By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – Even as a 22-year-old young man, Errol Legier said the rare diagnosis of Macular Degeneration in his eyes is something he refuses to stop his dreams of playing professional football.
But for now, Legier is hoping he can figure out a way to raise $5,000 that he currently needs to purchase very special bifocals that will at least allow him see close to normal.
Legier graduated from Slidell High in 2012, but not without a struggle the final two years after the diagnosis of Macular Degeneration was made. While the disease is not uncommon in senior citizens, it is very rare for someone in their 20s.
“I was a good student up until the 11th grade—not a straight ‘A’ kind of student, but I made good grades and was doing alright in school,” Legier said. But as a junior he began to notice a problem with his vision.
“I could see characters, but they weren’t sharp, and it slowly seemed to be getting worse,” he said.
His mother took him to an optometrist, the kind of doctor who generally does exams for glasses or contacts, but doesn’t have the expertise of the highly trained ophthalmologist. Even with an eye exam there was nothing detected yet to truly understand why his vision was suffering.
“I got my glasses and I was able to get a driver’s license, but my brother also got glasses and in the next few months he kept talking about how great he could see. And I knew I wasn’t seeing that much better,” Legier recalled. His grades began to slip and his schoolwork suffered, all while he was dreaming of playing professional football. He did start for the Slidell High team as a running back as he played four years on the team and was able to manage in the game even though his vision was not great.
With continuing complaints about vision problems, he was able to see an ophthalmologist and was given the heartbreaking news of a disease that few young people his age get.
“I remember hearing what he said, and that my vision was going to get worse and worse–I just started crying,” he said. “I thought my life was over if I was going to end up blind.”
He did receive some extra help in school when he had the diagnosis explained to administrators and was given extra time to take tests since it took him longer to read the material. He was also given larger print textbooks to help. In 2012 he graduated from high school and although trying out for the football team at Southeastern, didn’t make the club and eventually quit college as he was unsure what direction he was going.
“I was in school until the fall of 2015. I like accounting and business management, but I was not sure what I really wanted to major in so I stopped for a short while to figure it out,” he said.
And in the meantime, his dream to play football is far from dead. He is currently playing running back for the local semi-pro football team known as the Bayou Lacombe Cardinals. Their coach has a connection to a tryout camp for the Canadian Football League that will occur for Legier at the end of May.
Legier had a job with a department store, but lost it since his vision made him work slowly in reading the cash register and other aspects of work. Then he got a job at Walmart and walked to work since his vision required he take an eye test every year—something that eventually cost his driver’s license. Still intent to work to save the money he needs, Legier has been training with a life insurance company—a job that requires he walk to the local Starbucks to meet his mentor.
“I’m determined to do something, hopefully my football, but I have to keep looking ahead,” he said. “I’m a person of faith so I have to trust God will work this out, but yes, it does bother me now knowing what will happen to my vision.”
For now, the $5,000 is his goal since the special bifocals cost $1,500 and then there is a $3,000 class he must take to be trained in how to properly use the glasses.
“I’m doing what I can for now and that’s all I can do,” he said.
Age-related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in older adults. For those who are younger and develop the early and intermediate form of Macular Degeneration they will likely progress to the advanced disease with vision loss as they age.
Anyone who would like to help Legier in his efforts to purchase his glasses can contact Kevin Chiri at The Slidell Independent at email@example.com, or by calling 985-774-1352.