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Danielle Ziesman, 31

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Social media handles: @danielledziesman

Where are you from? Nova Scotia, Canada

with me and my newest eye. I get a new eye every 5 years through government funding so it’s always a big deal as the technologies and skills can change so much
Danielle and her prosthetic eye

Where do you live now? Edmonton Alberta, Canada

Tell us a little about yourself:

I am a mom of two young children and a pediatric occupational therapist in the school system.

What’s your eye story?

I lost my eye due to a traumatic accident as a child. When I was in grade 1, six years old, I was playing with friends during lunch and was quickly exiting a field. I walked into a piece of unwinded chain link fence at the field’s entrance. It penetrated my left eye. I ended up in the emergency room at the children’s hospital where doctors tried to save my vision and eye, but I ended up needing an enucleation. I had many surgeries due to

complications and infections which led to one month

of hospitalization.

What has been the most challenging mentally?

One of the “blessings” of my accident is the age at which it happened. I was able to cope quite well because children are resilient ;). I learned many difficult fine motor skills with monocular vision (vision in one eye). I grew up wearing glasses for protection, which funnily kind of bothered me because I felt like a fraud since I didn’t need them for vision correction. When I had my accident I had so many people in my life and community who called me brave and unique. I think if anything the accident probably supported my self-esteem. In other ways, I’ve struggled with the cosmetic appearance of having a fake eye. My biggest insecurity always was having different-sized pupils. I’ve had amazingly skilled ocularists who can match my eye color like no one’s business, but the pupil size is just challenging. I didn’t really care about it until I got into my pre-teens and people would ask if I had a lazy eye. Back then photos and readily available photos (digital) didn’t really exist the way they do now.

What has been the most challenging physically?

The most challenging physical would probably be my depth perception. You would think after having a monocular vision for 25 years I would have gotten used to having shit depth perception. I have lots of adaptive skills but in certain sports I just CANNOT -> badminton particularly. I also struggle with curbs and parking sometimes but I’m glad I learned to drive AFTER my accident.

Where are you now in your recovery?

I’m as fully recovered as you can be. I went 20 years without any eye surgeries. Two years ago, I had a dermal fat graft from my thigh to my eye to build up the socket so my prosthetics wouldn’t have to get bigger. I expected I would need the implant replaced since it was the original one I had when I was six but it didn’t.

In my emotional recovery, I feel like I’m still part way there. For years I tried to disguise my glass eye and blend in. I would flash a bright light into my eye before photos to help dilate the pupil so they looked more similar, try to cover my left eye with bangs, always wear sunglasses, and intentionally not get “anti-glare” on my glasses. For me I’m trying to say to myself “why blend in when you’re born to stand out” - I have one eye and I should own it instead of hiding it and feeling shameful or less than others. I’m getting a true “fun eye” that I can wear and showcase my personality and truly own having a prosthetic eye.

Size differences between my older and newest prosthetic eye. The new one has a newer technique for painting the pupil that makes it appear to dilate
Two different size prothetic eyes

What advice would you give to someone going through their eye impairment journey?

Give yourself grace to experience the grief of your loss, the grace to make mistakes and struggle with your journey. As you process that (and you will probably for the rest of your life), own having one eye. And… don’t let it stop you from doing anything!! I lost my eye tubing on a lake and never recovered it - now I wear goggles but it won’t stop me from waterskiing or other water sports!

Who is your eye surgeon and ocularist?

My original eye surgeon is Dr. LaRoche & Dr. Dunphy in Halifax and Newfoundland, respectively.

How did you find EYEHESIVE?

Rachel Mayta’s page!

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