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Cori Noble - Blind, with 20/20 Vision

Cori Noble remembers the exact moment he lost his sight. He was 30 years old and just woke up from a nap. His wife and 18-month-old son were there and he asked why they were sitting in the dark. She told him it was 3pm and the sun was shining through the windows. The room was awash in light yet Corey couldn’t see a thing.

“I knew then the grayish fog that was blocking everything except for shapes had gotten worse and now it was a black fog that never lifted,” Cori said. “Darkness came and caused a major shift in the way I knew life. I was tested beyond anything I had known. At that point I was in a wheelchair and blind, which was just awful. I worked hard to get back on my feet.”

Cori has neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, NMOSD, a rare relapsing remitting disorder of the brain and spine. Historically, it was considered a subtype of MS, but it is typically more severe and until recently, had no effective treatments.

Like MS, the symptoms from NMOSD were strange and sporadic. Starting just two months after getting married in 2010, Cori noticed he had spasticity in his legs that would leave them numb and he was unable to walk for a time. Gradually, he lost the ability to walk completely. His bladder and kidneys weren’t working properly either and he had the hiccups for a month. As he put it, “his body was going haywire.”

A series of hospital stays and doctor appointments led to a MS diagnosis but one neurologist wasn’t sure that was accurate and recommended Cori see Dr. Mary Ann Picone, Medical Director of the MS Center at Holy Name Medical Center. 

Dr. Picone admitted Cori and ran tests that found he had an infection, causing a very high fever. She also discovered he had NMOSD, not MS, and started treatment immediately, for his disease and the infection.

“My fever was so high I was basically cooking from the inside,” Cori said. “But the care at Holy Name was amazing. My infection was affecting different parts of my body and I thought I was dying. But I could feel the love and compassion from everyone. I think if I had gone to another hospital, I would be dead.” 

At that point, Cori was still able to see, though it seemed as if he were looking through a gray veil. Once his infections cleared, he went to a rehabilitation facility to work on regaining the use of his legs. It was in that facility when he woke up with his wife there and realized that he was in total darkness. 

This was the start of an arduous journey for Cori. He was angry and scared. His would no longer be able to keep his job at a printing company. He was also a tattoo artist and a licensed barber – all skills he couldn’t use without his sight. 

“I could deal with not being able to walk but my eyes were everything,” he said. 

But once he realized that for the time being at least – he still believes one day he will see again – his sight wasn’t returning soon, he focused hard are getting out of his wheelchair. He also went on to get his associate’s degree and is working on starting a career as a social worker. He learned braille and enrolled in a vocation school for the blind to learn how to do the basics of daily living such as cooking and laundry.

Cori and his wife recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary and have been there for each other as they both battled health problems while raising their two sons. 

“I talk to my sons about not being able to see,” Cori said. “I let them know that daddy can’t see but I can hear and I’m still here. I tell them that no matter what happens during their lives, it’s never over until the end. There is a quote, ‘The only thing worse than being blind is having sight without vision.’ I’m not sighted but I have 20/20 vision.”