GARNER — Josephine Correia began to notice her vision deteriorate at an alarming rate 18 months ago.
“I was able to sew. I was able to read the paper, the small print, cut out the coupons,” said Correia, 83, of Garner. “Now I can’t see across the room or make out who the person across the table is from me.”
Correia developed macular degeneration, an age-related severe vision loss caused by retina deterioration.
She and her daughter, JoAnn Rey, saw a retina specialist.
“He said, ‘There is nothing we can do, and if I told you I could operate on you I would give you false hope,’ ” Rey recalled. “His advice, like all the others, was to get used to the visual aides.”
Correia did get used to them, but she also became skilled in a new hobby that has helped her adjust to her limited vision – fleece-blanket making.
“We are well past the 30-(blanket) mark; she passed that long ago,” Rey said. “We lost count, but she is well into 50 blankets since this all began.”
Correia has donated dozens of baby blankets to nearby hospitals, to her senior center and as gifts. She also donated 10 adult-size blankets with a pink-ribbon pattern to Relay for Life.
“We call them the survivor blanket,” Rey said.
Fabric typically costs $10 to $15 per yard, but Correia takes advantage of coupons, discounts, and sales to reduce costs.
Rey selects and cuts the fabric for her mother.
“It really is a labor of love,” Rey said of her mother’s efforts.
Correia learned to make the blankets from Tomeico Faison, founder of Therapeutic Solutions, an occupational therapy agency in Garner.
Faison met Correia in the summer of 2012 when Faison made a presentation at a local senior center about living with limited vision. Correia approached Faison after the presentation.
“She questioned me what I like to do,” Correia said. “I said I used to like crafts, not professionally, but sewing, crocheting, embroidery – not knitting. She found these (blankets) and showed me what to do and I got hooked on it.”
Faison said she learned the blanket-making technique when she became trained to help visually impaired patients in 2007 through 2009. She spent time shadowing an optometrist specializing in low vision and learning how to help low-vision patients in their homes.
Occupational therapists can provide tools to improve the quality of life for people with low vision and reduce frustrations in daily life, Faison said.
These tools include pasting fabric swatches on washing machines so people use the correct setting for each kind of fabric; using a liquid level indicator with a buzzer to prevent spilling; and learning to visualize objects before reaching for them to reduce the risk of knocking over other objects.
“What I’ve seen from a result of this is it has taken up a life of its own,” Rey said. “From one blanket, what she is doing, it has really renewed her purpose. Because even at the house we all do our own thing, but this is something she can do on her own and enjoy as a renewed purpose.”