I Can See!

I Can See! Matilda Lindgren

As we head into the holidays, I’d like to share a heartwarming story that illustrates how our Medical Respite Program helps people. About a month ago, I got a call from Tim Keffer of the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Community Connection Center about a blind man named Ken.

Ken used to have an apartment and a job, and his life was stable. Then he developed cataracts and began to go blind. Over the course of a year, he lost everything–his job, his health insurance and his housing. Fourth Street Clinic was able to put Ken up in a motel, where he had been for three months.

Losing everything is difficult enough, and for Ken, living in a motel while blind had become unbearable. He says, “I had to figure out how go to the store to get food and do everything myself. It was pretty claustrophobic.”

Ken’s emotional wellbeing suffered and he was in constant fear for his safety, so much so that he was on the verge of contemplating something drastic. But instead, he called 911.

Tim was part of the Community Connections Center team that responded. Upon arrival, they saw how desperate Ken’s situation was and gave me a call. Fortunately, we had a bed open, and they were able to bring Ken right over. His eyes were like opaque clouds.

Ken told me, “When I came in to The INN Between, not being able to see, the people were all so nice. It’s like everyone is here to help you, and that was a lot different than what I’d just gone through.” Ken could only make out vague shapes, but he quickly learned how to get around the building and became very independent.  He felt safe and his emotional outlook improved dramatically. 

About a week after moving in, Ken had his first eye surgery at Moran Eye Center. Describing the surgery, he said, “It’s like they’re filleting a fish, and you’re watching it from the inside out.”  Our driver, Mark, spent a lot of time with Ken and was with him when the doctors removed his bandage. Ken had been told that it could be hours before he would be able to see, but he told us, “As soon as they opened my eye, I could see everything clearly. I looked at Mark and I could see his white beard – it was the first time I’d seen what he looked like.” 

Mark commented, “Before we went into the doctor’s office, Ken told me he needed a shave, and I said, ‘you ought to see my beard’ forgetting that he actually couldn’t see it.  I felt bad about saying that.  So when Ken looked at me and said, ‘Wow, I can see your long white beard and that you’re wearing a camouflage Ute ballcap,’ I got teary eyed out of joy.” 

With sight in one eye, Ken started spending more time hanging out with our other residents and helping out around our home wherever he saw a need. His second eye surgery did not yield the same immediate results, and he felt the setback keenly. He has had a follow up procedure and will probably require one more to fully regain vision in that eye.

Ken told me, “I am very grateful to Fourth Street Clinic and The INN Between, and especially Tim who got me into The INN Between. I’m so happy there’s someone out there like him doing things to help people like me.”

Today, Ken's eyes are bright and clear, and he has a very positive outlook. He says, “I left my job on very good terms, and I hope to go back as their season starts up in the spring.” He’s been a wonderful addition to our home and took on the job of taking out the trash in the dining room. He even wheels around our residents who need help.

With a new lease on life, Ken will soon be moved from our home back into the community where he can begin to rebuilds his life. We will continue to work with Ken through this process to ensure his success.