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Staring down blindness, Jenkins focuses on dreams

Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 7:22 am


staff writer

 Faced with the possibility that she might be legally blind for the rest of her life, 24-year-old Holly Jenkins resolves to remain positive, stay focused on her dreams and trust God for her future.

Holly began life with 20/200 vision in her left eye, due to a condition called retinopathy, which affects some babies born prematurely.

Holly Jenkins --

Fayetteville’s Holly Jenkins is pictured here in Villeneuve De Grenoble, France, where she spent a year caring for three boys for a family there.

 “With this particular condition, there is a 50/50 chance that a retinal detachment will occur at some point in your life,” Holly explains.

Always very active in sports throughout her youth, Holly enjoyed playing soccer for many years, was on the high school cross-country team and even had a couple of years of martial arts training.

“Had we been aware of the probability before the first detachment, I imagine I would have been more limited and urged to err on the side of caution,” she recalls, adding, “Thankfully, we did not know this until it detached.”

Holly is the daughter of the Rev. Todd Jenkins and Jennie Jenkins – Todd serves as pastor of Fayetteville First Presbyterian Church and Jennie is the nurse at Lincoln County High School. Holly describes her parents as a positive and supportive team who has given her great advice and encouragement.

In college she was on the rowing team and trained with the Berry College cross-country team. She graduated from Berry College in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in French and a minor in business. She anticipated new adventures, challenges and a prosperous future. “I had entertained the idea of teaching or possibly pursuing a career in law enforcement,” she continues.

But, “The year 2012 turned out to be full of life-changing events, just not those I chose,” she wrote in a Facebook post earlier this summer while caring for a family’s three children in Villeneuve DeGrenoble, France. She had accepted the position after a second surgery for retina reattachment, believing that she was healing and that the eye problem had been corrected.

However late in May she noticed that her central vision was slightly cloudy. “This complication gradually worsened, and the doctor documented that my visual acuity had dropped from 20/40 to 20/200,” she said, adding that at the time, doctors had not determined the cause of the vision loss.

This meant she was now legally blind in both eyes. As the weeks passed she had to learn to adapt to many limitations, from not being able to drive, to having to expend much effort to read. Seeing a computer screen is also difficult, as are countless other tasks she had previously taken for granted.

As she navigates a new perspective on life, she is still considering a teaching career and hopes to return to college to obtain a master’s degree in education with a concentration in French.

Since returning to Fayetteville this summer, a couple of doctors have told her they now believe the problem could be a cataract she has developed, a common problem after retina reattachment surgery. A type of oil used to help hold the retina in place can be a catalyst for its development.

Last Wednesday Holly underwent another surgery and at her check up the following day the doctors said that everything looks good, the retina is in place and holding well. In December she will have surgery to remove the cataract. 

“They are hoping that the cataract surgery will enhance a large portion of my vision and that the retina will remain attached and continue to heal and help me to regain sight.”

Holly is prepared for the future, for whatever the outcome – “I think any type of drastic change in your life, first of all, makes you appreciate all that you still have, and secondly, really changes you to focus on finding a way to integrate and adapt your passions to meet your capabilities. If it is important to you, you will find a way,” she said. “Even if God does not bring physical healing, I believe in praying for understanding and patience, that there is always an emotional, mental and spiritual healing that occurs.”