Nidia Mariscal, an art major at Minnesota State University, Mankato was in a drawing class when suddenly she couldn’t see. Never once did she suspect the unfortunate events that 2018 had laid ahead of her.
Scared and frightened, Nidia called her mother who took her to the eye-doctor the next day. Mariscal recalled, “They looked into my eyes and they were like ‘Okay well… we’re going to have to send you to a retinal specialist because we don’t know what’s wrong with you.’” They assumed she had a severe case of dry eyes, gave her some eye gel and tears and sent her on her way, but the problem persisted.
In a rush to figure out what’s wrong with her, she called in a second opinion for an emergency visit in one of Minnesota’s harsh snow storms. She said, “I went completely blind, I couldn’t see anything.”
The doctor told her she had fluid behind her retina, and that she could go blind permanently if not fixed right away. Mariscal stated, “I was scared. When he said that, I was thinking, “Photography is my life, if I go blind, I can’t take pictures again, I don’t know how I can live on this earth without my eyes.’”
Three months later, Nidia was diagnosed with Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH), the disease that has affected her life for almost two years.
“This condition ruined my life. I’m very limited in doing things now. For the rest of my life, I’m going to have to get my eyes checked once or twice a month, I have a higher chance of glaucoma and cataracts, so that’s surgery, and the medicine, all those costs add up,” said Mariscal.
Throughout this journey, art helped her forget about her condition and gave her a sense of normalcy. “Art, especially photography and ceramics, I focus more on them instead of my eyesight. I almost forget I have it. When I do ceramics and I sit at the wheel, I can literally just close my eyes and feel the clay and how I want to form it,” said Mariscal.
After months of treatment and medication, Nidia’s vision was finally clearing up. “I did lose my eyesight in both my eyes for about 6 months, but then my vision came back and I was able to go back to work, drive, and even wear contacts!” Said Mariscal. However, as of lately, she began to lose vision in her right eye again and began to experience blurriness and floaters.
Life hasn’t always been bleak for her though, as she finally got her citizenship this past month. As a 12-year-old girl from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, who barely spoke English and cried and begged her mom to “please take me back to Mexico”- she never thought that’d she become a U.S. citizen 10 years later.
“I feel like I have more freedom. I’m not scared, I feel more secure now. I don’t have to watch out for everything I do and say,” said Mariscal.
Even though she continues to struggle with her eyesight and VKH, she remains grateful. “I still have my vision, and I can still take pictures, so I’m happy,” said Mariscal.
Feature photo courtesy of Nidia Mariscal.