Chandler bookworm fights to keep her eyesight - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler bookworm fights to keep her eyesight

December 5th, 2019 development
Chandler bookworm fights to keep her eyesight

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Megan Kiriakidis has shelves of books scattered around her Chandler home.

The 21-year-old has been an avid reader since she was young – starting the “Harry Potter” books when she was in first grade.

“I could talk about my favorite books literally forever,” said Kiriakidis, a Chandler High School graduate.

Talking is mostly all Kiriakidis is able to do these days, since her deteriorating eyesight keeps her from reading anything new.

Surgeons have operated on her eyes several times over the last couple of years in an attempt to save her retinas.

Despite her most recent surgery, Kiriakidis said, she’s practically blind in her right eye and can hardly see out of the left one.

She is able to detect the lights on her Christmas tree yet unable to make out the individual ornaments.

Her mom has to read restaurant menus to her, friends have to move board game pieces for her, and her choice in movies is limited.

“They have to be things I’ve seen before since I can’t really see it,” Kiriakidis explained.

She started feeling a terrible pain in her eyes two years ago during a family trip to Wisconsin. Doctors discovered Kiriakidis’ eyes were creating new blood vessels that put pressure on her retinas.

It appeared she was suffering from diabetic retinopathy, a condition that causes blindness for individuals with diabetes. It’s been known to come on quickly without many early warning signs.

Pam Kiriakidis, Megan’s mom, said her daughter was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 14. She was given prescriptions to keep her blood sugar under control.

The doctors in Wisconsin discovered that Megan actually had type 1 diabetes, meaning Megan was not producing enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes involves the patient not reacting well to insulin. Both conditions can lead to eye problems.

Forty percent of Americans with diabetes experience some level of retinopathy at some point in their life, according to the National Eye Institute.

Pam said she’s not sure whether her daughter’s misdiagnosis would have made any difference, but she would have liked more time to know exactly what they were dealing with.

“We had no idea what a vicious disease it was,” the mother said.

Megan’s undergone multiple surgeries to keep her retinas in place and prevent them from tearing.

“It’s scary each time and it hurts,” Megan said.

The recovery process is especially exhausting, as Megan must keep her head face down for days at a time and keep her eyes still.

During one operation, Megan claims, her regional anesthetics started to wear off and she could feel the doctors working on her eyes. The experience left her feeling traumatized and fearful of any future procedures.

Megan’s daily life is pretty quiet for the time being.

Because she can’t work, she stays at home and fills her days with music. She’s tried listening to audio books, but it’s not quite the same as holding a book in her hands.

She dreams of someday being a writer, which she knows will be more challenging with her eyesight.

“I don’t like to get my hopes up but I still like to try and be hopeful,” Megan said.

Pam Kiriakidis worries about what type of future awaits her daughter.

They’re in a limbo at the moment, the mother said, waiting to find out whether Megan’s condition is bad enough for her to receive disability assistance from the state.

There are not a lot of resources out there for someone in Megan’s position, Pam said, so it’s been difficult knowing who to turn to for help.

At times, they don’t know whether to stay optimistic or to start thinking more practically about their situation.

“I don’t know how many times they can operate on this poor girl’s eyes without there being permanent damage,” Pam said.

Though her last checkup with the doctor went well, the family said, there’s still uncertainty of whether Megan’s vision will ever get better.

“We just have to wait and see what happens,” Pam added.