AJ MacDonald is a confident and practical mother who is gradually going blind because of an autoimmune disorder called macular edema. AJ is a mother of three boys who does not let her eyesight hinder her ability to care for her children. AJ’s past experiences have also motivated her to become a social worker and mentor to teenage mothers.
AJ’s eyesight started deteriorating at age 8 years old. She is now completely blind in one eye with only 30 percent vision in the other. AJ says she is able to see the difference between light and dark and some shadows with her left eye. She can see some movement, but has absolutely no focus with her right eye.
“I don’t see my kids' faces really clearly, but I can see where they are. I can hear them and I know what they are doing.”
There is a surgery that can possibly help with AJ’s vision. At the beginning of the documentary (4:06), AJ discusses how she has opted not to have the surgery while she is pregnant with her third child. AJ’s vision worsens when she is ill. However, she states she has not experienced any changes during her pregnancy.
Independent Living Skills
AJ relies on help from those around her to complete some of her independent living skills. She admits that her son Jayden is a big help to her throughout the day. “(Jayden) knows my condition. He knows what my sight is like. He probably knows more than anyone what I can and can’t see,” says AJ. (Starting at 6:40) AJ is shown peeling potatoes, as she talks about how her new year’s resolution is to get better at cooking. She jokes about her cooking skills saying that her kids probably eat dirt more than others as her son Zayb picks a potato up off the floor.
“That’s been my new year’s resolution is to find ways to better in the kitchen and find ways of doing things. You know, like with the baking, to find ways of doing it. It’s the same way with cooking, you just find ways of doing it.”
AJ says that she relies more on intuition rather than her sight when completing tasks (like cutting potatoes) as she feels around for the object.
Jayden was taught road safety at a very young age. AJ cannot see the cars passing on the road. The documentary (at 9:02) shows how Jayden helps his mom safely cross the street.
(Starting at 8:04) AJ discusses how she dropped out of school as a teenager. AJ felt school was harder for her because of her visual impairment. She turned to drugs, and when Jayden was one years old, she decided to change her ways. She earned a diploma in applied social sciences and works as a social worker.
AJ had Jayden when she was seventeen and states that there was no one there to help her with her career goals. This experience has motivated her to help teenage mothers at the YMCA in bettering their lives for their children and themselves. (Starting at 10:30) The documentary shows AJ mentoring women and children. AJ is a recipient of the Leslie Pearce Woman of Courage Award for her work as a mentor and influence on young people.
“And people can be so judgemental with young moms. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there. And it is tough and you do need help. You do need teaching and all of that. I love watching (the mothers) go from being pregnant to having their babies, to just being beautiful moms.”
(Starting at 13:18) AJ says one of the hardest aspects of going to a college campus was physically getting out of her comfort zone. AJ’s eyesight has changed during the seven years she has been a student on campus. She says she has became familiar with the campus layout but finds it frustrating when a structure changes. However, AJ adapts to her surroundings by using other senses such as hearing and touch.
“I think too, you use your other senses. And it’s not like it’s a conscious thing that you do. You sort of feel things, you know things are there.”
Mom Life - Running A Busy Household
AJ has a very busy life and runs a pretty hectic household. She admits that the one thing that gets her down about her eyesight is not being able to drive. But, she does have a support system of family and friends. AJ tries to not worry about the future but is more focused on the practical things, like how she is going to take three kids on a bus if need be.
(Starting at 20:00) Baby Eli arrives at the end of the documentary. AJ jokes about all the testosterone in the household; however, she thinks it is cool and is up for the challenge! She is now training to be a breastfeeding mentor to help fellow mothers.
Check out the full documentary!
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