David Wishnewsky

"I can remember when the mountains were just a blur. Now I can see them crystal clear."

Photo: Laura Dickinson

Like many people who suffer from vision problems, Dave Wishnewsky didn’t think it was a big deal at first.

“My vision had been going bad for a long time,” he remembers, “but it was slow enough and subtle enough that at first I didn’t think much about it. It went on for several years. I thought, I’m getting older. This happens.”

Looking back, he realizes, “I made a big mistake. I put it off and put it off.”

Eventually, though, he realized he could no longer ignore the problem. “It got to the point where if I was sitting in a room and there was any glare at all, I couldn’t see people’s faces. My night vision was not good. I started to think, now this is a matter of public safety.”

Unfortunately, by the time Dave decided he needed to fix the problem, another disaster struck. The company he worked for announced that it was going to shut down. His job was gone, and along with it, his health insurance.

He went to his doctor and had his eyes tested. The verdict: he had cataracts in both eyes. He would need surgery to save his vision.

“It was horrible,” Dave recounts. “I’ve had a job since I was 15. I had never been out of work in my life. Losing your job at 50-plus years old, it has an effect on your pride and your self-esteem. I went through a period of feeling very disillusioned; I’ve worked hard my whole life – is this the reward?”

Dave had worked for many years in a high school program, and his failing vision was affecting that work as well.

That double whammy – the loss of his vision and his job – sent Dave close to the edge of depression. “I’ve always been a very positive person; normally I don’t sit around and whine. I figure, do something about it ─ but one day you’re at work, the next day you’re in the unemployment line. It’s very frustrating.”

He told his doctor that without a job and without insurance, he couldn’t afford the surgery to correct his cataracts. The doctor told him about the Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. So he called the foundation, and was amazed at how quickly he was approved. “In very short order, almost right away, I was approved and the surgery was scheduled.”

Dave had surgery on one eye within days, and the other a few weeks later. He was pleased with the whole process. “The staff never once made me feel like a charity case, and that meant the world to me. It’s not easy to ask for something for free when you’ve paid your way your whole life. They took every precaution not to humiliate or embarrass; I was quite impressed.

“Every single person, right down to people who call you out of the waiting room, was just a class act — extremely professional people.”

And for Dave, it was a turning point. His daughter, who had moved up to the Central Coast, was expecting a baby. “She called me and said, ‘You ought to move up here – we want to have Grandpa around.’ ”

He found a job working with teenagers, drawing on his many years of volunteer work. When he got the job, he says, “It kind of gave me that feeling again like the Lions did.”

Life is good, he says. “I have a granddaughter now; I have an awesome job, I love it more than any job I’ve ever had.”

He thinks about the foundation a lot. “It really was a turning point for me. They started the ball rolling on getting my faith back. I feel so much gratitude and so lucky. It started with them. I never forget about them, I still wear the sunglasses they gave me as a reminder. I’m kind of sentimental; I think about those guys all the time.

“This morning I’m sitting on my step looking out at the mountains, and I can remember when the mountains were just a blur. Now I can see them crystal clear. It never leaves your mind.”

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