The Gift of Confidence
Kristen Mitchell’s prosthetic eye was a present to herself.
In 2006, Kristen Mitchell, a fifth-grade teacher from Tazwell, Virginia, woke up one morning and discovered a loss of vision in her right eye due to a retinal detachment. That day was the beginning of a 14-year journey of numerous doctors, surgeries, and specialists.
Throughout her arduous medical journey, Kristen learned she has Stickler Syndrome, a hereditary disease that causes eye abnormalities, loss of hearing, and joint problems, with symptoms varying widely among patients. For Kristen, Stickler Syndrome has caused joint pain and troubles in both eyes. Her left eye was saved, thanks to surgeons at Duke University, but her right never regained vision.
In 2011, Kristen’s right eye stabilized enough to have surgery. She says, “[After surgery, my right eye] looked great, but it was just small. I was never happy with it. I take pride in my appearance. I teach about 100 fifth graders a day and they notice everything. I wanted it to look normal.”
During the summer of 2020, Kristen learned a prosthetic eye might be an option. “[Duke Eye Center] asked if I was interested in a prosthetic, and I’ve always wanted that,” she remembers. “That was the most emotional thing ever. [They] referred me to Carolina Eye Prosthetics.”
Kristen came to Carolina Eye Prosthetics because she wanted to feel more comfortable with her appearance. After an initial video consultation with Anna Jefferson and the Carolina Eye Prosthetics team, Kristen and her husband traveled to Burlington, North Carolina. As with all patients with long drives, Carolina Eye Prosthetics put the couple up in a nearby hotel the night before their in-person office visit.
In the office the next day, Kristen and her husband had an instant connection with Fifi, Carolina Eye Prosthetic’s emotional support animal. After getting measured for her prosthesis, Kristen and her husband spent some time checking out Burlington while Anna and her team got to work. That afternoon, Kristen received her new prosthesis, and was headed home more confident and comfortable with her appearance.
“[Anna’s] artistic skills in drawing and coloring … the eye looks spot on,” says Kristen. “It pops in right over my smaller eye.”
The timing of Kristen’s prosthetic eye was perfect. Her daughter, who was two at the time, would be able to grow up around her mom’s new prosthesis, making it an easy adjustment for the entire family.
Kristen and her husband enjoy an active lifestyle. She says, “We’re super into sports. We both teach. We like to hike. We like to be outdoors. We like to travel.”
Even though Kristen’s prosthetic eye is more about aesthetics, it has helped her feel more comfortable. “I think I’m an extremely hard critic of myself,” she says. “You notice more things about yourself and [this prosthetic eye] was really for me.”
To schedule an appointment with Carolina Eye Prosthetics, please visit https://www.carolinaeyeprosthetics.com/contact-us/.