Edmonton

Alberta man blinded from 'super-rare' disease regains sight thanks to donations

Kevin Michael-Gagne is thrilled to be able to get lost in IKEA and find his own way out again.

'[The donations] helped bring me out of the darkness I was in,' says Kevin Michael-Gagne

Kevin Michael-Gagne can see again thanks to his new electronic glasses, which donors helped him buy. (CBC)

Kevin Michael-Gagne is thrilled to be able to get lost in IKEA and find his own way out again.

The 22-year-old developed a rare eye disorder in 2015 that blinded him. But thanks to fundraising help from the public, he has a set of $15,000 electronic glasses that have helped him regain his sight.

"It was a miracle," Michael-Gagne told CBC's Radio Active. "The first thing I really saw when I put on my glasses was my mom, and I instantly started crying because I could see again."

Michael-Gagne fell asleep after watching Netflix on his iPad one night in 2015. When he woke up, he was blind in his right eye.

Six months later, he woke up blind in his left eye.

Doctors still aren't sure what caused his blindness, but they think the arteries in his eyes leaked blood and crushed his retinas. Michael-Gagne said there are five known cases in the world.

"It's a super-rare condition that they can't heal," he said.

After he went blind in both eyes, Michael-Gagne said it wasn't only his vision that went dark.

"I lost my apartment, lost my girlfriend, lost my vehicle, lost my job, lost my dogs, lost it all," he said.

'I instantly started crying because I could see again'

4 years ago
Duration 8:13
Kevin Michael-Gagne can see thanks to donations to buy a $12,500 set of electronic glasses.

He frantically searched online for ways he could see again. He came across a set of electronic glasses called eSight and thought they might work for him.

He tried them on and found he could see again. The only problem was the glasses with all the accessories he needed would cost $15,000.

Michael-Gagne turned to the public for help.

'I can see and move again'

He was on his way home from a local media interview about his condition when he received a call from an anonymous man from Sherwood Park.

The man donated $7,000. Along with others who made contributions, Michael-Gagne was able to buy his eSight glasses.

Michael-Gagne with CBC Radio Active host Rod Kurtz. (Kevin Michael-Gagne/Twitter)

"They donated so much and helped bring me out of the darkness I was in," he said.

The glasses are a bit limiting, as he only has about a 40-degree view, which means no peripheral vision and some limitations on the vision window.

But the glasses have given him a chance to become independent again. He can't work as a welder anymore, but hopes to go back to school in the fall to become a general contractor.

"I plan on going to work and then I'm going to get my own apartment," he said.

Above all, the glasses have given Michael-Gagne a new lease on life.

"It brought me from the depression and the sorrow that I was in to a very happy and ecstatic guy," he said. "[There's a] smile on my face everywhere I go because I can see and move again."

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