News

Blind mom sees her baby thanks to Ottawa company's glasses

Doug Hempstead, Multimedia Journalist
Ottawa Sun

By Doug Hempstead, Ottawa Sun

Kathy Beitz of Guelph sees her newborn thanks to special, hi-tech glasses created by Ottawa's eSight in this screengrab from a YouTube video.

Kathy Beitz of Guelph sees her newborn thanks to special, hi-tech glasses created by Ottawa's eSight in this screengrab from a YouTube video.

An Ottawa specialized eye wear company has been inundated with phone calls after a video about one of their clients went viral.

The video features Kathy Beitz of Guelph, Ont. seeing her newborn baby's face for the first time thanks to computerized glasses designed by eSight.

Beitz is legally blind and suffers from a degenerative eye condition called Stargardt's disease.

Her older sister Yvonne Felix also has Stargardt's disease and works for eSight. She has started a fundraising campaign so her sister can afford to keep the $15,000 glasses, which are currently on loan.

Felix, who wears the glasses too, is an ambassador with eSight and says there are currently 140 people with the sight-giving device -- including eight-year-old Emma-Rose Gibson of Ottawa who was featured in the Sun in 2013.

But Felix herself has an equally compelling story.

She was one of the first people selected as a "Guinea pig" to test out the glasses while they were still in development more than two years ago.

"They were literally held together with duct tape" she said.

Felix gradually lost her sight from the time she was born until she was seven-years-old. That's when the macular degeneration was discovered, rather suddenly.

"I couldn't see the crosswalk and stepped out into the street and was hit by a car," she said.

The eSight glasses remove the blind spot which eclipses her vision. It has changed her life -- even by simply giving her the ability to describe what she can and can't see. And while her sister has become famous for her reaction to seeing her newborn son's face for the first time, Felix will never forget the first time she saw her own son's face -- except he was already six-years-old by then.

"I had two kids I'd never seen -- and wedding photos. I'm in them, but I'd never seen them."

She spent ages going through photos with her husband, him pointing out people she knew, but had never seen.

It's a stressful experience few have ever shared -- having to learn to recognize everyone you know, at once.

Additionally, she's discovered people don't just communicate with words. To her unseeing eyes, all these years, she has missed much.

"There is so much non-verbal communication. Sometimes it can be upsetting to think about everything you've missed."

Twitter: @DougHempstead


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