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Sam Hagen, 30

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Social media handles:

Insta: @samijai_andabigail_

Tiktok: @samhagen

Where are you from?

New South Wales, Australia (the town is Raymond Terrace)

Where do you live now?

The same as above. Town is Cooranbong

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’ve been with my husband for seven years and married for almost three. I am a first-time mum to my 15-month-old daughter, which has been a dream come true for me. I am an early childhood educator and work in the nursery room with twelve babies each day. I absolutely love my job. I have quite a few dogs, love a good romance movie and/or book, and enjoy spending time with my friends and family.

What’s your eye story?

When I was 5 years old and in Kindergarten, I had a stick thrown into my right eye. I lost 95% of the vision in that eye, and the stick ended up only 2 cm away from my brain. I had over 3,000 stitches and around 4 major operations, all under the age of 6, to try and save my eye. Due to this freak accident, I was bullied all through school because of my appearance. Once I hit High School, I decided then and there that I was no longer going to let people bully me. I had a big shift in my mindset and in how I dealt with bullying from then on. I became a lot stronger as a person and didn’t stand for anyone else’s crap. When I was around 15, I found out that my retina had detached from all the trauma, causing me to become fully blind in that eye. In a strange way, I was happy and relieved! I didn’t have a blurred line down the side of my face anymore, which used to annoy me. From that point on, I just kept moving forward and living my own life. I still had eye specialist appointments and whatnot, but they were just check-ups. Fast forward 10 years later, when my eye unexpectedly started giving me a lot of trouble.

My eye would be super red, sore, and very sensitive to light, to the point of having to wear sunglasses just trying to shop at the mall. Eventually, I finally thought no, I’ve had enough. I made an appointment to see my eye Dr. and found out that my original Dr., the one who saved my eye and did all of my operations when it first happened, had retired, which I found quite sad. I ended up reaching out and looking for a new eye Dr. and came across a Dr. who was still quite local to me. The soonest appointment I could book was 3 months away.

When my appointment finally came, I found out the pressure in my eye was extremely high (around 60), which was causing me the pain and discomfort I had been experiencing. So after that, the first thing the Dr. turned and said to me was “why are you keeping the eye”. I was a little confused at this point, as I was only 25 and had been previously told I probably wouldn’t need to worry about a ‘fake eye’ until I was over 30. However, when the Dr. began explaining the evisceration process to me, it all seemed too good to be true. In the end, it kind of was. Well, at least for a while. I went through with the evisceration, which all went well, but my eye wasn’t healing. I was told that the entire process of getting my prosthetic eye start to finish would take no longer than 12 weeks. Well for me, 12 weeks turned into 10 months. During this time, I had a hole in my eye from the ball that was placed behind it is too big (the Dr. Did this intentionally).

Within those 10 months, I had to have 2 skin grafts, from both sides of my head, in an effort to try to cover up the hole that was made in my eye. These were both at separate times, 3 months apart. Being a female with quite long hair and having to have not one, but two, shaven/bald patches on the sides of my head was not fun. During this time I only had the conformer in, and everywhere I went I would get stares, but at this point that wasn’t anything, I wasn’t already used to.

But after all the hiccups and super emotional/frustrating times, on the 20th of October 2017, I finally received my first prosthetic eye. It wasn’t a perfect match, but it was so much better than what my eye looked like before so I was stoked. About 6 months after, I ended up having my eyelid lifted, so I was back in an eye patch and had more time off work for the 4th time during this whole process. A year after getting my first prosthetic eye, it became too small for my eye socket. I ended up having to get a new one made, which I think actually matched my other eye perfectly and was better than the last.

I have always wanted to help encourage other women to be brave, and strong, and to love themselves. When something happens to me, I know now that there are already so many other people who have been through it too.

I’m not like a lot of people. I don’t have any shame whatsoever, I don’t care what people think of me, I am confident, I am brave, I am strong and It’s all of these things life has thrown at me and more that make me who I am today. I am a very strong believer in ‘you grow through what you go through and my life has pretty much always been a 1-step forward and 3 steps back scenario. However, every time I get knocked down, the more I want to fight and keep going to show not only myself, but I guess everyone around me that I am as strong and tough as I am always telling myself I am.

To me, scars are not an imperfection, they are a representation of my ability to overcome absolutely anything that stands in my way. I think you all should be proud of your scars too! Why? Because the scars you carry on your body have everything to do with your strength and what you’ve endured. They are a constant reminder of every time life tried to break you, but failed.

What has been the most challenging thing mentally?

Definitely the bullying, the staring, and the comments you overhear. I really struggled with all of that for a very long time. Not to the point of being depressed, but I was always angrier. I wanted to tell these people where to go because they have no idea know what I’ve been through.

What has been the most challenging thing physically?

My appearance. Looked in the mirror and a lot of the time hated the person who was looking back at me.

Where are you now in your recovery?

I couldn’t be happier in all aspects of my life. I would still love to have my eyelid lifted again, but that’s more of a want than a need. I am such a confident person now. It has taken me a very long time to get to this point, but I know that self-love is number one.

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

Remember that you’re unique & incredibly brave for going through everything you have so far. Everyone has their flaws and their differences, some are just more obvious than others. I always believe that you’re handed this life because someone somewhere knows you’re strong enough to live it. There are so many groups and people to reach out to on social media now going through similar, if not the same, experiences as what you have, which has always been so comforting to me.

Who is your eye surgeon and ocularist?

Dr. Eugene Hollenbach & James Morphett

How did you find EYEHESIVE? Instagram

Are you attending the EYE CONNECT Virtual Conference?

Absolutely! Very excited about what will be an amazing way to connect with others like me 🤍

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