Blind Woman Regains Sight

ByABC News

Aug. 16, 2001 -- Ten years ago, Lisa Reid lost her sight. But last November, while reaching down to kiss her beloved guide dog Amy, Reid says an accident turned into a miracle and she could suddenly see again.

"I kind of lost my balance," she says. "[I] hit my head on the floor and coffee table at same time."

In one mystifying moment, everything changed, as she regained the vison she had lost at age 14.

"It wasn't scary," Reid, 25, tells ABCNEWS' Jay Schadler. "It definitely wasn't scary. It was the most beautiful thing ever."

But some doctors are skeptical, unable to find a medical explanation for Reid's recovered vision. Some have even suggested that her blindness may have been more psychological than physical all along.

But whatever the explanation, Reid says her life has been transformed. Though her eyesight remains imperfect, a world long hidden is visible again.

Life Saved, Vision Lost

Reid was raised by her hard-working mother in a tourist town along the northern coast of New Zealand after her father had abandoned them. When she was 11, she developed a cancerous brain tumor.

"It was slowly suffocating me," Reid says of the headaches, vomiting and loss of coordination that accompanied the cancer.

A delicate operation removed the tumor and saved her life. But her optic nerves — which carry visual information from the eyes to the brain — had been permanently damaged.

"She's got optic atrophy, or damage to the nerves that join the eye to the brain" says Dr. Ross McKay, an ophthalmologist in Auckland, "A result of the raised pressure inside her skull caused by her tumor."

As Reid's eyesight faded, so did her connections to the world she once knew.

"My ophthalmologist basically said to me that I was never going to see again," she says. ""Having something so precious taken away from you… you just think it's quite unfair."

Asked what she missed most when she lost her sight, Reid says, "Probably myself. And I don't mean that in a vain way, I mean that in the sense that I couldn't see myself physically, but… I couldn't see myself inside either.

A Blind Date

So, like many people who lose their sight, she began to reinvent her life.

She became a poster child for kids with cancer, appearing on TV shows and documentaries in New Zealand throughout her teen years. She also made promotional appearances to help raise money for the organization that trained her seeing-eye dog.

"I didn't want to sit at home and just twiddle my thumbs," says Reid. She went to the movies to listen, even though she could not see the action on screen. "There was a hell of a lot I could do."

Two years ago, Reid called a dating service. She chatted on the phone for hours with someone named Rob Williams — not mentioning that she could not see — and they agreed to meet.

To say it was love at first sight, would not be technically true, but the two hit it off right away. And though Reid couldn't see Williams, he could see something in her.

"She just has so much energy and so positive," he says. After so many years alone, Reid had found a companion.

Newfound Clarity

Then, late last year, Reid experienced the most profound change of all. The morning after falling and hitting her head, she woke up to find that her blindness had lifted.

"I just saw the white of my ceiling," she recalls. "Looking around my room… the light shining through the curtains… the window frame… Looking at Amy. She's just beautiful."

Reid recognized Williams on first sight, even though she'd never laid eyes on him before. "I kind of knew it was him," she says. "I just knew it."

The two plan to get married early next year and they are expecting their first child in December.

And though she recognizes that what she regained so quickly could just as easily leave her, Reid says she does not live in fear.

"Whatever is meant to be will be," she says. ""I look at my life and I actually feel so lucky at the age of 25 to have the knowledge and the love I do within my heart," she says.

Doctors Baffled

Doctors say there is no medical explanation for how Reid regained her sight. Laboratory tests show that she has limited vision in her left eye and none in her right eye. Her optic nerve, which has no power of regeneration, is as damaged as ever.

Lacking any clear explanation, some New Zealand scientists suggest Reid may have recovered from a blindness that may have been more psychological rather than physical from the start.

"In a number of patients who lose vision, for reasons we can't explain, some of those get their vision back mainly due to what we call 'hysterical blindness,'" explains McKay. "But in Lisa's case, she had quite marked pathology, and therefore, one can't say that she's in that category."

In other words, McKay maintains that Reid's blindness was caused by her brain tumor— not some psychological condition.

"I don't believe in miracles," he says.

But perhaps miracles are in the eye of the beholder, and in this case, it is the eye of Reid.

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