Before Monday, Wanda Daniel of Marion had never clearly seen the face of her friend and roommate Phyllis Zorn.
Following cataract removal in one eye, she exalted in her newfound eyesight after being almost totally blind for seven years.
“It was the highest high I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “When I told Phyllis I could see, she cried. I had never seen Phyllis cry.”
Daniel said she became deathly sick after she was bitten by a Puerto Rican banana spider that was in a batch of bananas she purchased. She developed sores all over her body, her kidneys failed, and she was put on dialysis.
She was diagnosed with MRSA, a staph infection that has become resistant to many antibiotics and can be deadly. Her children were called to her bedside because she wasn’t expected to live.
But she did, although the infection left her almost completely blind, with a detached retina in the right eye and one hanging by a thread in the left eye.
She had three heart attacks in the ensuing years. She underwent numerous eye treatments that gave her headaches. She believes the treatments resulted in multiple cataracts in her eyes.
A few months ago, she began to regain some sight and could make out shapes.
“All of a sudden, I could see a little,” she said.
Shortly before moving to Marion with Phyllis in January, she went to an eye doctor who said, “I think we can get you low vision in your left eye.”
Her surgery Monday was to remove three cataracts in the eye and implant an artificial lens. That alone was enough to improve her sight.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
In three or four weeks, she will have surgery to reattach the retina in the eye.
She said she is beginning to see with her right eye, as well. Doctors have no explanation for it. So, there may be even more and better sight in her future.
“I have 4,000 people praying for me,” she said, “and I have a deep faith. Your faith in God and a sense of humor will take care of everything.”
The 56-year-old woman has an incredible life story.
Abandoned by her mother at age 2, she lived in 35 different orphanages and foster homes while growing up. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4.
She went out on her own at age 12, working a job and living homeless until someone took her in and saw her through high school.
“I lived behind a dumpster for a while,” she said.
After being married for 10 years, she took training in physical therapy and became an assistant physical technician. When she saw the psychological needs of people, she decided to go back to school and become a licensed professional counselor, a career she followed for 23 years.
She was working across the street from the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City when it was bombed. She lost her best friend in the bombing. She helped pull bodies out of the wreckage, including a small child who was still alive and a dead infant.
She worked there for one year, counseling victims and their families.
She has worked in halfway houses for drug addicts, with people whose relatives were murdered, and with sexually abused children.
She said the hardest lesson she had to learn was to say, “I need you. I need some help.”
“I’m nothing special,” she concluded. “I’ve lived through a spider bite, I’m blind, and now I am going to see some, and I want to help people. I love reaching out and helping people.”