Winter 2015

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Winter 2015
Making a difference through your generosity
Lisa Spellman, Publications/Media Specialist,
UNMC Public Relations
The idea of retirement for most people is exciting and
a little scary at the same time. Transitioning from a
hectic 40-hour work week to zero can be intimidating.
Now take away the ability to see.
That was the daunting prospect that weighed heavily
on Patrick Decker.
Diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2005,
Decker was worried what his life would be like once
he retired.
“I was really down and remember thinking, ‘What will
I do, what is my future going to be?’” said the former
Lincoln Public Schools administrator.
Then, in 2010 Decker’s ophthalmologist referred
him to the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual
“That was a turning point in my life,” he said.
Decker, who no longer drives, but lives in an area
situated close to the grocery store, his doctor and
Patrick Decker enjoying cooking.
dentist’s offices, learned how to safely navigate his
neighborhood streets independently.
“Evy, the occupational therapist at the Weigel
Williamson Center, taught me how to use a
Continued on Page 2
Painting Workshop Gets Creative
Juices Flowing Once Again
Lisa Spellman, Publications/Media Specialist,
UNMC Public Relations
As a costume designer for several performing arts
groups in Omaha, Kenda Slavin would sketch her
designs with pencil and paper.
She enjoyed the work and the creative outlet it gave
her. That was until six years ago when she lost vision
in her left eye and could no longer see well enough
to do her job.
Last spring, Slavin joined a group of nine other
clients of the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual
Rehabilitation to learn how to paint using the
remaining vision they do have.
The opportunity to get her creative juices flowing
again inspired Slavin.
Continued on Page 2
Kenda Slavin works on one of two paintings
she produced during the workshop.
Visionary | pg 2
Dear Friends,
2014 was our busiest year ever! With our increasing
number of satellite clinics, we cared for 20 percent
more patients than in any previous year. With a rise
in patient demand, you can expect to see some
new professional faces in the Center to assist in
patient care. Speaking of new faces, we are pleased
to welcome Linda Chilcott to our staff. She brings
with her experience as both a certified ophthalmic
assistant and a rehab counselor for individuals with
low vision.
With such growth, I encourage you to consider
supporting the work of the Center with a gift to the
Dinsdale Endowment Fund. Such funds assist us
in our efforts to ensure that these important low
vision services are available
to individuals all across
Nebraska and western Iowa.
We remain committed
to continually grow and
improve our services to
patients with irreversible
vision loss. I hope that
you enjoy this edition of
the Visionary. I welcome
comments and questions.
John D. Shepherd, M.D., Director
Continued from Page 1
monocular telescope for distance viewing by literally
walking with me outside and showing me how to
spot obstacles in my path, or oncoming cars or
people walking by,” Decker said.
Now he says he can walk safely in his neighborhood
and doesn’t have to rely on his wife or others to take
him to the grocery store or medical appointments.
Decker also learned about other tools he could use
to enhance his remaining vision and still be able
to pursue his love of cooking, reading and birdwatching.
By wearing telescopic glasses, Decker can see the
vast variety of birds that congregate on any one of
the numerous bird feeders in his back yard.
with ease.
Magnifiers, large print measuring cups and a dual
black/white cutting board help Decker easily prepare
his family’s favorite meals. And with an iPad, a handheld video magnifier and the use of a CCTV, Decker
is able to read, write letters and address envelopes
“I feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy my
retirement in more ways than I imagined I ever
would be able to when I was first diagnosed
with macular degeneration, thanks to the Weigel
Williamson Center,” Decker said.
Decker enjoying bird watching.
Painting Workshop Continued from Page 1
“I just love it,” she said, as she sat next to a canvas
filled with bright yellow, orange and red paint.
For four weeks, Slavin and eight other women and
one man filled canvases with colorful paintings of
flowers, elements of color and contrast or just about
anything that came to their imagination under the
instruction of local Omaha artist, Julie Thorsen.
“The class is very therapeutic in many ways,” said
Evy Katz, an occupational therapist with the Weigel
Williamson Center who organized the workshop.
“From the standpoint of demonstrating the
importance of lighting and contrast, as well as
improving hand eye coordination, the workshop is
very useful,” Katz said.
As an occupational therapist, Katz teaches clients
how to adapt their homes to better meet their visual
needs, as well as how to use their remaining vision.
Often those same clients will ask Katz how to
adapt to their vision so they can continue with their
hobbies, such as sewing, painting or crocheting.
The workshop, Katz said, teaches people that anyone
can be creative no matter what challenges they face.
“I hope they all continue to use this as a creative
outlet,” Katz said.
The paintings can be viewed on the Weigel
Williamson Center website: www.unmc.edu/
2015 | pg 3
Low Vision Apps for Smart
phones and iPhones
Evelyn Katz, OTR/L
Technology is opening a whole new world for smart
phone and iPhone users of all ages. Many of my patients
have purchased an iPhone or Android smart phone. I
have used both the Samsung Galaxy 3 smart phone
and the iPhone 5. Both can initially be a challenge for
users with low vision, but there are apps (software
applications) that can make them more accessible and
easier to use. From reading phone numbers in your contact
list, to viewing calendar dates and time, to identifying
objects, colors and currency, there’s an app for that!
Here are the top 10 apps I have gleaned from my own
personal experience, as well as from the American
Foundation for the Blind and from other sources:
Low Vision by Creative Glance Technologies
for Android and iPhone: Includes a customizable
large print contact list, clock and calendar. It is free to
download, and it can be upgraded to the Clearsight Low
Vision kit that also includes a calculator and magnifier.
2. MapQuest for Android and iPhone:
Provides voice-guided directions and tells the driver
where to turn. If you make a wrong turn, it reroutes you.
3. LookTel Money Reader by Ipplex for iPhone:
Identifies currency.
4. Ideal Currency Identifier for Android:
Identifies currency.
5. Color ID Free by Green Car Studios for iPhone:
Point the iPhone camera at any item and
it will announce the color for you.
6. Google Goggles by Google, Inc. for Android
and iPhone: Identify a picture or object, barcode or
famous landmark by taking a picture of it. If Google
has it in its database, it will identify it for you.
Magnify for Android and iPhone:
Allows you to use your smart phone as a
magnifying device, with the ability to adjust
magnification, brightness and contrast.
8. Voice Brief by Dong Baik for iPhone:
Reads your emails, weather, stock prices and Facebook
feeds. The cost is $3.99 or try the free lite version.
9. Alarmed-Reminders, Timers, Alarm Clock
by Yoctoville for iPhone: Free app that gives you a
choice of alarm sounds, and it has a snooze feature
and even a flashlight. It works with Voice Over.
10. Glucose Buddy-Diabetes Helper 3.5.5w/ BP+WT
Tracking by oneAppOneCause for iPhone:
Allows you to manually enter numbers pertaining
to exercise and food consumption into a log
that can be uploaded to a private account at
GlucoseBuddy.com. It features an A1C estimator.
This is just a sample of all the apps that are available.
Find a tech savvy young person to help you out.
My friend with macular
degeneration enjoys reading
with a Kindle. How does this
help her to be able to read?
The Kindle is an e-reader, which
is a hand-held device on which
electronic versions of books,
newspapers and magazines
can be read. E-readers are a
great option for individuals with
low vision because the size of
the print can be enlarged, and
some e-readers have built-in
lighting which can enhance
contrast. Some also offer the
text-to-speech feature. With
this feature, books, newspapers
and magazines can be read
out loud. Patients are given the
opportunity to explore what it is
like to use an e-reader as part of
the low vision evaluation at the
Weigel Williamson Center.
New research for treatment of
macular degeneration is underway
at the Truhlsen Eye Institute:
• Combination drug therapy for
wet macular degeneration
• Drug treatment for advanced dry
macular degeneration
• Stem-cell therapy for advanced
dry macular degeneration
(Tentative start date—July 2015)
For additional information,
contact Pat Jones, R.N., B.A.N. at
A Place for
Renewed Hope
and Help for Those
with Low Vision
Weigel Williamson Center
for Visual Rehabilitation
Truhlsen Eye Institute
986085 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-6085
John D. Shepherd, M.D.
Director of the
Weigel Williamson Center
Evy Katz, OTR/L
Low Vision Occupational Therapist
Linda Chilcott, M.Ed., COA
Ophthalmic Associate
Pat Jones, R.N., B.A.N.
The Weigel Williamson Center
is a service of the Stanley M.
Truhlsen Eye Institute. It relies
on the generosity of donor
support in order to fulfill its
mission of hope and help for
those with low vision.
To make a donation to the endowment fund of
the Weigel Williamson Center, contact Karen
Levin at the University of Nebraska Foundation
402.502.4921, or [email protected]
Gifts may also be made at www.unmc.edu/lowvision
Mary & Jack Barnhart
Mary and Jack
Barnhart’s first
experience as patients
at the University of
Nebraska Medical
Center dates back to the
early 1980s and what
they thought would be
routine eye exams.
Mary’s appointment went smoothly. Then Jack’s
followed. Mary waited for him in the waiting area.
And waited. Nearly three hours later, Jack hadn’t
returned. “I thought the university had swallowed him
up,” Mary quipped.
Fortunately, Jack was still in the exam room meeting
with a UNMC ophthalmologist who had discovered
a subtle sign of glaucoma—one that could easily
have been missed. But thanks to the physician’s
thoroughness, Jack left campus that day with an early
diagnosis and tremendous gratitude for UNMC.
Today, Mary and Jack have an even deeper
appreciation for the care they continue to receive
at UNMC, especially with the opening of the Weigel
Williamson Center six years ago.
“The Center offers so many things that make life
easier for those who can’t see very well,” Jack said.
He knows firsthand. Through working with the
Center’s staff, Jack now uses a lighted stand
magnifier to help read his mail. At the grocery store,
he uses special glasses that diminish the impact
of bright fluorescent lights on his vision. Jack also
uses dishes that contrast in color—a white cup, for
example, when pouring a cup of black coffee.
The Barnharts are pleased the Weigel Williamson
Center also offers services in Lincoln and Hastings, so
more people can benefit from its services. But they
want even more people to have this opportunity. It’s
one reason they’ve supported the Center through
private gifts and by sharing their story with others.
“There are a lot of great things happening in eye
care at UNMC,” Jack said. “We enjoy supporting the
Weigel Williamson Center and want to make sure it’s
always here.”
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