The APHConnectCenter Information and Referral Line: A Lifeline for People with Vision Loss

Alan smiling wearing headset with phone and laptop

Editor’s note: This post was written by Alan Lovell, Information and Referral Coordinator for the APH ConnectCenter. Alan often receives calls that are especially good examples of what we strive to do in the ConnectCenter, and from time to time, he’ll share them here on the blog.

I receive calls to the APH ConnectCenter’s I&R Line on just about any topic related to individuals with visual impairments. But today, one of those calls has just stuck with me.  The call was from Brigid, a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who reached out about a patient who recently lost his sight. I want to share the story here.

Brigid’s Patient With Vision Loss

Brigid’s patient, a single man 44 years old, had a steady decline in his vision over six weeks, rendering him totally blind in a very short time. This man had no family or friends and had been living in an apartment on his own for many years. The nurse described him as possibly having a mild intellectual disability, but only as it pertains to being able to self-advocate. He was brought to the nurse’s attention after being rescued from the streets. He had walked out of his home and become disoriented. He hadn’t told anyone of his rapid vision loss, and no one was the wiser because he was alone. He wandered the street trying to find his way home when a good Samaritan stepped in to help. Rather than help him find his way home, this good Samaritan convinced the man to go to a hospital for help. Our nurse Brigid, a patient welfare advocate, made it her mission to find this man help. 

Because he lost sight so quickly and told no one, her patient could not operate a phone or work an ATM. In fact, he lost his debit card a few months back due to his inability to work the machine. He had been unable to call to report the card as lost, call to pay his rent or just about every other course of business one can think of. When Brigid intervened and secured him in a safe assisted living facility, he was being evicted from his apartment for over 6 months behind in paying his rent. When he moved to assisted living, he took only his medications and a computer he couldn’t use. She explained that his other possessions, including his photo ID, had been sent to a landfill when he was evicted. Thankfully, Brigid could intervene with the landlord and advocate for her patient so that he could return home after he learned to live independently once again. 

“How Can a Person Like This Learn to Live Independently Again?”

Brigid asked me this question, emphasizing that he has no one, no family, friends, no one. At one point, she even asked one of his neighbors, “Do you know him?” The neighbor responded, “Well, I’ve seen him wandering up-and-down the streets before carrying huge armloads of groceries but passing the building repeatedly. I just thought he was homeless and an invalid. He didn’t seem to have any sense of direction.” We now know he was lost and trying to find his own home.

My work with the ConnectCenter I&R Line is unique in that we don’t just answer questions and move on; we have the time and opportunity to really try to help people find solutions. I spent a good amount of time on the phone with Brigid. As a person charged to help people who are vulnerable and sick, she was particularly moved by her patient’s plight and made it her personal mission to help him. Moved by her determination, I also decided to make it my mission. With promises to help in any way I could, I emailed her links to local blindness and rehabilitation agencies to get him started on the road to independence once again. I will follow up soon to fill in any blanks and assist with other questions that will develop over time.

Connect with the ConnectCenter

If you or someone you know needs information and resources related to vision loss, please call us at 1-800-232-5463 or email us at [email protected].