After a bout with depression over her condition, Goodspeed said she woke up one morning and decided to move on with living her life, and to help other people who had suffered from vision loss to do the same.
Today, 10 years later, Goodspeed is living a happy and healthy life in Herndon, and she is co-hosting an event at the Herndon Community Center this weekend that supports an incredible medical center that invented a device that is changing her life.
"After several months of being at rock bottom, I decided I had two choices - either give up, or fight," she recalled. "I chose to fight harder than I ever had before."
"[Those months were] very difficult, but life never gives you more than you can handle."
Goodspeed then attended a rehabilitation center in Richmond for a while, where she learned computer work and assisted-living skills. That accomplishment led to her volunteering a few days a week at the local library, until eventually she gained enough confidence to return to school and get a degree in contract management from the University of Virginia.
Thanks to all of that hard work, Goodspeed today has a job she loves at TASC in Chantilly, where she has worked for five years now managing government contracts.
All of that changed her life - but life was about to throw her another big change when a neurologist at Johns Hopkins mentioned a new invention to her that could help give her the feeling of sight again.
The device, called the "Brainport," was invented by the staff of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration in Pittsburgh.
The BrainPort is a device that uses “sensory substitution” to give the visually impaired a sense of environmental awareness through a small sensory pad placed on the tongue.
Goodspeed describes the device as a pair of glasses with a camera on the end. The glasses sit on her face, with the camera in middle, that is connected to a sensor that sits on her tongue and connects to a handheld device as well.
The BrainPort translates digital information from the video camera into gentle electrical stimulation patterns on the surface of the tongue. "Bubble-like" patterns on the tongue help her interpret the size, shape and movement of objects, so Goodspeed can "sense" things like a cup or the sidewalk or a curb, and even toss a ball with her 3-year-old son.
"I even walked a block in Manhattan without a support team or a guide dog," Goodspeed said. "I can sense objects."
Goodspeed agreed to be a test patient for the device. Testing has offered success so far. The device received approval for retail sale earlier this year in Europe, and representatives are currently seeking regulatory approval in the United States that would allow it to be retailed here, Goodspeed said.
To offer her support for the Louis J. Fox Center and the Brainport, Goodspeed decided to co-host an event at the Herndon Community Center this Saturday, Sept. 14, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. to help raise money for the center so they can continue their work on vision restoration and making the Brainport more widely available soon.
The event, called "Dance for Sight," will feature Zumba classes for $10, and a silent auction, featuring everything from restaurant and business gift certificates, to spa products, to signed books by local authors, local art, goodie bags and more.
"It's been incredible to be a part of this study," she said. "I'm very passionate about building awareness for the Louis J. Fox Center, and aiding them in their research."
See the two videos above. In the first, Melody uses the Brainport to sense balls on a table and put them into a cup. In the other, Melody sight-reads a group of words written on a page.
To read more about Melody Goodspeed, her journey, the Brainport, and the Louis J. Fox Center's other work, click here.
The official flier for 'Dance for Sight' is included in the photo section of this article.
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