Thursday, May 17, 2018

Low vision isn't low intelligence: Deven Kelly, a nursing student with diabetic retinopathy perseveres and graduates!

Deven Kelly

In 2014, I became a full time nursing student. By the end of the first semester, I developed a hemorrhage bleed in one of my eyes. I surprisingly was able to successfully complete my skills course as well as my clinical rotation with my instructors being aware. I got treatment for the bleed and the bleeding resolved and my eyesight returned to normal. I started my 2nd semester in January 2015 and completed another clinical rotation but unfortunately was unsuccessful in one theory course. I had to wait 1 year to be able to retake the class. During that year, I developed another eye bleed in both my eyes. I received laser treatment which eventually fixed the leaking blood vessels in the back of my eyes, but unfortunately it did some damage to my peripheral vision and I have difficulty distinguishing the difference between blue and green. 

After passing the class I had to retake, I was eligible to take my boards to be licensed as a LPN. I passed my boards and became a LPN on July 7, 2016. I became a full time nursing student again in the fall of 2016, the last and final year to receive my ADN. Because of the demanding time it takes to become a RN, I opted to focus my time on school and not work. 

It was not until my 3rd semester clinical rotation that I realized I had trouble with some skills. I couldn't see the color of veins in order to start an IV unless the vein was very pronounced. I also had some problems with depth perception when drawing up medication from a vial and also seeing the difference between air and liquid in a syringe. My clinical instructor had also noticed. We had a meeting with the disability specialist at school and she found an eye OT to determine what kind of accommodations I would need. After meeting with this OT, he didn't really solve my issues. 
I pretty much had to advocate for myself to find things that could be used in order for me to complete the skills. I ended up purchasing a very expensive vein viewer and getting a head light to help me see the difference between liquid and air. I didn't obtain these until the end of my 3rd semester, when my clinical instructor broke the news that she didn't think she could pass me. 

I then had to perform certain skills, with my accommodations and 4 nursing instructors watching me. I completed all the skills successfully and was allowed to start my final semester of clinical rotations. 

What I haven't mentioned is how my clinical instructor treated me through all of this. I noticed early that she treated me differently than my fellow students. Her attitude towards me was very cold. This continued to get worse as the year went on... so bad that I ended up reaching out to another instructor for support. 

I hated going to clinical, not because of the facility, but because of my clinical instructor. There were many times I would get in my car after a clinical day and sob. I never felt so much pressure to quit something in my entire life. There were things that she said to me that I still can't forget: "You can't go into a patient's room blind" (by the way I'm not blind), "Would you want someone like you taking care of you?" I let her know that she made me feel like a very small person. Everything got worse after that. 

After beginning my last clinicals, anything I did wrong was blamed on my eyesight. Eight weeks before graduation, I was pulled into the assistant Dean's office with my clinical instructor. They told me they didn't think it was safe for me to finish clinical. They had typed up the alleged mistakes I made. Most of them I didn't agree with and I wasn't even made aware when they happened. I was told to choose a different career. 

I was allowed to finish my theory courses but could not graduate because of not being able to complete clinicals. It was extremely difficult to come to class after all of this. It took a huge mental and emotional toll on me. Knowing everyone was going to graduate in just a short time and make their dreams come true. I was devastating. I have low vision, not low intelligence.....


After writing this heart-felt letter to the president of my college, the school allowed me back in the program to accommodate me and get me to the finish line. I brought up the Exceptional Nurse group and shared stories of how people with disabilities can be successful nurses just like everyone else. The group has really inspired me and gave me the motivation to fight for myself. Because of this, I am proudly graduating with my ADN degree this Saturday!

Congratulations and best wishes Deven!

Cheers!

Donna