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Winter 99 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

You Can Succeed in Anything

By Justin Romack, Student, Lufkin, Texas

Ladies and Gentlemen! My name is Justin Romack. I am in the 8th Grade. I attend Lufkin Middle School. I had a situation that happened quite recently involving my vision. I had a retinal detachment. I must tell you that it was no picnic. I have had congenital glaucoma since birth, so I have not been fully sighted since the age of one. (Justin has a prosthesis in one eye.) I have had 40-plus surgeries to date, and many more are expected. My case was rather shocking. Here is how it happened.

In July of 1998 I began to have vision loss and my visual field was decreasing. I noticed the change immediately, for which I was later thankful. I had no thoughts of my retina being detached. When I visited my doctor he informed me of a retinal detachment. I was horrified. I cried the rest of the day. I was assured I was in the hands of God. Two days later I saw a cornea doctor. I was told my cornea transplant had rejected. I had this transplant for 11 years. I was told then that I would have multiple, major surgeries in one day. I was scared. I considered all the possibilities. I was especially scared about the upcoming school year and how I might get around. My father came to Dallas and comforted me. I was put under anesthetic and operated on for a few hours. The doctors were successful! An air bubble was placed in my eye to hold my retina in place. It would remain there for at least a month. Everything was fine.

A few weeks later school began. I was so frightened. I clung to my mom and begged her to let me stay home. I was then sent to my deathbed, or so I thought. I arrived at school trembling as I was introduced to my teacher's aide, Don Patterson. He was also visually impaired. He was my built-in buddy. I was so grateful that he was there to help me. As he says, "I am going back to the 8th grade again." He guided me around the school, even though he was as lost as I was. I received my schedule: 1st Period - Band, 2nd Period - O&M, 3rd Period - AP English, 4th Period - History, 5th Period - Keyboarding, 6th Period - Science, 7th Period - Algebra.

I survived my first week of school, which was a relief. As the weeks progressed I was getting along better and better. I had more friends than I had ever had, and I was an independent traveler. Mr. Don let me travel by myself as I got the hang of things. I was also introduced to new methods of visual support---assistive software.

At the beginning of the school year I began working with JAWS (Job Access With Speech). This computer program uses the Keynote Companion's Remote Synthesizer to become a screen reader. This fully-functional program allows the blind and visually impaired to surf the Internet, use MS Word, other Microsoft Programs, and perform basic Windows commands. It has a few bugs, but I use other programs to iron out these spots.

The second program I use is ZoomText Xtra. This is more for low vision users than blind. This program uses your Windows Sound Card (for best results, use with Sound Blaster 16 or higher). It can magnify the screen to as much as 16 times the original size. It is very handy to use on the Internet.

Now enough about technology, let's talk about basics. I am in the 8th Grade Marching Band. "Marching?" you say. Yes, marching. Using basic sound and movement echoing, I maneuver even the biggest of tubas. I play the snare drum, without even reading the music. I am second chair, and very proud of it. I have a special ability as I play by ear. I hear a beat, I concentrate, I play!

My middle school is the biggest in Texas, so it must be huge! I have no problems getting around. All a blind person needs is cane skills, and a friend. I have so many that they fight over whose turn it is. For some this was not so true. I will say this to all people, no matter who you are, listen to me! It doesn't matter who you are, it is how hard you try. If you sit back and whine and cry, don't expect much. But if you put all your determination into it, you can succeed in anything. Many people may say this, but I mean it. I am only where I am today because I stuck in there. I want everyone to feel as equal as the next guy. Anyone who is not as smart, can't see, or is different, can be proud. You can do things others can't, and you should cherish that. Stand up for yourself, but don't be as bad as the other person. I am very proud of myself, you should be too!

Justin can be reached at 17 Glenview Court, Lufkin, TX 75901, (409) 634-8113, or mcclain@lcc.net.

Editor's note: I met Justin and his mom about eight years ago and have enjoyed watching him (and mom) grow together in their steps toward independence. When he lived in Arlington, Texas he wrote for the Class Acts section of the Star-Telegram; so when I ran into him and his family again at a workshop in Lufkin, I asked him to write an article for See/Hear. After reading Justin's article, BE SURE to check out his webpage at <http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Hangar/2679/>.

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