Thanks to the generosity of his community, Brady Hohl can see clearly now.
The nine-year-old Wauseon boy, whose parents spearheaded a fundraising campaign last year to get him an eSight device, is now excitedly exploring the world with his new, enhanced vision. Since receiving the $15,000 electronic headset Jan. 6, Brady has reveled in the first clear sights of his parents, Melissa and Jeremy, his siblings, Nikolas and Mia, and even his dog, Nala.
“He got to see his dad’s face and his brother’s and sister’s faces for the first time, clearly,” Melissa Hohl said. “His face just lit up. He just loved it. It was very emotional for everybody.”
Diagnosed soon after birth with Norrie Disease, a rare genetic disorder that includes detached retinas, Brady endured four surgeries over one year to stabilize what limited sight he had. However, the disease had the ability to render him completely blind by age 14 and cause hearing and developmental problems.
The disorder limited his vision to one inch or less in front of him, excluding him from participating in normal childhood activities such as movies, baseball games, and the circus.
That has changed with eSight which, paired with glasses, gives Brady vision up to 15 feet through a high-speed camera that captures his surroundings in real time. The device can also be plugged into a television or laptop computer to see those images.
“He’s just so excited. He’s loving to explore with it. He’ll have so many ‘firsts,’” his mother said.
After meeting with an eSight representative last April, the Hohls ramped up their fundraising campaign to get Brady the headset. With the help of people and organizations throughout northwest Ohio, including the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Delta, VFW Post 7424 in Wauseon, Montpelier Police Chief Dan McGee, and Popcorn Palace of Naperville, Ill., the Hohls held rummage sales, dinners, auctions, and a popcorn sale in 2016. They also accepted private and business donations, set up a GoFundMe account, opened a fundraising Facebook page, and started the Brady eSight Fund through PNC Bank.
An eSight representative contacted the Hohls on Dec. 22 to tell them Brady would receive the headset.
Since then, he has gone on a shopping trip to Walmart and visited the public library in Rossford. “He could not get enough of the library. He didn’t want to leave there,” Melissa Hohl said.
There can be side effects as Brady adapts to the headset. He has become dizzy from walking, and has been advised he could experience headaches. He often takes a break from using the device to avoid being overwhelmed, and has yet to wear it to school.
“We definitely keep telling him, ‘Take smaller steps,’” his mother said.
It’s been a transition for the entire family, she said, adding, “To be able to see him see the way he does, (and) just to know that your life changes…our lives have changed forever.”
Jeff Fenton, an eSight spokesperson, said the Canadian company operates with the premise that everyone deserves to see. He said experiences like Brady’s only strengthen its cause.
“It’s stories like this that motivate us, encourage us, drive us to do what we do,” Fenton said. “There are magical moments…that we live for, but it’s much deeper than that. With stories like his we’re especially motivated because we want him to be able to live on a level playing field.”
Melissa Hohl said none of it would have been within reach without the enthusiastic help of the community.
“We have had support from Wauseon to Montpelier, and all the communities in-between,” she said. “Without all of them, this wouldn’t be possible. We couldn’t have accomplished this goal as quick as we did. We extend a huge thank you to everyone. We’ve had the support of so many communities standing behind us.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.