HW: A gift of vision December 22, 2009

Optometrist Julie Larson, O.D., left, hands patient Sarah Sterling equipment to fine tune her reading glasses in Larson’s office at the Rimrock WalMart. Sterling had congenital cataracts that grew progressively worse until Larson and others stepped in to get her surgery on her eyes. In return, Sterling, a Mesa State college student and artist, plans to paint a mural on a blank wall in Larson’s office.



Sarah Sterling could be totally blind today if it weren’t for the compassion and support of a local optometrist.

Sterling, 25, had congenital cataracts, and in the past year her vision began deteriorating rapidly. The Mesa State College nursing student and artist went from being able to easily see to drive her car, to not being able to read the words in a book.

After having lens replacement surgery in November thanks to local optometrist Julie Larson, Sterling’s vision is 20/20 with bifocal glasses.

“Dr. Larson gave me my life back,” Sterling said. “She gave me my youth back.”

When her vision started to worsen earlier this year, Sterling went for eye tests at local clinics. She was told she could have surgery, but it probably wouldn’t bring back her vision. Sterling could barely afford the eye exams, much less surgery.

Then local man Jon Rand and his family stepped in. A couple years ago, the Rand family took Sterling under their wing, to help and encourage the college student.

When Rand found out about Sterling’s recent vision deterioration, he referred Sterling to Larson, his family’s optometrist.

Larson works at the eye center at Wal-Mart, 2545 Rimrock Ave.

Larson said she saw a need with Sterling and “wanted to help as much as I could.”

Larson completed an eye exam for no charge and then arranged for Sterling to have cataract surgery and lens replacements with ophthalmologist Starck Johnson in Denver. Larson also arranged for Sterling to have a place to stay in Denver for free.

Even the anesthesiologist for the surgery waived fees for the surgery, Rand said.

“I am not sure of the total cost, but because of Dr. Larson’s efforts, this young lady got a very expensive surgery at absolutely no charge,” Rand said. “Dr. Larson could see the need in this young woman’s life and found a way to provide this surgery.”

After the surgery, Larson paid for Sterling’s glasses out-of-pocket, Rand said.

Almost immediately after the operation and lens replacements, Sterling found that colors were more vivid than she had ever seen in her life.

Yellow, her favorite color growing up, used to appear more like a dull, dark gold when she had cataracts, Sterling said.

Sterling said she feels confident again to continue painting and blending colors. She also feels better equipped to continue earning a nursing degree.

Sterling plans to paint a mural on a wall in Larson’s office as a way to thank her for all of her help.

“This has been my biggest success story,” Larson said. “I think we’ll be friends for life.”


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