SOUTHEAST IDAHO– Kyeshia Hayward, 20, has been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, severe pigmentary retinal dystrophy, bilateral, cystoid macular edema, ocular hypertension. This condition changes how the retina responds to light, making it hard to see. Many individuals lose their vision slowly over time, but in some cases, like in Ky's case, her vision is failing quickly and could potential be gone completely in one day.
Ky has been doing college classes online, which has been helpful. It gives her a chance to have the print read to her or expand the sizes of the font so it is easier to read. "It helps reduce the anxiety and depression she has over her eyes. She doesn't want to stand out," says her mother, Elissa. Ky has always been a big reader and the evolution of electronic readers has helped a lot. It gives her a chance to enlarge the words or have things read out lout. There are also reading apps on the TV which have things read out loud as well. It reduces the strain. She also likes to play games like Mario Kart on the phone and Nintendo Switch which gives her a chance to hold it closer, so she can see the characters without straining. Even though she can still enjoy some things, the threat of losing her eyesight is causing a deep depression to settle in.
Elissa and Ky know the owners of the Drink Factory, in Idaho Falls (and Blackfoot), and they enjoy stopping in to grab drinks after doctors appointments. The owner has put up donation boxes in both locations and posted it online as a way to help the family get the word out about Ky.
Ky's major wish is to see Europe before she loses her eyesight. Her grandfather used to travel to Europe for work and would bring back gifts for Ky and her siblings. The stories he would tell sparked a love of Europe. She loves the history and the paintings, how they have withstood the tests of time. "I love paintings and the way they have been around for so many centuries. Looking at these paintings, one can interpret them any way one is feeling. I love the old buildings and the designs. One of the places I would love to see is the Queen's castle," relates Ky. Ky hopes that before her vision is gone she would be able to see Pompeii, London Tower, Eiffel Tower, and other places like Stonehenge, flats of Scotland, and the sweet shops of Sweden.
Even though there are trainings to help people who are suffering with losing their eyesight like cane training, learning braille, and daily skills without one's eyesight, "there is nothing out there to help them with the actual loss of vision. There is only so much a person can learn to do alone. Braille machines and service dogs are pricey. We have a cutting board to help Ky make sandwiches on her own. The black cutting board helps her see the pieces of bread and make easy things to eat."
Elissa commented on how the Ky everyone sees is different than what is happening at home. "Ky has the motto, try to make others happy because I am not. I am depressed and have severe anxiety over my eyes. I try to keep others positive and happy to make sure they don't see how I am truly struggling with this new change in my life.'Many people see the strong smiling Kyeshia when she is out in public, but they don't see when we are in public how close she stays to me or holds on to my shirt or coat to help guide her, and they don't see the crying, or the panic attacks or the bruises from her tripping and hitting things or falling when she happens to do that in public." Elissa has been trying to keep a strong face for her daughter but when Ky breaks down behind closed doors, it is tough. "I hide my own issues and for my kids, I hide the pain and things I go through every day to not stress my kids out and my kids have learned to do the same things with their own issues. Now knowing this trip may not happen, has pushed a little deeper into depression. Ky still has hope that there are good people out there who will help."
Winter is Ky's favorite time and no matter her age she throws snowballs at others, makes snow angels, and even with fogged up glasses. She doesn't care. She is a big animal lover and the family dogs love checking on her when she's outside. "Her laugh is amazing," says Elissa. If one is interested in donating to the family one can go to https://tinyurl.com/uaf56mu, through Venmo @Elissa-Hayward-1 or mail to P.O. Box 554, Iona, ID 83427.