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Sebastopol teen fights to stay independent as she battles sight loss

  • Visually impaired Analy High School sophomore Destiny Snell, right, navigates Analy High School with mobility specialist Coni Arendt with the Sonoma County Office of Education, Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Destiny Snell's expression is one of abiding glee as she recalls the day a few weeks back when she first heard the chirping sound at the crosswalk near her high school, Analy, in Sebastopol.

It came months ahead of what she'd been told would be the case. It signaled freedom.

A year into learning how to navigate life with most of her vision gone, the sophomore is driven to master all the tools and skills at her disposal to minimize limitations on her life.

Sebastopol Teen Destiny Snell

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The busy crossing at North Main Street on her route between school and home was a clear impediment to independence. Now, she can cross it off the list.

In the months since she learned about the sight-stealing tumors in her brain, the 16-year-old has undergone two surgeries and suffered weeks of daily radiation to preserve what little vision she had left. Through it all, Snell has confronted her situation with a fortitude and practicality that's awed those around her.

That she's brave in the face of growing blind is impressive. That it's just the latest hardship to come her way earns her instant respect.

"Destiny is one of the most courageous people I have ever come across," said Leslie Edmonds, part of a team from the Sonoma County Office of Education that is teaching Snell adaptive skills, from Braille to using talking computers, to overcome her impairment. "The inner strength is just off the charts."

Snell gives credit for her endurance and upbeat perspective to simple optimism, as if it's a small habit from childhood she realized one day was of use.

The challenges of her life might have taught her otherwise. Bitterness would have been an understandable choice.

Having endured a childhood without her parents, neglect as a preteen and the more recent shock and discomfort of losing her eyesight, Snell said she copes because it's her custom "to look at the bright side."


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