Gift helps Hayden woman who lost sight regain some independence | SteamboatToday.com

Gift helps Hayden woman who lost sight regain some independence

The Forrest family includes, from left, Charles, Eddie and Sammi. (courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was bad enough that Sammi Forrest lost her sight as the result of a tumor in 2017, but what was worse is the Hayden woman also lost her independence.

"I had a very large meningioma, a tennis-ball sized tumor, that made the spinal fluid pressure build up," Forrest said about the tumor in her frontal lobe. "It killed my optic nerves."

In February 2017, doctors removed the tumor, which was causing her body to produce too much spinal fluid, but the damage was already done. Forrest had lost sight in her right eye and had only about 25 percent of the sight in her left eye.

It completely changed her life.

Because of her limited vision, she was unable to work, and it also made it difficult to get outside of her home.

"It's a learning process," Forrest said about getting by with limited vision. "People take their eyesight for granted. This world is very visual, and it's the little things that I struggle with. I can do it, but I struggle with it, and that's going to be a lifelong battle until they come up with a way to fix my eyes."

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After coming to grips with her new limitations, Forrest sought the help of the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence. There, Kristin Selby helped evaluate Forrest's goals and figured out what she needed to live more independently.

Forrest wanted to be able to get out and about, whether that was in Steamboat or in her hometown of Hayden.

To do that, she needed a white cane, a device that is used by people with visual impairments, to get around. It aids the user in scanning their surroundings for obstacles or orientation marks. But to use the cane properly, the users must be trained, and the cane and tips needed for different surfaces can be expensive.

Selby not only helped guide Forrest to the professionals who could train her, she also informed Forrest about the Women's Giving Circle, a local organization that could offer her financial support.

The efforts of the Center for Independence, and a generous donation from the Women's Giving Circle, will not restore Forrest's vision. But, she is grateful to both groups for helping her regain a chunk of her independence.

"I will be forever grateful for that Women's Giving Circle and what they gave me back," Forrest said. "I had no idea what they did until this happened to me, and I was forced to utilize them."

Helping people regain their independence is one of the main goals of the Women's Giving Circle, a group of about 40 women in Northwest Colorado that pools money and works through local nonprofits to offer help.

"For community members that want to help their neighbors in a time of crisis, we invite them to join the Women's Giving Circle,” said Emily Beyer, community impact manager for the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, which facilitates the group’s charitable giving in partnership with local nonprofits.

In Forrest's case, the $1,200 donation covered the cost of the canes, training in Denver and a few items that helped her get around her house — things that were not covered by insurance.

Her family — which includes her husband, Charles, and her 9-year-old son, Eddie — will be moving to Fruita at the end of the month.

Forrest said the winters in Hayden are too long. She wants to be able to get outside year-round and said the snow-covered landscape in this area appears as nothing but white with her vision.

“I’m truly very grateful to both of these organizations for what they have done for me and my family,” Forrest said. “I went through it, and I’m the one that struggles every day, but it also impacted my entire family.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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