My story: I was blind and got my sight surgically given to me at age 36

The most frequent question I get is, “Were you really blind?” Yes. My eyes did not work. I never would I have expected to have been given eyesight or that any surgery could have helped me. Yes, i used to be blind.

I was worse than a -20. This means that my vision was a microscope. I could tell you what angle the shears cut 1 hair if I brought it an inch from my eye. I could count threads in fabric, but I was unable to see to live my life without help. My eyes are deformed like footballs and my retinas are dangerously stretched.

The joke on Scooby Doo where Velma drops her glasses and literally can’t see? That was me for real. My glasses looked like this:

Olivia Durant Eye Surgery Glasses Blind

I could only see out of the very center if I did not move my eye at all. Contact lenses actually corrected me better than glasses for this reason.

What being blind looked like to me:

“Blind” means different things to each person. It is actually a continuum. It can mean obstructed vision or anything that prevents you from seeing on a certain level. It often does not mean a black field of vision, and very few of us are taught braille. I made some photoshop approximations of how I was seeing.

Here is a regular image:

olivia durant blind motivational speaker

Here is how I saw with no correction:

olivia durant blind motivational speaker

Here is how I saw with glasses:

olivia durant blind motivational speaker

Here is how I saw it with contacts, which was my best correction available:

olivia durant blind motivational speaker

My Contact Lenses Were Discontinued

Up until 2005 I was able to buy some extremely expensive contact lenses that hurt and caused me monthly eye infections, but they allowed me to be corrected to MAYBE 20/90. That isn’t good enough to drive but the Pittsburgh DMV forgot to test me and just gave me a driver’s license. Because of this I did drive because how else would I earn money? I just was unable to see signs. I am a VERY SAFE driver. GPS was a big help because it could queue me to turn. If I missed a turn I’d just do the safest U Turn possible.

It was dangerous enough that my eye surgeon yelled at me. I’d often not be able to recognize my friends. It was embarrassing. Only my close friends knew I was blind because I didn’t say anything.

To me, that was normal.

I am a firm believer that we are not limited by our disadvantages.

In 2005 the contact lenses I needed were discontinued and I had to use disposables. This was a huge problem. They didn’t fit and slid behind my eyes a lot. They also gave me an obstructed field of vision. I just lived like that and didn’t say anything.

Cataracts: The Dead End and the Open Door:

In about September 2015, I developed cataracts on top of this, which made what little coping mechanisms I had fail. I was slowly losing my sight even worse. They estimated that I had less than a year before I’d notice a severe impact on what was already a poor quality of life. I was a shut in for about 3 years when my job thankfully allowed me to work from home but it was isolating and terrible.

Searching for a doctor was also terrible. The American healthcare industry enjoys it when doctors sell procedures. One doctor wanted to sell me Implantable Contact Lenses. He wasn’t really answering my questions, but I now know that it would have given me maybe a few months of better vision before they would have to be surgically removed, thus increasing the risk of damage to my eye and losing my retina.

I found another surgeon that seemed to not care about anything and treated me like a piece of sausage in a factory. He wouldn’t even make eye contact with me in the office.

At this point I was terrified, but thankfully I got a recommendation from a friend to see Dr. Tal Raviv at the Eye Center of New York. No, they are not paying me to write this post. I have no financial relationship with these guys other than I paid them for my surgery and they did a great job. To this day I advise people who have problems to go there and/or ask their office for a recommendation if you can’t make it to NYC.

It turned out that removing my lenses and performing cataract surgery would allow me to have a normal quality of life. The only reason no one had suggested this before was because until your eyes start failing with cataracts, the insurance won’t cover it. The technology has also gotten better and less invasive than it used to be.

Because of my fragile retinas there was some risk. It was not advisable to do the version of the surgery that was fully covered by insurance. I needed to get the laser version.

I posted about this  on my old blog  and within 3 hours my readers yelled at me to take their money and I had raised close to $10,000 which was more than I needed so I asked people to please stop giving me money and I booked the laser version of the surgery.

The Surgery:

I had to do retina checks, surgery, more retina checks, then another surgery and so on. I had my left eye done first and then the right eye done when it healed. For most of 2016 I was doing this and healing.

This is my eye directly after being lasered:

olivia durant eye surgery laser process

That is not photoshop. My natural lens was cut painlessly under the skin without cutting into my eye at all. All I saw was colored lights.

They then took me into the OR, knocked me mostly out and then sucked that out and replaced it with a functional lens implant. During that process I thought I saw leprechauns and long face aliens inside an opal cave and flowers and butterflies. All I remember is heading the doctor say “look forward”. I did my best and asked if that was forward and then he was like…”no”. Which I thought was funny at the time but was too drugged to notice.

I had to wear this on my face to sleep:

olivia durant eye surgery process healing

I developed secondary cataracts and got 2 laser procedures to fix that. And then after about a year of surgical hell I emerged with -1 vision that is now correctable to 20/25. Yes, my hair was bright red then:

Olivia Durant red hair eye surgery glasses

My eyes were so bad we knew beforehand that I would not be getting 20/20. Another thing we knew is that I would lose my ability to focus near and far and need progressive lenses. This still is a thing that I notice every day, but it’s fine compared to what I had before.

Here is a comparison of my before and after eye surgery glasses:

Olivia Durant eye surgery glasses

Olivia Durant eye surgery glasses


Olivia Durant eye surgery glasses

After the Eye Surgery:

Having this surgery changed my life for the better in so many ways that I can’t even begin to describe it. What I didn’t realize is that being able to see would cause me to have a complete nervous breakdown as nearly everything I understood about life turned out to not be true. I didn’t understand what I looked like until 2016, and now struggle with dysmorphia. My marriage and entire life fell apart. With nothing left – not even my personal possessions, I would have to relearn how to live my life, much like a space alien who just arrived here. The movies and life experiences you all had in your 20s, I did not have.

Because of an unrelated chronic pain condition, I need warm weather, so I moved to Los Angeles in August 2017 to find out who I am. I have always believed that anything worth doing is worth doing in the biggest, most fabulous way possible.

This blog follows my journey after.