Lions Club, Austin Retina Associates give gift of vision to Season for Caring families

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Lions Club, Austin Retina Associates give gift of vision to Season for Caring families

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“I just don’t want to lose all my vision,” said Sandra Stephenson, 66.

The great-grandmother has been going blind since 2018 because of complications from diabetes and kidney failure. On her Season for Caring wish list, she included a second opinion for her vision.

Season for Caring is the American-Statesman’s nonprofit program that highlights the needs of people in our community and helps hundreds of others through local nonprofit organizations. Stephenson was nominated by Interfaith Action of Central Texas.

The Season for Caring campaign will continue to raise money for the 2022 recipients and nonprofit organizations through Jan. 31. Since launching on Nov. 27, it has raised about $1.37 million to help the featured families as well as the community with basic needs.

On Jan. 11, Stephenson met with Austin Retina Associates’ Dr. C. Armitage Harper. He laid out a plan for her that includes injections in her eyes to try to stop the degeneration of her retinas. The process will take some time, he said, but if she sticks with it, her vision will be maintained and possibly improved.

“I’m such a baby when it comes to pain,” Stephenson said.

With the injections, “you see the needle coming at you,” she said.

Read more: Sandra Stephenson: Lifetime caregiver losing vision as kidneys failing

She intends to follow through with the appointments and the injections, but first she sought the counsel of her pastor, who asked her if she had a broken leg, wouldn’t she use a crutch? She needed to stop looking at the injections as a traumatizing thing and see them as a helpful thing.

“I’m not going to feel sorry for myself,” she said.

In the meantime, Stephenson is making plans to improve her home, one of the many items on her wish list. She just removed the paneling in her kitchen by herself.

“I get restless,” she said.

She’s making plans for her garden.

“I am not going to give up on my garden. I know I can grow something,” she said.

Many items remain on Stephenson’s wish list. She needs her home painted inside and outside; her kitchen remodeled, including new counters, cabinets and drawers, a gas stove, a dishwasher; electrical repairs; landscaping; a new screened-in deck, mosquito removal; and fencing.

To find out more about Stephenson or give an item on her wish list, contact Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org

Read more Season for Caring stories:How to help families through the Statesman Season for Caring program

For JonPaul Jimenez, 17, it had been two years since the last time he received new glasses. JonPaul and his family have been dealing with the lasting effects of his brother Joey’s condition. Joey, 28, has brain cancer and is on hospice. Mom Michelle Jimenez, 57, has had to stop working at a Round Rock elementary school to care for Joey. Money has been tight. New glasses weren’t part of the budget.

Austin Founder Lions Club reached out to Hospice Austin, the nonprofit that nominated the family to Season for Caring. Volunteer Sam Ruiz came out to meet with the family and check out JonPaul’s eyes using a sophisticated camera that can determine a prescription for glasses, but Ruiz saw something more.

He connected the family with Eye Associates in Round Rock and Dr. William Kittleman. JonPaul has a problem with his eyes called keratoconus that will be monitored to see if it worsens. Last weekend, JonPaul was able to get his new glasses.

Without the Lions Club, they would not have known about the problem.

“The Lions Club took care of everything,” Michelle Jimenez said.

Read more: Joey Jimenez: Son with brain cancer cared for family after father’s death

The Lions Club is trying to expand its services in Austin. Ruiz has been meeting with Central Health, the hospital district of Travis County, to see if the district would support a van that could go to community events, elementary schools and clinics to diagnose more people with eye diseases and fit them for glasses. Eye insurance company VSP has agreed to donate the equipment, Ruiz said.

Many of the items on the Jimenez family’s wish list have been taken care of. Edward Chavez, who flips houses professionally, completed many home repairs, including replacing doors and fixing the vent over the stove. Ruiz connected the family with a tree service to trim their trees.

The family still needs a new refrigerator, shelves and brackets, some updates to the kitchen and some accessibility aids in the bathroom. They also would like to take a family trip to the beach.

To find out more about the Jimenezes or to donate an item on their wish list, contact Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org

More help: Fellow Round Rock teacher, her husband help Season for Caring mom with home repairs

How to donate

Find the daily coupon in print on Page 2B or go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

To donate: Use the form below or click here: https://statesmansfc.kimbia.com/statesmanseasonforcaring