For the first Night Steps event in Moncton, we decided that we are doing it for Stacie.
Stacie Allain was only 24 years old when she found out she was losing her sight.
"I had just given birth to my first son when I got the diagnosis. Within 6 months I had to turn in my driver's license. I was devastated."
"I felt trapped, alone and helpless. I spent years afraid to leave my house and had so much anxiety for my future and for my son's future; how would I take care of him if I was blind?" says Stacie.
"It was not a good time in my life, I wasn't sure I had a future."
Stacie's vision has since deteriorated, "I have about 3% of my vision in my left eye, kind of like a little peep hole. My right eye can only see light, so I can tell if the lights are on or off, but that's about it" she says.
Stacie eventually decided it was time to get some help. She reached out to Vision Loss Rehabilitation New Brunswick, a CNIB Organization, and received rehabilitation services to help her live and get around independently. She learned basics in the kitchen to help her prepare meals safely; things like how to cut vegetables, pour hot liquids, labeling tactics to help her know her can of soup from the dog food, all went a long way in helping her be able to care for her family.
She learned what a white cane was (a mobility aid to help people who are blind get around on their own), how to use it and why it is important. Like lots of people who are struggling to adjust to their sight loss, Stacie didn’t want to use a cane. "I initially rejected my white cane; I really didn't want to use it. My instructor was patient with me and told me that I had to bond with the cane, I thought she was crazy at first… but now I get it. My white cane is my key to independence, it's how I'm able to get out of the house without as much anxiety about tripping or getting lost; it's been a game changer for me" she says.
After her rehab, Stacie needed to start putting her new skills and knowledge into practice but wasn't sure how. "That's when the CNIB Foundation reached out to me. They wanted to know if I would like a volunteer. I wasn't so sure about the whole idea, having a stranger come to my house and read my mail wasn't exactly something I was into, but they told me it was a young student from the Oulton College Optician Program and that she needed to get volunteer hours in the CNIB's Vision Mate program to graduate. I agreed to give it a try and help the student out, I couldn't be happier that I did. Having a weekly visit from Mia, my Vision Mate, was the beginning of me feeling that I was in charge and that my blindness didn't need to define me. We started going out for walks, to the mall, grabbing a cup of coffee together, things that I hadn't done in years because I was too afraid to leave the house. Mia was by my side, guiding me and describing things around us, like steps that I could trip on, potholes to avoid or a hot guy that we just passed" she laughs. "All the things that I couldn't see anymore, my volunteer was able to tell me about and it was almost like I could see those things myself again."
Stacie's weekly outings with her Vision Mate helped her gain confidence in the skills she had learned in rehab so when she heard that the CNIB Foundation was having craft classes, hiking trips, weekly walking groups and more "I was in!" she said. "I've been going to weekly Coffee & Chat groups with other people who have sight loss, painting a collaborative mural in their office with the help of my iPhone, I have another volunteer Darlene that I go walking with and Mia and I still get together, she's become a great friend, and I wouldn't have met either of them if it wasn't for the Vision Mate program."
"I went through a dark time with a lot of self-hate because of my vision loss; I finally feel like I am on the other side of that." she says. "I've really come a long way in the last few years; I have more self-confidence; I've gained the skills I need to get out and I have the opportunity to practice them. I'm even starting to be more accepting of my blindness and have started speaking up for what I need. People don't really understand what it's like to be blind and I've never had the confidence to explain what I need to them, but now I do and it's so freeing!"
Now, having just turned 40, Stacie is a mother of three with two teenage boys and an eight-year-old daughter at home. "Ensuring my family is okay is what is most important to me! I feel like I found myself again" she says. "I felt so hopeless, I was depending on my husband and older kids to help me with my youngest, but that's all changing. Just last week I told my daughter that we were going to the library, she wasn't so sure about it. She thought she would have to guide me but wasn't sure how to get there, I told her that I had it under control. We walked the whole way there, got her some books and she was so excited, she didn’t feel like I was her responsibility. I was excited because I was finally able to do that for her, on my own; it was an amazing feeling!"
"The CNIB Foundation has been life-changing for me, that's why I'm walking in the Night Steps fundraising walk. They need the money to be able to offer these life changing programs and services to people like me and I want to make sure that other people who need these services can access them. I volunteer for CNIB, I'm fundraising for them, I'd do just about anything for these amazing folks; they and their organization have given me my life back and I couldn’t be more grateful."
Do it for Stacie. Register or join a team today