Legally blind Klukwan man suddenly regains sight

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

HAINES (AP) -- An 86-year-old Klukwan man who has been legally blind for the past 16 years recently saw his grandchildren for the first time and is looking forward to reading his Bible again after regaining a portion of his sight.

George Stevens, a cataract sufferer for nearly 20 years, said his vision spontaneously returned as he and wife Margaret drove the Haines Highway on the afternoon of Feb. 21.

Now, he said he sees well enough to recognize faces and walk around the house without his cane. With the help of magnifying glasses, he reads again.

Stevens said his vision came back on the return leg of the couple's daily shopping run to town. Stevens said he noticed that the black spot that dominated his field of vision had suddenly turned to white.

''We started home and when we got up around 13 Mile I noticed something like the white hood of a car. Then it was silver colored and real bright. I kept watching that ball and pretty soon I saw a spark and mountains.

''I didn't say anything at first, I just sat there and thought, 'Why?' I prayed and asked, 'God Why me?' I could see. I finally told Margaret.''

Margaret Stevens said she didn't believe what her husband had told her. ''I was stunned. I stopped the car right in the middle of the road.''

Back home, George proved his sight by walking from room to room without the cane he used for years, and performing tasks such as opening and heating a can of soup.

''He does OK now. Those are things he couldn't do before. I can't get over it,'' Margaret said.

George surprised guests at a funeral in Juneau, recognizing friends and family before they spoke, Margaret said. ''He was getting up and greeting people. He was seeing them. They were asking, 'What did you do?' and he said, 'I don't know, but I'm thankful.'''

In the mid-1980s, Stevens was diagnosed with cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes opaque, causing partial or total blindness. By l986, his vision had gotten so bad he could no longer operate his gillnetter Three Sons because he couldn't see well enough to make his way around deck anymore.

''It was cataracts, but they didn't want to operate,'' Margaret Stevens said. ''It was a big black spot in the middle of his sight. He had to hold the newspaper to one side to read it, and then it got so bad he couldn't read.''

He stopped going to the doctor after being told there was nothing that could be done to improve his vision.

He had yet to see a doctor two weeks after regaining sight.

''I was thinking I wanted to go to Whitehorse for a checkup, but I don't want the doctor changing anything now. I got to watch my step.''

Steven's son Jim took George to town the evening his sight returned to visit with some of his six grandchildren and great-granddaughter Kaitlin.

''Oh boy that was a real treat to see her for the first time. Maybe that's why God extended my time. Believe you me I'm going to read the Bible.''

Juneau ophthalmologist Dr. Gordon Preecs called a description of Stevens' experience ''pretty extraordinary.'' Preecs said cataracts normally get gradually worse, not better, as a person ages.

''Older people have a number of assaults on their eyes. If you had cataracts, I'd tell you that it's not going to get better.''

Local physician Dr. Len Feldman said although he hadn't heard of the Stevens case, he has seen remarkable recoveries during his career.

''I can't comment on George, but I have seen what I would call miracles, people recovering from things they'd never recover from. I've been absolutely amazed by things we can't easily explain.''

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