MONIQUE BATSON — Super Bowl commercial brings attention to vision loss

Published 12:05 am Friday, February 18, 2022

Each year there is one Super Bowl commercial that tends to stick out more than the others.

For me — and a lot of people — it was the tear-jerking tale of the Paralympic cross-country skier who lost his eyesight at a young age to macular degeneration.

If you Google it, you’ll come across a dozen-plus headlines about the “inspirational” story.

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And it was.

But it hit a bit differently when you have it.

While watching, the moment I heard the words and understood where the story was going, I felt the same ice water on my spine I felt in my early 30s when an optometrist spotted the early signs.

I can’t say it was a total surprise; my grandmother also had the genetic disease. And having needed corrective eyewear since first grade, the fear of possibly having it too was always in the back of my mind.

But seeing as how it is predominantly diagnosed in people older than 50, I also assumed it was something I wouldn’t experience for a while.

I’ve been “checking the box” for about five years now.

That’s how I constantly referred to the moment I had to mark it on my medical chart. Every year with my eye exam, I’d ask the doctor if it was “time to check the box.”

For a few years, the answer was a comforting “not yet.”

Until it wasn’t anymore and the timer started.

If you’re unfamiliar with the condition, it’s the progressive loss of central vision that ultimately leads to legal blindness within approximately 10 to 15 years. At its worst, people who suffer from macular degeneration can see light, color and some movement in their peripheral vision, but central sight is gone.

At best, I have 10 years left before it happens to me. At worst, it could be five or less.

From the day of diagnosis, all I could think about was making it long enough to see my children graduate from high school. My youngest is currently a freshman.

I’ve made peace with the knowledge I may never see them get married, or know what my grandchildren look like.

It’s what I don’t know that scares me more than anything else.

I don’t know how a life-long journalist can work without the ability to drive.

I don’t know how an editor can read without eyesight.

I don’t know how a single mom supports her kids without a job.

I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to make sure the light bill is paid when I can’t see to do it.

But I know there is an answer. More than a billion people across the world currently live without eyesight.

Since I first learned of my condition, I’ve worried about the moment my eyesight worsens — even a little. And I’ve been fortunate that it hasn’t weakened at all.

Until this year.

For the last month or so, there’s been a pretty significant change to the vision in my right eye. And I probably won’t sleep much until next week when I have my annual exam.

But thankfully I have wonderful children that are not only aware of my condition, but have learned to make me laugh through it.

Not long ago we were joking about it when I said, “If you can’t take care of me, will you at least put me in a nice nursing home with a water fountain I can sit by?”

And one joked back saying, “Sure. You can pick it out while you can still see. But later we’re moving you to a cheap one because you won’t know any better.”

The athlete in the video had family to push him to his goals. But as they say, and especially in my case, laughter is the best medicine.


Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at