Special surgery restores eyesight to Lawton woman

LAWTON, Okla. – Imagine living your whole life with perfect vision, and then one day it is all taken away from you in the blink of an eye.  That is exactly what happened to one Lawton woman.

Cara Mindemann spoke with 7News today about her journey, what she is doing now to raise awareness of what she went through, and how she is helping others deal with it.

Mindemann says her eyesight went bad, overnight, at the age of 22.  And that started a long fight to get her vision back.  Along the way, she lost her job, her marriage, and her independence, because she could not drive.  But she did not give up hope.

"I woke up one morning and my vision was bad, and couldn't quite figure out what it was.  And I had glasses and I did fine.  And about a month later my vision decreased more and they couldn't really figure out what was wrong," said MIndemann.

Doctors eventually figured out Mindemann had Keratoconus.  They first tried strong contacts, but that still was not enough.   So, she went to a specialist in Chicago, but that did not work.  She looked into going to Mexico for special treatment, but then found a doctor in Oklahoma City who decided she needed a cornea transplant.

"I went from seeing 20/400 to seeing 20/30 in three days.  It was a shock," said Mindemann.

And after Mindemann told her story to her personal physician, he told her about an experience called "Dining in the Dark" he once participated in, where people with normal vision go eat a meal blindfolded and experience what visually impaired individuals go through daily.

"She experienced years of blindness after, and for her it became a somewhat desperate experience, but ultimately a very eye-opening experience.  And this is an opportunity for people, ordinarily sighted, to experience an event like eating, finding food on a plate, to know what you're eating, to not spill food on yourself, to find your table, and where you are in the room.  All of these things are very foreign to us," said Dining in the Dark coordinator, Brian Birdwell.

Mindemann says she thinks dining in the dark is a perfect way to illustrate for just one second how it feels to be blind.

"I just think people need to see what it's like, just for a moment, just to see," said Mindemann.

Mindemann will be a guest speaker at Dining in the Dark, sharing her story to others.  If you would like to participate, it will be on Feb. 25 at the Cameron Campus Ministry Facility.  Proceeds from the sale of dinner tickets will go to the Institute for Corneal Transplants.