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Sarah Ruggiere, 28

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Social media handles:

@rahrugg


ICU the first week at the hospital. Sarah laying in a hospital bed with and eye patch and tubes in her nose and throat.
ICU the first week at the hospital.

Where are you from?

I don't know! I've lived in many places around the world: New Jersey, Hungary, Uruguay, Spain, Arkansas, Taiwan, and Oregon. Portland is home... for now!


Where do you live now?

Portland, Oregon


Tell us a little about yourself:

I am a Dual Language Immersion (Spanish-English) 3rd-grade classroom teacher. I strive to be an anti-racist and culturally responsive educator. I love to knit, practice pilates, go for walks, and play the piano.


What’s your eye story?

On Dec. 13, 2019, I was walking down the sidewalk and a drunk driver drove up onto the sidewalk and hit me. The driver hit my right knee, the impact threw me up in the air, and I came down onto the pavement on my face. The paramedics who arrived at the scene had to perform an emergency cricothyrotomy surgery before I arrived at the hospital to keep me alive. This surgery has been performed 7 times in Portland and I am the only person to survive. Nolan Gerety, the paramedic that performed the surgery, won a Star Of Life award, an award that only 40 paramedics receive nationally, for his work that night. I had a total of 28 injuries, but the major ones were a broken right knee cap, a cracked skull, my nose that had to be reconstructed, 3 missing teeth, severe damage to my left eye, and a broken cheek, jaw bone, and some orbital rim bones. This was not an "accident", but rather an IMPAIRED DRIVING CRASH because what happened to me was "a predictable outcome of the choice that the drunk driver made to get behind the wheel and drive after using impairing substances" (MADD).



Me without my prosthetic eye
Me without my prosthetic eye

What has been the most challenging mentally?

I needed to be mentally ready to finish my master's degree, however, the accident caused me brain trauma. The first 2-3 months home from the hospital were hard. It was difficult for me to recall information from books or news stories let alone think about attending class and studying. Accepting my differences and being confident in my new body has been highly challenging.



What has been the most challenging physically?

Teaching with one eye has been challenging. When a student walks up to me on my left side and they are in my blind spot, I can't see them and don't know they are there. I told my students about how I only have one eye and that when that happens I can't see them. Now when they walk up to me on my left side they tap me or whisper in my ear. It's really cute. My depth perception poses lots of challenges like hiking, going up or down stairs, and pouring water from one vessel into another. Running and walking for more than 5-6 miles hurts my knee.


Where are you now in your recovery?

I am still missing 3 teeth and wear a partial denture daily. I am not able to get dental implants because in the crash I lost the jaw bone supporting the teeth as well. I will need to get a zygomatic (cheek) implant if I want permanent teeth. I'm fine using a partial denture for now so I can take a break from surgery.


Cruella wearing her black prosthetic eye.
Cruella wearing her black prosthetic eye.

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

Accept that your differences make you unique and special. They set you apart from the crowd, which is a great thing! Telling the people close to you in your life (friends, family, students) about your eye story helps to break down ableism, biases, and assumptions that people may have about people living with one eye.


Who is your eye surgeon and ocularist?

My ophthalmologist that performed the enucleation surgery is Laura Gadzala and my ocularist is Christina King

How did you find EYEHESIVE?

Instagram


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