Meet Lauren Oplinger, one of Lighthouse International’s Double Up 4 Vision participants. Join Lauren in supporting the fight against vision loss by making a donation or registering for Double Up 4 Vision today!
Lauren Oplinger awoke to total darkness.
It was March 2009 and she was lying in a bed at St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey. As she gathered her thoughts, she remembered checking into the hospital for flu like symptoms. But now she could see nothing. Her vision was completely gone.
“I wasn’t able to truly comprehend what had happened,” said Lauren. “One minute you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I have the flu.’ The next minute, you wake up and you don’t even know what happened.”
It began on February 27, 2009, when Lauren left work at JPMorgan Chase for the weekend with flu like symptoms. As the weekend progressed, her condition deteriorated and she was admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU). Lauren went into kidney failure and was put on a respirator while doctors tried to figure out the cause. They determined that Lauren had an airborne infection in her lungs, which went into her bloodstream and spread to every major organ in her body. Two days later, she went into cardiac arrest and her kidneys failed for a second time.
Lauren survived, but when she woke up, her vision was gone. “I was in total darkness,” she recalls.
Thankfully, her vision wasn’t gone for good. Lauren eventually began to see light, shapes and objects. But her full vision never returned. She was legally blind, having lost all of her central and peripheral vision. It was a life altering experience. “I felt like my whole life was stripped from right underneath me,” she admits.
After Lauren was released from the hospital, she moved back to Summit, New Jersey to live with her parents while she recuperated. She was forced to go on short term disability and leave her job at JPMorgan Chase, where she was an analyst in the Sales & Trading program.
Lauren always wanted to work on Wall Street. “I loved the environment of the trading floor,” she said. After graduating from the College of Holy Cross, where she double majored in math and economics, Lauren was hired by JPMorgan Chase.
Now, after almost losing her life, Lauren didn’t know what the future would hold. “I was happily living and working in New York,” she said. “Then all of the sudden, I didn’t know if I’d be able to do my job again.”
Lauren spent the next four months doing visual and physical therapy as she became acclimated to living without full vision.
Lauren remained motivated and committed. “I really wanted to get back to work and my life in New York,” she said. “I wanted to show everyone that I could do it.”
And that’s exactly what she did. After completing her rehabilitation, Lauren returned to JPMorgan Chase on September 1, 2009. With the aid of three large computer screens and ZoomText Reader and Magnifier software, Lauren was able to do her job. “I sit right in the aisle with all the other traders,” she said. “I’m capable of doing my job and that’s the most important thing.”
With her life back in order, Lauren began looking for ways to advocate for people with vision impairments. In November 2010, she volunteered at Lighthouse International’s Children’s Holiday Festival, which provided gifts to visually impaired children.
Later this month, she will be riding in Lighthouse International’s Double Up 4 Vision Tandem Bike Ride and Walk. Thrilled with the idea of raising funds and public awareness for vision loss, Lauren will be riding in the 24-Hour, Five-Borough Tandem Bike Relay on October 21. Lauren has already contributed greatly to the event, having raised an astonishing $59,000 – the most raised by an individual in the event’s two year history.
Through her strength, courage and perseverance, Lauren has been able to live an independent life and do everything a sighted person is able to do. She’s truly an inspiration. “Sharing my story has been therapeutic,” she admits. “This is me and I’m proud of it. I want to inspire others [and prove] you can still live a fun, happy and fulfilling life.”
Ride or walk for yourself or for someone you love. Register and donate today! www.doubleup4vision.org.