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An Appetite for Life – Lighthouse International Employee, Marie J. Gilles, shares about her low vision and path to empowerment.

“When you fall down – you pick yourself up!” These are the words Marie J. Gilles has lived by all her life. Despite a debilitating medical condition that caused her to lose her sense of taste, smell, and much of her vision seven years ago, the 50-something year-old mother of four did not let these serious impediments ruin her appetite for life. In her view, she still has two senses, and her “intuition” to continue navigating through life; that is all she needs.
 
With her faith and the support of her family and friends, the Licensed Nurse Practitioner of 34 years was determined to regain her independence quickly, so that her children’s and husband’s lives wouldn’t be interrupted. Selflessly, she said, “Learning to help myself was important. I put my family and my profession first, always, but I learned if I don’t take care of myself and my health, then I cannot take care of these other things.”

Due to her vision loss, Marie could no longer work as a nurse, but her extensive experience and diverse skills helped her to face new challenges and embrace a new way of life. While she held an Associates degree, it wasn’t enough to find another job. Almost as soon as she was diagnosed, she enrolled in, and earned, a Master’s degree with honors in Nursing and Nursing Education – all this while also adjusting to being legally blind. She credits her strong will to her parent's encouragement and to the continued love and support she receives from her husband Andre, and their children.
 
Marie is now working at Lighthouse International as a Call Center Information Representative, where she advises people who are visually impaired or recently undergoing rehabilitation. Through her personal condition, Marie has gained incredible insights and knowledge, a “new appetite for life” and a renewed drive to help others.
She is an active member of her professional community and continues to enjoy her many hobbies: playing piano, singing, gardening, writing poetry and learning new languages (in addition to the three she already speaks fluently). When asked what advice she gives to people who are visually impaired, she says she encourages them to take advantage of the many resources that are available. “Lighthouse International is a beacon of hope. There is so much help available here that when you are proactive in seeking it out and looking for it, you become empowered.

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