Ken woke up early, grabbed a jacket and something small to eat, and headed from The Inn Between to Liberty Park for a morning stroll. For Ken, this morning was different from previous walks: he could actually see where he was going.
Cataracts began developing in Ken’s eyes—unusual for someone his age—and it started affecting his way of life. Without means for preventive treatment or insurance, he lost his job. Then his house.
“I’d go to reach for something and it would be about that far away,” Ken gestures with his hands the distance as he speaks. “I’d get home and the computer screens were too bright and everything started blending in together. Honestly, I could do my job blindfolded—but getting there was so hard. I’d miss the Frontrunner but couldn’t even go two and a half blocks. . I’d take a half street and it would take me two and a half hours to get home because I couldn’t even tell what streets were what. Eventually you start getting mad and people start laughing because they think it’s funny.”
One night after work, Ken got off the train in Salt Lake and started home. He tried focusing on the concrete below his feet; but eventually realized he wasn’t on the sidewalk. Ken says he was nearly hit by cars he couldn’t even see until a stranger pulled over and helped him back to safety.
Where would you turn if this happened to you?
Ken, left, catches up with Dr. Joel Wecker, the outreach provider who coordinated Ken’s cataract surgery with an ophthalmologist at Fourth Street Clinic
After losing his job, Ken reached out to Fourth Street Clinic to see what could be done. Because his eyesight was so poor, he couldn’t make his appointments—so the outreach team took medical care to him.
“There was a lot of danger getting hit by a car or train that could have set Ken way back,” Dr. Joel Wecker, Outreach Medical Provider, explains. “There was very little chance he could take care of his cataracts on his own.” Wecker and Annabah Glasser, Community Health Worker, coordinated cataract surgery with the clinic’s volunteer ophthalmologist.
“I had the pleasure of working with Ken,” Annabah says. “I noticed the difficulties he faced during our interactions, but he remained positive and always expressed gratitude for our help. After numerous appointments, two cataract procedures, and a world’s worth of resilience, he can see.” After his surgery, Fourth Street Clinic coordinated a respite bed at The INN Between, a hospice for individuals experiencing homelessness.
“Dude: I was blind and now I can see,” Ken said soberly. “I’m in a place that helps take care of me after losing my job, my place. I haven’t had to worry about where I’m going to live after this surgery. You can’t find that anywhere else. I have the tools now and I really hope I can find some footing; it all depends on if somebody is good enough to give me a job. This whole experience gives you pause to realize how little you think of things before.”