When Jonnie Mae Perry graduated from Vero Beach High School in the mid-70s and headed to
Atlanta for college she had a clear and bright vision of her future. However, when she moved back to Vero Beach in 2011 that vision had been replaced with a diagnosis that she was legally blind.
While studying for her degree in business and office administration at Morris Brown University, Perry knew she wasn’t feeling great. The next thing she knew she was told she was diabetic. “The doctor said you are diabetic. And that was about it. I wasn’t told if it was Type 1 or Type 2. And back then you weren’t educated or directed on how best to handle the disease.”
What followed was a long battle managing her diabetes, doctors determining what type of diabetes she had and the reality that she was losing her vision as a result of the disease. Perry also endured numerous operations at Emory Hospital in Atlanta in attempt to save her sight, but by the time she returned to Vero Beach the vision in her left eye was totally gone, and she had very limited vision in her right eye.
“I remember when I came back home,” she said,” that I would be with family and would meet people on the street. Whoever I was with would whisper to me who the person was and I would act like I recognized them. Most people never knew I couldn’t see them.”
By then, Perry knew that it wouldn’t be long until she couldn’t see at all. However, her life changed completely when she heard about We Care.
After qualifying for the program, she was referred to We Care volunteer physician Dr. Adam Katz at the Center for Advanced Eye Care. While there was nothing that could be done for Perry’s left eye, Dr. Katz was able to determine that the damage to her right eye was a result of scar tissue build up from previous surgeries. The result after a successful operation on her right eye was that Perry could see again, and she was fitted with glasses, something the doctors in Atlanta wouldn’t do.
“I am so grateful and thankful that We Care was here for me. I was becoming so depressed and dependent on others. I couldn’t imagine a future like that, and now I have my life back.” Perry said
That life continues to be full for her. Until recently she served as the outreach and development director and board member for the Gifford Youth Orchestra. Now she is very busy with the Gifford Community Cultural & Resource Center, Inc., that she founded. Created to focus on the youth in Gifford, the Center works to help transform lives and expose them to experiences in the community that wouldn’t normally be available to them.
Perry added, “We Care was a life-changing opportunity that has allowed me to become totally independent again and lead a life that I so enjoy.”
Most importantly, now nobody has to whisper in her ear who she is meeting on the street!