This is the first of a series of posts from Christian about his loss of vision, and how he went from a high school baseball star in Duncan Oklahoma to where he is today.
Hello! My name is Christian Thaxton. I’m a 22 year old, low-vision college student and former college baseball player. While I’m not overly religious, I do place strong value in my faith. My visual impairment began about two and a half years ago and the diagnosis is Leber’s optic neuropathy.
I grew up in southwest Oklahoma with a loving family and two brothers. My parents are both in education . They have supported me in every aspect of my life while instilling discipline and respect. I had a southern upbringing: a blue eyed, blonde haired child who played baseball, basketball, and football while attending church with family every Sunday.
During my senior year in high school, college baseball coaches were contacting me. I committed to Redlands Community College in May 2012. I got a chance in the spring of 2013 to start as the designated hitter. My hitting that season was sporadic, especially towards the end, and in April 2013 a small dark spot appeared in my vision.
Two months later I notice that the spot still had not disappeared, so I was sent to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist told me nothing was wrong with my eyes, but he referred me to the next doctor up the food chain; a neuro ophthalmologist.
It seems no one can tell me why I can’t see out of this small spot, but they can tell me that nothing is wrong with my eyes!
At the first appointment with the neuro ophthalmologist he told me confidently it was only a viral infection, and he would see me again in a month. I sighed with relief!
I arrive back at Redlands and spoke with my coach about what was happening, he said I cannot practice or play baseball! This along with the frustration of no one knowing what is going on.
Finally I returned to the doctor. On my way to the appointment, I think I can see a small spot now in my other eye, the left one. I’m not sure if I am imagining it or not. I try to convince myself it is not there. During the appointment, it was confirmed a spot had in fact appeared in my left eye, albeit very small. My doctor no longer believed it to be a viral infection!
My mom discovered that Leber’s Optic Neuropathy runs in our family. I fit the symptoms. I was strangely calmed by the fact we might have actually figured out what was happening to my vision.
I went back to the doctor, and he told me I tested positive for Leber’s. The diagnosis was relieving and sickening all at once. I remember I began tearing up in the office as he was talking; everything he said after the test results is a blur. I was numb. All I remember thinking is: You mean, I am going blind. How is this possible? I returned to my apartment and collapsed on my bed. My mind was still racing; I have no idea how to handle the news despite all I had mentally prepared myself.
On October 15 (ironically my birthday), I officially withdrew from my classes and drove for the last time. Then I viewed it as probably the worst birthday of my life because I had lost so much in such a short period of time. However, life is all about perspective. Now, looking back, I think being able to drive one last time for my birthday was such a blessing.
Then on November 4th, I was finally declared legally blind not that it mattered to me. So I knew I was blind; I was living it. I began the difficult journey of a long, sometimes lonely adjustment to my loss of vision.
In the early stages of living back with my parents I didn’t realize just how poorly I was coping with my vision loss. In my mind I felt like I was handling it all pretty well. I wasn’t! I had zero motivation to get out of bed. I rarely found a reason to leave the house. Excuses related to my blindness were consistently used to avoid going out with friends. My family was extremely supportive and never made me feel like I was a burden.
After a couple months of this, I slowly became more active. I started running occasionally, and I was lifting weights regularly. I began feeling more comfortable going out with a select few friends. I even went on a cruise with one of my best friend’s family in the spring break of 2014. which was an amazing experience. My friend really urged me to get outside my comfort zone during this trip and try new things, and this push was exactly what I needed. When I returned, I began trying to find ways to get out of the house again. I even visited some friends at Redlands a few times. I was working at a summer job, and I appreciated finally being productive again.
During this whole time, I hadn’t really accepted my blindness. As there is a slim chance of my vision returning, I was desperately clinging to the belief it would spontaneously return. I remember I kept telling myself I would be back playing baseball at Redlands again in the fall of 2014. That’s how strongly I was praying it would come back. As the summer progressed, though, the realization slowly began hitting home. The realization that there was a very high possibility I would be living with this blindness for a while, if not the rest of my life. Fortunately I had enough support from family and friends for this to not set me back too much.
While I might not be playing at Redlands that fall, I still wanted to be back in school. I was determined to try to get my life back on track. I began the process of setting up with the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
I still wasn’t in the best of places at this point, and I had been desperately praying for God to show me His plan for me, to show me why He had chosen me to go blind. The morning after one such prayer, after not hearing from my counselor for a few months, I was woken up by a phone call from my rehabilitation counselor a week before I was supposed to start at Redlands. He asked me if I wanted to go to a school for the blind. This was too coincidental for me to believe this was chance. Could this be where God wanted me to go?