Published on February 18, 2020

Walnut’s Weatherly Benefited from Low Vision Rehabilitation

John Weatherly low visionTUPELO, Miss.—John Weatherly of Walnut first noticed vision problems while building a new house in 1997 for his family. “I noticed I would cut a board a little too long or too short,” he says. Four years later, he started seeing wavy lines when reading signs or electrical schematic drawings. After being diagnosed with dry macular degeneration at age 52 and told his vision would continue to deteriorate, he retired in 2001 from Caterpillar in Corinth, where he had worked as an industrial electrician/mechanic for 15 years. “Now I see about half of what I should see,” Weatherly says. “I only have vision on the sides now; my central vision is missing.”

While he no longer works full time nor drives, vision loss has done little else to slow him down. In 2017, Weatherly’s brother, who also has low vision, recommended NMMC’s Low Vision Rehabilitation program with board-certified occupational therapist Cheri Nipp at North Mississippi Retina Center. During office visits and a visit to the Weatherlys’ home, Nipp has recommended new technology as well as strategies to improve his quality of life. “One of the things that really bothered me was that I loved to read and I couldn’t read anymore,” Weatherly said. Nipp trained him to use digital talking books, as well as to take advantage of helpful options on his cell phone and computer. Traditional magnifiers did not provide great benefit for reading long passages, so Nipp introduced him to newer headworn magnification, devices called IrisVision and Patriot, which use a virtual reality headset with a built-in cellphone as a camera. Using these devices, Mr. Weatherly was able to read short text and do many other activities.

Weatherly uses the IrisVision or Patriot to watch TV and navigate their 80-acre property. “When we go on vacation, we’ll pull over and he can put on one of the devices and see the sights,” says his wife Valeria, who notes that most people don’t know he has a vision problem because he adapts so well.

Learning ways to compensate for his vision loss has bolstered Weatherly’s confidence. “I’m very independent,” he admits. “I still do a lot that I have always done. What I used to do in three hours may take me three days to do now, but I’m going to do it.

Weatherly urges anyone with low vision to consider Low Vision Rehabilitation. “I believe God placed Cheri here because I was meant to meet her someday to help me,” he says.

Low Vision Rehabilitation requires physician referral. Nipp works alongside retina surgeon Heather Hancock, M.D., at North Mississippi Retina Center. For more information, visit www.nmhs.net/low-vision or www.nmhs.net/retina, or call (662) 377-3340.

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