“Blindness was not part of my plans”, explains Cris de Diego, who started to lose her eyesight at the age of 21 due to diabetes. “My will to live, my desire to interact with the people around me and the love of those who help me have been crucial in overcoming the countless obstacles I have faced and continue to face on a daily basis”, she explains.
One of the recent challenges she has faced has been retinal detachment, which she suffered in both eyes as a complication of her diabetic retinopathy and for which she was offered few treatment options and little hope of avoiding the worsening of her blindness due to diabetes. However, when she came to IMO Grupo Miranza and asked Dr Andrea Oleñik for help, she found an open door to undergo this complex surgery with confidence. Patient and ophthalmologist were “responsibly brave”, one of Miranza’s values, and, with careful surgery and recovery, they have managed to preserve some vision, something Cris values a lot. As she points out, “being able to see certain lights, colours, bulge or shapes makes a big difference compared to being totally blind due to diabetes and allows me to get on quite safely, especially in accessible environments”. Therefore, it was clear to her that it was worth fighting for her vision, as she has done throughout her life.
From child to adult: overcoming blindness due to diabetes
As a child, Cris was diagnosed with brittle diabetes, a rare form of the disease that is characterised by instability and difficulty in controlling it, despite taking the appropriate preventive measures. In her case, her eyes have been one of the main areas affected by this metabolic decompensation, since she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy when she was studying at university. Some years later, she developed cataracts – also associated with diabetes – and, more recently, retinal detachment occurred. All of this has led her to experience varying degrees of blindness due to diabetes.
With each setback, Cris and her family have opted to seek the most advanced ophthalmological solutions available and, above all, to adapt and focus on the positive aspects: “You can move forward, with many barriers, but with will and help you can overcome them.” In this sense, she adds that “it is clear that you stop doing things, for example, driving or skiing, which I like. I also had to give up my job as a lawyer, but then I gave myself the opportunity to study what I really liked.”
Passion for the arts and social contribution
After having obtained a law degree, Cris graduated in Tourism, with great effort and grades, and received the Extraordinary Award for the Best Student of her class. However, she wanted to go one step further and, in 2017, she enrolled for the dual degree in Fine Arts and Tourism. That year, she was also selected by the European Union to collaborate as a volunteer and make paintings in different European museums accessible to visually impaired visitors. “I wanted to contribute with something and I proved that it is possible”, she says.
Cris is currently continuing her studies and cherishing her passion for the arts. Her role as a painter is another form of expression, in which she reflects her perception of the world, which became more colourful and vibrant after the retinal detachment surgery performed at IMO Grupo Miranza. This change can be seen in the works of her first personal exhibition, Dibujando a ciegas (drawing blind), where she captured her evolution and showed how “a blind person can create and appreciate a work of art using touch, hearing, smell and, if they have some, the rest of their vision”.
In fact, on her website (www.crisdediego.es) she includes a quote by Picasso, which resonates with her: “Painting is a profession for the blind. A painter does not paint what they see, but what they feel.”
The challenge of diabetes beyond blindness
Blindness due to diabetes has been greatly reduced in recent years thanks to a greater culture of prevention and control of this disease and its complications. Ophthalmological treatments have also evolved dramatically, both in terms of surgical and laser techniques as well as new intravitreal injection drugs, hence greatly improving the visual prognosis, if it is backed up by an early diagnosis of the characteristic lesions of the diabetic eye. For especially severe and challenging cases like Cris’s, which remain a challenge, as Dr Oleñik explains in relation to diabetes and vision, an expert indication and performance of increasingly sophisticated vitrectomy surgery also increases the chances of maintaining vision.