My new outlook on 2018


By Pam Penfield 


Last December, I noticed I was having considerable trouble reading price tags while shopping, and reminded myself to get my vision checked. As my vision progressed from bad to worse, it was becoming more and more difficult to do my job.

It was already the month of May before I finally made an appointment at Newcastle Vision Clinic to see if I needed to get a stronger prescription. Dr. Assay informed me that my prescription was fine, but I had cataracts in both eyes and would need to have surgery.

He referred me to a group in Rapid City and I began the laborious process of talking to various eye surgeons, and seeking possible financial assistance as I didn’t have health insurance and the surgery can be upwards of $20,000 per eye.

My husband and I finally agreed to secure a bank loan to pay for the surgery, and following a recommendation from a friend, I made an appointment with The Eye Doctors in Rapid City.

I met Dr. Gail Bernard at the end of August and explained my financial situation. She recommended that I apply for the Christmas Gift of Sight program through the Northern Plains Eye Foundation. They assist people with a known financial hardship and no health insurance with life-saving eye surgeries.

I completed the paperwork as soon as I could and forwarded it on to Dr. Bernard, as you must be recommended by a physician to apply. In the middle of November, I received a call from Ronda Gusinsky with the Northern Plains Eye Foundation informing me that I had been selected as a recipient for the Christmas Gift of Sight.

The organization would pay for the cataract surgery in my right eye (the worst one). I have had significant personal hardships the last two years, and Ronda informed me that the board felt my story was so sad that they hoped that this gift would help me get back on my feet after having faced so many challenges.

I had my surgery on December 5, and I immediately noticed a huge difference in my vision!

I was amazed at how the color white looked. Yes, good old boring white! The clouds in the sky, car headlights, my computer screen, a plain piece of white paper. It was like seeing the color white for the first time – amazing! Snow has all of these beautiful blue undertones. Light bulbs and fire flames fascinated me, and still do.

My vision continues to improve daily, and Dr. Bernard made arrangements for all of my follow-up appointments right here in Newcastle! Although my Shopko “readers” are pretty darn cute, I look forward to my next appointment where I can get a new prescription, and start wearing my regular glasses again.

I know that I am not the only one who has had some pretty awful things land in their lap this past year. Somehow, we all seem to make it through with a little help from our friends, our co-workers, our family, and yes, perfect strangers. Here we are at the dawn of a brand new year, complete with brand new challenges, and hopefully, brand new blessings just waiting to be scooped up and cherished.

I hope 2018 shines for each and every one of you, dear readers, just like the brightest, purest, most beautiful white you have ever seen. Happy New Year.

For more information or to donate to the Northern Plains Eye Foundation, contact Ronda Gusinsky at, or visit their website at


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