Jeremy G.- Age 28
Kingsport, Tennessee

Retinal Dystrophy

It was always a question of whether or not I would ever be able to drive with my eyesight. I remember vividly as a sixteen-year-old taking driver’s education with my classmates. One by one we were called back into the instructor’s office to take the vision test. Every one of my classmates passed except me. Embarrassed…that’s an understatement. This was only the beginning of my driving experiences.

Fortunately, at that time in my life, God blessed me and I was able to begin driving with the help of a great low vision eye doctor I was seeing at the time. Dr. Hardacre, who worked for Northwest Eyecare  in Freeport IL,  was able to fit me with glasses (not bioptics at this point) that I was able to use to drive. Because of my diagnosis as a rare type of Retinal Dystrophy, I was then and am still limited to daytime driving.  I was able to drive without bioptics for seven years.  I am and will always be thankful to him for his services.

During that time, I also owe great thanks to a personal friend who recommended that I get connected with the local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services for assistance to purchase the equipment I needed. This included a closed-circuit T.V. and other items. They also helped provide my very first pair of bioptics that I never had to use. Vocational Rehab of Illinois also paid for my undergraduate work at Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, TN.

After completing my Bachelor of Science Degree at Johnson Bible College in Youth Ministry/Preaching, it was time for me to get that first ministry. (job)  I began to ask myself some serious questions. “Can I really do this with my vision?” “Will the students in the youth group make fun of me?” “What about driving the church van or bus?” Again, God blessed me with my very first ministry in Indiana.

Moving to Indiana meant a big change. Not only in location but also in driving restrictions and regulations.  In Illinois, I was able to drive without bioptics. But over those seven years my vision had decreased to a point where I was unable to meet the standards of Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles. Therefore, it meant I had to start driving with bioptics.

Again, God put in my path the right people to help me get back on the road and continue living my life in a “normal” way. I was connected with the Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation who recommended that I see Dr. Richard Windsor In Hartford City, IN.

My first visit with Dr. Windsor was amazing! To this day I still have not found another eye doctor of any kind as full of knowledge and understanding of Low Vision than he. He helped me get started on the path to bioptic driving. He worked with vocational rehab to help purchase a 4X power bioptic. (Which was the highest the state would allow at that point) 

I then had to complete a training program that included working through a notebook of exercises and a thirty-hour behind the wheel training in Indianapolis.

It took me a while to complete the notebook training, but I finally did it. After that, I had to begin my behind the wheel training at Easter Seals Crossroads Rehabilitation Center. My trainer, Mary Ellen Keith, helped me accomplish my training in just over 20 hours. She helped me meet the state qualifications in Indiana and was able to attain my bioptic driver’s license.

I drove successfully for three and a half years in Indiana, accident and ticket free!

Then, God called me to move to another youth ministry position in Kingsport Tennessee in 2007. Moving to a different state once again meant that I had to meet new requirements. Dr. Windsor and his staff worked with me to locate another Low Vision Specialist in Knoxville and Johnson City, TN. I am currently a patient of Dr. Bruce Gilliland He helped me meet the Tennessee requirements for driving and also put me into a new updated pair of bioptics that uses only one eye (my left) for my driving.  I continue to use these bioptics on a daily basis for all my driving needs. Including, driving the church vans.

Working with teens and driving with bioptics can be brutal at times with the remarks, but once they understand, we really have a good time with it. God has put the right people in my path throughout my life and I believe he will continue to do so. I owe so many thanks to a lot of people who have helped me get where I am today. If anyone else has taken the time to read this and would like someone to talk to about the experience or dealing with Low Vision I am always open to that!

Just a side note, because of my experience with bioptic driving and my unique position at the church in Indiana where I served, I was able to help a husband and father who had never driven in his life obtain his driver’s license using bioptics through the services of Dr. Richard Windsor! Jeff can now drive and help his wife with their kids, running them to school and all the other duties that come with being a parent and a husband. It has changed their lives dramatically!