Jessica Woods is an amazing person who continues to inspire any person she comes in contact with.
Woods was born legally blind due to an eye condition called Coloboma. This eye condition is caused Woods’ retina to be deformed and her octave nerve to be damaged.
At the age of eight, the retina in Woods’ right eye detached and surgery was performed to reattach it. This surgery did not work. There was another surgery that was performed to try to fix the surgery from last time.
This time the surgery worked and Woods regained some sight. From this point on, Woods slowly began to lose the regained sight that she had.
By the age of 17 the eye condition took her sight completely.
Raising someone who is legally blind and then going blind at the age of 17 was.
“An Adventure,” said Pam Woods, who is Jessica Woods’ mother, “There were challenges in the school systems, trying to get her an education. Watching her struggle, I guess you can say we celebrated when she succeeded, we cried along with her when she didn’t but it was an adventure.”
From the time she was little, she was in Orientation and Mobility Training. She was given her first cane when she was seven years old, and she would continue to use this cane for the next 12 years.
Many people with perfect sight really take for granted what it means to walk independently; but when you are blind, being able to walk independently really is a miracle. At the age of 19, Woods knew it was time for her to have that independence and freedom just like any other person, so she applied for her first guide dog.
Her first guide dog was a yellow Golden Retriever /Labrador mix named Bristol. Woods had to go through a month long training process before she could bring Bristol home.
During this training process, she was taught how to work with Bristol while he was in and out of harness. The training was well worth it all. They worked together as a team for five years.
But sadly, last year, Bristol started showing signs that he didn’t want to work anymore. Woods thought it was time to retire Bristol, and was ready to do so, until, one night he developed a severe nose bleed. Woods took him to the vet the next day and sadly, the news was not good, Bristol had cancer. Last summer, Bristol peacefully died in Woods’ arms when he was put to sleep.
Woods knew it was time to get another guide dog. She and Bristol made such a great team that she decided to go back to Bristol’s school for her next dog. But, after her application was completed, she was put onto a waiting list and told that there was not a good match for her. Since she was starting her next year of college in August, she approached the Pilot Dogs, Inc. She told them about her situation and that she would need a new dog to help her live independently on campus.
A month later, she got the phone call she had anxiously been waiting for. The school had a match for her. For Woods, this was a new adventure because she had to leave her family behind and she had to fly to Columbus, Ohio, to receive and train with her new dog.
Her freedom and independence would continue with a two year old black Labrador, named Diesel. Since Woods was in a different city, she received a different kind of training than she had received with her first guide dog.
“I got more city training in Columbus, Ohio, than at the previous school, which was more of a small town, which I found very beneficial,” said Jessica Woods.
She returned home and to her dorm mates at her school. Once at her school, she had to teach guide dog etiquette to her dorm mates.
“No, I had no idea until they came here, “said Grace Eadie, who is a member of the residence hall were Woods and Diesel live, “I thought that you could just play with the dog and really you can’t do that.”
Many of Jessica’s dorm mates feel happy that Diesel is around to help her.
” I feel that Jessica is very lucky to have Diesel,” said Ashlee Ballew, “I am glad that Jessica has the extra help. She is a very sweet girl and Diesel seems to help her out a lot.”
Many of Jessica’s friends have seen her grow with Diesel, who is still a young puppy.
“It’s very interesting because I knew Jessica when she had Bristol and they were a pretty good team,” said Becca Hill who is a friend of Jessica and Diesel in an interview, “and then she got Diesel who is very hyper, and it’s kind of like the opposite of Bristol, but it’s pretty cool watching them learn and watching Diesel mature. “
Jessica and Diesel: The freedom continues