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Originally published Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 11:26 PM

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Optical machine helps woman see again

Ann Disney was nearly blind — until she visited an optometrist in Seattle last fall and went home with a machine that helps her see.

The (Centralia) Chronicle

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Ann Disney did not think a 90-minute visit to an optometrist in Seattle last fall would do any good, considering she is legally blind.

Disney lost her left eye from diabetes in 2005 and developed low vision in her right eye, making glasses useless.

"My eyes are opposite of what a normal person's would be," the Lewis County resident said. "I don't have middle vision, I have outer vision."

In the optometrist's office, the doctor had Disney try a Prisma machine. The machine works as a projector that hooks into a television. The doctor slid a magazine under the machine's projector and had Disney look at the magnified magazine on the TV screen.

"I was reading a magazine with pictures and I had a tear in my eye," Disney said. "I could see the picture and the lady said, 'This machine really works for you.' "

The optometrist, working for SightConnection in Seattle, sent Disney home with the machine, which costs several thousand dollars, for no charge. Disney also went home with specialty glasses for $130.

SightConnection is a private nonprofit vision-rehabilitation agency that specializes in helping people with vision loss stay active and independent. It receives most of its funding through grants and donations.

Eden Greer, community-outreach coordinator for SightConnection, said Disney, 50, is a unique patient because the agency targets people older than 55 and in the Seattle area.

When Disney came home with the Prisma machine in October, her daughter Melissa Hunt set her wedding pictures under the projector. For the first time, Disney saw the pictures from the 2006 ceremony.

"She hadn't seen them for that many years," Hunt said. "Shortly before our wedding is when she lost her left eye. She couldn't see much at our wedding at all."

Since Disney has used the Prisma machine and specialized glasses, her vision has stabilized.

She now reads stories to her grandchildren Sam, David and Addy and she has caught up on movies she couldn't watch over the past few years. She has also restarted her passion for cooking and gardening.

"I put cookbooks in front of the machine and read my recipes," Disney said.

Before Disney found the machine last fall, she had spent the last half decade discouraged about seeing clearly again. Around the time she had her left eye removed, her doctor told her she could go completely blind by 2010.

Over a year later, Disney is grateful she decided to meet with the optometrist in Seattle.

"It was the best 90 minutes of my life," Disney said.

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