What would you miss seeing most if you went blind?
The sunrise. The lake. The spot in your living room where the morning sun pours in.
Your spouse. Your child. Your friends.
All the sights your eyes drink in — words on a page, expressions on a face, the center line down a road — what if they started to fade before your eyes?
For Sarah Mittler, it began with her clock.
"I looked up at the clock and was like, 'Holy cow,'" said Mittler, a mother of five in Tinley Park. "I thought it must be dirty."
She took the clock off the wall and cleaned it.
It still looked dirty.
Everything was starting to become blurry. Her kitchen, the stairs, her children's faces, utensils in the drawer — they all ran together like mud. It was as if her eyes were coated with petroleum jelly.
She thought there was something wrong with the lights at the grocery store. She asked her husband why he had installed dimmers at home. While driving, she groused at all the motorists crossing the lane into hers.
But there was nothing wrong with the lights. And she was the one crossing the lane lines.
Mittler had Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy, in which cells inside the cornea deteriorate. Fluid builds inside the cornea, causing vision problems and potentially blindness.
It usually proceeds slowly, over years. In Mittler's case, it was galloping.
Within months, she could barely see in the mornings when the fluid buildup was greatest. Her children had to guide her down the stairs. Her teenage daughter, Grace, had to drive the younger kids to school.
Mittler used a hair dryer on her eyes, which dries out the blisters caused by the condition, and about which she says, "You think your hair is bad in the morning? Blow-dry your eyes."
It helped, but only temporarily. She couldn't see her children's faces, read their moods, sense the time for a quiet after-school conversation. "Slowly, things were being taken away," she said.
After a terrifying drive where she couldn't see the traffic signal at a major intersection, "I put my keys on the counter and told my husband, 'I cannot do this any more. I am going to kill them or someone else,'" she said.
The next week she saw her doctor at Loyola University Health System.
She was going blind, she told him. But please, could he just slow down the process long enough for her to see a few last things?