A Mother’s Perseverance for Her Son
After learning Preston needed to wear an eye patch, his mom Carmen wanted to find resources and support on eye patching, but she couldn’t pinpoint anything on the internet pertaining to children’s books about her son’s specific conditions. That’s when Carmen decided to write a children’s book to educate children and parents on why someone wears an eye patch.
Preston was born legally blind in his left eye but didn’t receive his complete diagnosis of amblyopia, strabismus, and astigmatism until he was four years old.
It was a long road for Preston and his mom, Carmen Swick, to finally be given a full diagnosis. Carmen really had to convey what Preston saw to the eye doctors since he was so young at the time. But after years of Carmen being Preston’s biggest advocate, a doctor finally informed them that Preston needed to start wearing an eye patch so his weaker eye could strengthen.
“No matter how uncomfortable it is, you have to advocate for your child,” says Carmen. “Parents struggle with a lot of emotions, too. I initially felt so sad, worried, and even guilty, but I tried not to let it get to me. You have to stay strong and have hope for yourself and your kid.”
Not only was wearing an eye patch difficult for Preston, but some would also make fun of his eye patch. As a mother, it broke Carmen’s heart to have her son struggling, and she wanted to do everything she possibly could do to get Preston to a better place. Carmen researched on her own to find resources and support on eye patching, but she couldn’t pinpoint anything on the internet pertaining to children’s books about her son’s specific conditions. That’s when Carmen decided to write a children’s book to educate children and parents on why someone wears an eye patch.
During the time of writing her book in 2008–2009, Carmen did a lot of research and learned a lot about the human eye, and she credits her editor for helping bring her true vision to life. Carmen’s illustrator also captured her ideas, making sure eye patching was brought to the reader’s attention as much as possible.
“There were a lot of tears through the whole process of writing these books,” says Carmen. “But it was therapeutic to write while Preston was going through the ups and downs of eye patching every day. I’m also so grateful for the love and support from my loving family and friends during these times.”
Carmen’s first book was published in 2010, called Fishing with Grandpa, and it was the first of three in her book series called Patch Land Adventures.
“These books let any child who may feel different know you can still do anything you want to do,” says Carmen. “I just want to give families, that are struggling, hope and encouragement to know that they aren’t alone.”
Carmen has taken on the opportunity to educate children and parents herself by visiting schools, libraries, and hospitals to read her books and answer any questions they may have about eye patching.
“A lot of people just don’t know what you or your child is going through, so you have to be open and willing to teach others,” says Carmen. “Don’t get upset when people ask questions; just look at it as a positive opportunity to raise awareness about blindness.”
When researching for her books, Carmen found the Foundation Fighting Blindness and instantly felt connected to the community. Even though Preston’s eye condition is neurological, Carmen still felt compelled to help the Foundation grow and held the position of Denver, Colorado chapter president for 11 years.
“The Foundation has been a huge part of my book’s success, and I feel so honored to be a part of the Foundation,” says Carmen. “I’ve gained so many wonderful friendships through this community, and I’ve learned so much from many different people, those affected, and parents like me. I’m just inspired by everyone’s determination and confidence.”
Although Carmen always looks for the positive in her and Preston’s life, being a mother of a child with vision loss can still feel draining for her at times. Carmen discovered that it’s important to take time to recharge and be present for yourself as well. To cope with stressful situations, Carmen finds that staying active outdoors, by walking their dog or camping, helps her feel balanced.
Carmen has also found that Facebook support groups are helpful to connect with other parents going through the same or similar situations with their child. Through all these different relationships, Carmen has learned that she and Preston can do anything they put their minds to.
“My husband and I never treated Preston any different when he was growing up, even when he had to wear an eye patch for almost six years,” says Carmen. “Preston’s always been super active. He played soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, and even raced motocross. He’d have his moments of fear, but he always persisted on and did exactly what he wanted to regardless of his visual impairments.”
Now 20 years old, Preston has repeatedly persevered and is currently attending college. He enjoys being outdoors, snowboarding, hiking, camping, and fishing. Carmen says Preston is her hero for all he has overcome and all he continues to do.
“Any parent wants nothing but the best for their child,” says Carmen. “I definitely have had to step out of my comfort zone and grow a lot to give Preston all that he needs. But I want to show him that life isn’t always easy; you just have to push through it, and anything is possible.”
Mothers around the world go above and beyond to raise, love, and support their children. Thank you for all you do! Happy Mother’s Day, from the Foundation Fighting Blindness!