A Pennsylvania woman who was struck by a rare condition that left her legally blind in her 50s was able to see her only daughter walk down the aisle thanks to $15,000 in donations that allowed her to purchase high-tech glasses.
Joy Hoke, 54, said not being able to see her daughter, Lauren, in her wedding dress was one of the first things she thought of in January 2014 when she became legally blind in her right eye due to non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve that causes sudden vision loss. The previous year, Hoke, a former daycare supervisor, had lost vision in her left eye, also due to NAION.
“I’m legally blind. I can’t drive. I can’t work. I can’t read and then I’m not going to be able to see my daughter get married or see my grandbabies,” Hoke told ABC News of the “very dark” period in her life.
She added, “Lauren told me after that fact that one of her first thoughts was, ‘Oh my gosh, my mom is never going to see me get married,’ but she didn’t verbalize that because she knew I was upset enough.”
In the fog of that dark period, Hoke’s husband, Dave, got a text from a friend telling him about a pair of glasses for the legally blind. The glasses, made by a Canadian company, eSight, are actually a headset with a camera inside that captures video that is sent back to the headset in a form a visually impaired user like Hoke can see.
“Without the glasses my visual acuity was 20/400 and with the glasses my acuity was 20/40,” Hoke, of Sellinsgrove, Pennsylvania, said of the first time she tried on a pair. “It was very emotional.”
The glasses cost $15,000 a pair and were not covered by Hoke’s insurance. Her friends and family set up a GoFundMe page that raised enough money that Hoke was able to purchase a pair of eSight glasses and donate $2,000 to help another blind woman purchase a pair.
“Every morning I’d wake up and tears would start streaming down my cheeks. I could not believe it,” Hoke said of her friends’ generosity.
Hoke got her glasses at the end of 2015 and was able to go back to the shop where Lauren, 26, purchased her wedding dress and watch her try it on again, this time able to actually see her only daughter in her white gown.
On May 7, Hoke wore her glasses as she watched her husband walk their daughter down the aisle and Lauren say “I do” to her new husband, Jeremy.
“It was just so amazing to see my husband and my daughter and without the glasses they would have looked like just two white blobs,” Hoke said. “I felt my throat close with tears and my eyes start to well.”
“It’s such an answered prayer, from having the glasses work for me to the fundraising to seeing my daughter’s wedding, it’s all been an answer from God,” Hoke said. “My nephew is getting married in August so I’ll be wearing them again for a wedding.”