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Sight returns suddenly for long-blind Wisconsin man

Poirier family
Poirier, right-center, with his wife, Connie, and two daughters  

June 7, 2000
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT)

In this story:

'A really bright flash of light'

'The best day of my life'


EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin -- After years of blindness, sight returned suddenly to an Eau Claire man two weeks ago.

Renay Poirier was blinded 10 years ago in an electrical accident. Since then, he walked with a white cane and couldn't see the faces of the people he helped in his job as a physical therapy assistant.


While at work on May 23 at Sacred Heart Hospital, Poirier suddenly regained his sight.

'A really bright flash of light'

"I came in, and I was getting ready for my daily routine," Poirier told CNN. "I was getting ready for my daily schedule, getting equipment ready to work with patients, (when) I experienced a terrible headache, and a really bright flash of light ... and I went numb."

Poirier, who was standing by a window on the ninth floor of the hospital, said, "When I could open my eyes I looked down, and the first thing I saw was the chapel, nine floors below, and the green grass, and the trees. I ran down nine flights of stairs to the chapel, and I dropped to my knees and I praised God."

One of the first people Poirier found was his priest. "I pounded on his door, and I said, 'I can see! I can see!'" he recalled.

"What do you mean?" asked the Rev. Edmund Klimek when he heard the yelling.

Poirier was quick to show him. "We went back into the church, and I read Scripture to him," he said. "That was the first thing I read since the accident."

"It was just a beautiful experience," Klimek said.

Poirier's wife, Connie, said she had stopped hoping for his sight to return. "I don't think it was a part of our dreams anymore. It has been so long without it."

"I started going through photo albums right away," Poirier said, "and my wife picked me up, and we went to get the children."

'The best day of my life'

He hadn't been able to see his daughters' faces for a decade. "I just studied them. I don't think I blinked for five minutes. I just studied their faces, and they are so beautiful. It was the best day of my life," he said.

And what did his daughters say to him? "It took a while, probably five minutes or so, and then my oldest child said, 'Dad, are you OK?' And I said, 'Honey, I'm very OK. I can see you now. It was just beautiful.'"

So what does the future hold for the newly sighted husband and father?

"I love being a physical therapy assistant, and I love working with patients," Poirier said. "I think that having the opportunity to spread my faith with patients, and empathy -- understanding to some degree what they have gone through -- is real important in my life."

Poirier said, "Every day I wake up and look outside, and that's beautiful. Anywhere that I go, any place that I'm at, I'm just going to take it all in. No big plans. Just enjoying what we have, every day in our life."

Reporter Boyd Huppert of CNN affiliate KARE contributed to this report.

Webcast aims to raise awareness of blindness as global problem
October 14, 1999
Special: Your Eyes: Blindness
August 18, 1999

Prevent Blindness America
The Foundation Fighting Blindness

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