves as the Assistant Facilities Manager for the East Campus. So when he began experiencing vision problems a few years ago, he naturally sought out the expertise of doctors at UIC’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, who were able to diagnose and treat his worsening glaucoma.  Surgery was performed to stabilize the glaucoma and remove cloudy cataracts, but Aaron had permanent vision loss as a result of irreparable damage to the optic nerve that was caused before his diagnosis.  In November 2010, he began seeing Joan Stelmack, OD, MPH, FAAO, Director of UIC’s Low Vision Service, to learn how to function with diminished ability to see.

Dr. Stelmack established the Low Vision Service to provide rehabilitation services for patients with permanent vision loss. A low vision optometrist and certified low vision therapist work together as a team to provide patients with clinical examinations and visual skills assessments. Patients with low vision are introduced to technology and techniques that enhance their remaining sight and give them new visual skills to tackle the routine tasks of everyday life and put them on the path to independence.

“I saw Dr. Stelmack for corrective therapy,” explains Aaron. “She taught me how to recalibrate my eye movement, coordination and balance.”

“Vision rehabilitation was needed to increase independence in activities of daily living, and to explore vocational and recreational adaptations,” notes Dr. Stelmack.

According to Dr. Stelmack, the goals for Aaron’s treatment included his being able to use a computer for work and recreation, the capability to read small print such as time cards and mail, and the ability to navigate safely in poor lighting conditions. Aaron was prescribed low vision devices to enhance his remaining vision, including reading glasses, glasses for distance and a magnifying glass to see small print.

While not a “miracle cure,” most patients who undergo vision rehabilitation therapy achieve improved visual function.  Unfortunately, patients are not always aware of all the options to improve their visual function after serious eye surgery that may not be able to restore vision completely despite successful treatment of damage done by disease or injury.

Today, Aaron only sees Dr. Stelmack when functional problems arise. But those issues occur less frequently now.

“My eyes are still improving, but I’ve come so far,” says Aaron. “I no longer need anyone to help me get to the store or take me to work.”

But even more importantly, Aaron happily has been able to return to his favorite pastime: photography.

To learn more about the extraordinary patient care at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary clinics, click here.

by Margaret Doyle