It had been 13 years since Natasha Sokol had seen her mother’s smile, the words in a book or the leaves on a tree.
When the 26-year-old Palmdale resident was 12, she was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, a type of macular degeneration that causes children and teens to lose their sight. Since then, she has been legally blind, limiting her vision to a minimum and diminishing her hope that she would be able to see normally again.
“I had to let go of almost every dream I’ve ever had,” Sokol said.
With her disease, she is even unable to shop, cook or do laundry by herself. She struggled to complete high school because it was hard to read the dry erase board or her textbooks without straining herself or getting a headache, which worsened and prevented her from pursuing her dream of higher education.
“This disability took all of that away,” she said. “It took everything.”
It was not until a few weeks ago that Sokol began to have hope again.
On a Tuesday, her friend told her about eSight glasses, eyewear that helps people who are legally blind see through a camera. The device lets the user adjust it, zoom in and out and even includes an HDMI cord to connect to a television or computer.
By that Friday, she had booked an appointment to see if the technology could work for her.
Sokol walked into the office that day with 20/200 vision in one eye and 20/800 in the other.
When she nervously put the eSight device on, she did a field of vision test.
The results came back 20/20.
With her mom, dad, fiancé and guide dog by her side, she took a moment to look at each of them carefully. Everyone’s eyes filled with tears.
“She no longer was just a piece,” Sokol said about her mom Kristy. “She was the whole picture. It was amazing.”
She hadn’t truly seen either of her parents since she was in middle school and had never clearly seen her fiancé before. She was mesmerized by the crinkles on her mom’s face when she smiled, the way her dad laughed, the hair sticking up on her dog and the twinkle of her fiancé’s bright eyes.
“It was really emotional,” Gene Sokol, Natasha’s father said. “She was able to see what we look like for the first time.”
Seeing their daughter go through this for over a decade was devastating, according to Natasha’s mom Kristy Sokol.
“I think I forgot to breathe,” Kristy Sokol said. “I was just so amazed to see the joy on her face.”
Despite the struggle of not being able to see, Kristy said her daughter maintained her bravery, sense of humor, willingness to listen to others, intelligence, love of singing and passion through the years.
She wants her daughter to be able to pursue her dreams and return to a sense of normalcy, and she believes the glasses would do that.
“It could absolutely change her life,” Kristy Sokol said. “This is a girl that walks literally by faith because she can’t see the ground she walks on.”
After that hour-long appointment, Natasha Sokol had to give the device back. To get one of her own, it will cost her family $10,000.
Her father works in Santa Clarita as an in-house messenger and driver at AMS Fulfillment, who are spearheading a campaign to raise the funds for the eSight glasses.
If she is able to get this technology, Natasha Sokol said she is looking forward to getting her independence back.
“I’m getting to see the world all over again,” she said. “Letting in hope again is letting in all these other emotions.”
For those who would like to donate, visit giving.esighteyewear.com/Natasha-Sokol.