In times such as these, we can choose to focus on the positive or negative. Some may argue there’s not a lot that is positive enough to celebrate right now. That’s why I want to tell you about Sedonia Triepel. She’s a truly special patient, who’s strength, courage, and determination has blessed me and my team at Coastal Vision. Her story is a tribute to the value of committing to the positive amidst challenging times.
On December 19, 2019, Sedonia was hit by a car on her way home from forensics practice at First Colonial High School. As a result of the crash, she suffered extensive brain and bodily injury. She then spent months undergoing multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and speech therapy to help recover some functionality. By Sedonia’s side is her family and loving, supportive mother, Dr. Triepel.
I first met Sedonia when she presented to Coastal Vision in May 2020 for a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) evaluation. It’s very common for TBI patients to have significant ocular and visual complications. The most common ocular finding with a TBI is ocular motor dysfunction. This is when the muscles that move the eyes individually and in coordination with each other, do not work normally. The result is a problem converging the eyes for reading tasks, as well as lowered ability for the eyes to track accurately and smoothly across a page. The result is headache, strain, blurred vision, and double vision. In more severe cases, there can be pupil defects, nystagmus, inability to move the eyes in certain directions, and persistent eye turns.
After my initial TBI evaluation, we enrolled Sedonia in Vision Therapy (VT). Sedonia is such a fighter, and that has been evident to me and my team these past 2 months of VT. On her first visit, Sedonia was not able to hold gaze for more than one second. Through VT, we’ve now seen that improve dramatically. Initially, she was not able to move her eyes from one visual target to the next. Now, she can do that much more efficiently and accurately. These may sound like simple tasks, but we all take them for granted. These eye movements are quite complicated neurological tasks that require coordination of several cranial nerves, oculomotor muscles, and different processing centers in the brain. Recovering the use of these functions is critical for a person to be able to survey the world around them. The fact that Sedonia is showing improvement in these areas is a true testament to her heart, as well as the wonderful support of her family around her.
There’s a chance you’ve already heard about Sedonia. Her story made local news when, on June 17th, Sedonia received one of the most special graduation ceremonies ever. She was given a heartfelt graduation at her home, where she was presented with the honorary graduate medal before family and former teachers. It was also a chance to celebrate her 18th birthday. Looking at the images from that special ceremony, one cannot fail to see that this was also an amazing celebration of life---an appreciation of the one who lives it with determination no matter the obstacles. My personal experience with Sedonia has been an opportunity to see this determination in action and in a way that truly warms the heart.