Zachary Jay Friedli Zach grew up in the great town of Hooper, UT. He is the third of four amazing children with some pretty amazing parents. He has always been an outdoorsman who loves to fish, hunt, and just be outside. He is one of those guys that can do pretty much anything and is really good at it. He is just an all around amazing person that draws you in with his a huge smile, perfect teeth, and big eyes (kinda like his son).
From what I hear he was a pretty talented baseball and soccer player before the tragic day when he was 15 years old and his life changed...a lot. He was swimming that summer and dove in the pool. When he came up out of the water one of his eyes was a little blurry and didn't get better. They went to the eye doctor and saw that his optic nerve in his right eye was swelling and damaging the nerve. They did several tests but couldn't determine what exactly was causing it and there was nothing they could do to stop it. He ended up losing all sight in that eye. If you hold a flashlight up to that eye then he can kinda tell that there is a little light there but that is the extent of what he can see in that eye. The doctors told them then, that his other eye would be fine because if something were going to happen to it it would have happened then. So although grateful for his one good eye, he had to give up his love for baseball and soccer due to his lack of depth perception and the risk of hurting the other eye. Could you imagine that at 15 when that stuff is what you live for?! He adapted to one eye really well and was able to do pretty much everything anyone else could, except play sports. No one hardly even knew including me until he finally told me after we had been dating for quite awhile. (he has always been very private about it ).
After he graduated from high school he went on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to South Dakota. This is where we first met. After returning home from his mission he started his landscaping business Mountainside Landscapes while going to Weber State University at the same time. He has grown his business every year and done really well because he is such a perfectionist at what he does and is very personable with all people. He does amazing work...even blind!
In August 2009, after being married for 2 1/2 years, at the age of 25, almost exactly 10 years from losing the sight in his right eye....he was driving to work and noticed that cars were passing him on the left and he wasn't noticing them until they were in front of him. He knew something was definitely wrong and after what he had already been through you can imagine how freaked out he was. His parents and I met him at the eye doctors right away only to hear the devastating news that his optic nerve in his left eye (his only good eye) was starting to swell...which meant damage to the nerve...which meant permanent loss of vision unless something was done. 10 years later with all of the advancements in the medical field we thought for sure there is something now that will prevent this from happening again and it will be ok. Little did we know, we were so wrong. We immediately were sent to the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake to be seen by a doctor there. She saw the seriousness of what was going to happen if we didn't stop the swelling so she checked Zach into the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray where they could give him some treatments to try and stop the swelling. They first injected him with steroids but with no success. They then used a machine to pump out his blood and pump it back in with new immunoglobulin. That didn't help at all and instead left him with a staph infection inside of his body from the tube that was going into his neck...which made him very sick.
The machine doing it's thing.
One last attempt they injected his eyeball with some experimental thing, but that didn't help at all...only pissed him off when they went to inject it and his eye was not numb yet...OUCH!!!
After a 3 week HORRIBLE stay in the hospital...he was sent home being labeled as legally blind. After 10 years they still had NO idea what caused the swelling to come on and nothing they could do to stop it. Each day he would wake up in the hospital and see less...it was seriously a nightmare. He didn't want to go to sleep at night because he knew what the next morning would bring. When the swelling was gone and the damage done...he was left with a very small portion on the outer part of his eye that can see outlines and contrasts. Nothing in detail. He wouldn't be able to tell me from someone else my size unless I talked. The hardest part about the little piece that can somewhat see is that it's not in the center part of his eye...that part is completely black. So if he looks directly at something there is nothing there...so he has to look to the side of the object he wants to see a little to be able to see what he can. (try doing that to things...it is quite annoying)
Celebrated Dakota's 1st birthday in the hospital.
Such a cute dad
Vicki got these bracelets for everyone to wear for Zach...so touching how many wore them and even some still do!
Dakota was one of the only things that could bring a smile to his face in there!
Finally going home!!
The only thing they say could possible help him 1 day is stem cells...but that is a long way off from being perfected at this point.
It was a REALLY hard adjustment as you can imagine...physically, emotionally, mentally going from complete independence to being blind. He needed help a lot at first from finding clothes to wear, to meals, to using the phone, to getting around without killing himself, etc. Over time he has adjusted to using what little sight he has to become more independent. He pretty much does most everything on his own now except drive and read long documents. If he holds his phone up really close to his eye he can read texts and see who is calling. When he is on the computer he blows the screen up really big and sits really close and does his emails and whatever. He can make his own food without burning himself...although he still prefers me to make it...but that's just the man in him. ;) If you didn't know him you would never even know he was blind by looking at him or watching him. He is pretty dang amazing to say the least. He even showed me up and shot MY pheasant I was shooting at...read about it here. He can still back his truck up to the trailer and back the trailer into tight spots better then most people with two eyes...it is quite the sight to see!
After he lost his sight we weren't sure what to do financially. How could a blind man possibly keep a landscaping business running. When spring rolled around the next year we didn't really have a Plan B so he just went for it, using his amazing employee for his eyes. Everything has worked out up to this point and we are grateful for those blessings from the Lord. He has even invented 2 amazing tools blind and finished out his last semester of college to graduate. (That was a strain on the old marriage being his reader and study companion...we are still married and happy though...I just think my name should have been on that degree too! ;) )
Zach is an AMAZING man! I don't know how many men would step up to this kind of challenge and do so well with it. He definitely misses A LOT of things that he used to be able to do, even just something as basic as driving, but I am SO proud to call him MY husband!!!
We still hope 1 day he will be able to see again and go back to enjoying the things that he loves. I can't wait for him to go for a drive all by himself again, go hunt whenever he wants, see Dakota's sweet maturing face (not so much to see all the wrinkles I am getting from all this stress...he will be in for a shocker ;) )