Blind runner in the night

Beersheba resident Sharon Kadar conquers the darkness, every day.

‘I don’t feel the least bit of danger when I run with her’: Kadar (left) at the Beersheba night run, with sighted teammate Dana Kariti. (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘I don’t feel the least bit of danger when I run with her’: Kadar (left) at the Beersheba night run, with sighted teammate Dana Kariti.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sharon Kadar, 51, went blind from one day to the next. She was then a young woman of 25, six months pregnant, working as a secretary and full of goals and ambition.
Nothing foretold what would happen.
“I’d had headaches for a week, but didn’t think it unusual,” recounts Kadar.
“Then I woke up one morning, and there was a black stripe over the vision in my left eye.” Over the day, the black stripe grew, covering all the vision in that eye. “Then I went to my family doctor. He said, ‘Oh, you’re pregnant, it’s a migraine, go home and rest.’ The next day, the same black stripe appeared in my right eye. My husband took me to the emergency room. The doctors there couldn’t diagnose my problem either. Within a few hours, my sight was gone.”
Kadar had developed an extremely rare complication of pregnancy: abnormal swelling of the pituitary gland. The gland is located at the base of the brain, just under the optic nerves. It’s normal for it to swell somewhat in pregnancy.
The condition is called prolactinoma.
According to autopsy studies done in the US, about 25 percent of Americans have prolactinoma. The vast majority of people with the condition suffer no significant medical issues from it, or, if so, those issues can be resolved through standard medications. What was unusual in Kadar’s case was that the pituitary was extremely swollen, with growths that pressed on the optic nerves, choking off vital fluid circulation and ultimately destroying them.
The complication is incredibly rare – less than one in a million, says Kadar.
Its rarity was the reason the family doctor dismissed her vision disruption so casually, and the reason it later puzzled medical experts.
“I was hospitalized for weeks before they figured it out,” Kadar says in a telephone interview. “They tested me for everything. When the right tests finally revealed the source of the blindness, it was too late.”
Kadar, a few months away from giving birth and with her life turned upside down, had to learn how to live all over again. “It was really a kind of tragedy,” she says, her voice darkening. “I went from being an independent woman to a very, very dependent woman, in 24 hours. It was terrifying. Remember, I was six months pregnant, about to become a mother for the first time.
“I was in bed like a sick person for six weeks. But I’m an optimist, a woman who enjoys life. After about two months, I told myself, ‘Sharon, get up. You’re not going to let this ruin your life. Yalla – let’s fight.’ I stood on my feet and said that I won’t give in. Of course, I have a great support network, starting with my wonderful husband and family. I needed a lot of help at first. But from the moment I decided that I wouldn’t let blindness ruin me, I started to overcome. It hasn’t been easy. In the 26 years since it happened, there have been plenty of frustrations and crises and moments when I’ve felt sorry for myself.”
Kadar has chosen to take the long view.
“Those moments were only that – moments. They passed. Today, I have three wonderful children who are grown up and successful. One’s an accountant, one’s in the army, and my youngest is a student. I have a very full life. I’ve traveled around the world and have accomplished lots of things. I’m convinced that people can do anything – it’s just a matter of wanting it enough. I can do everything but drive,” she says.
While her children were small, Kadar dedicated herself to raising her family and running the house. As the children grew and she found herself with more time in her day, she decided to study the Adler method of parenting, graduating after four years as a qualified group leader. Not satisfied, she went on to study life coaching.
Eventually, she realized that life coaching was her calling. She works with private clients but also does something extraordinary as a life coach: She coaches prisoners at the Beersheba Prison. She’s coached prisoners there, as a volunteer, for the past nine years.
“The only condition I make to sit down in a room with a prisoner is that they be sincerely motivated. I don’t care what crime the person committed; I just need to know that they really want to work on themselves. I’ve coached thieves, traffic offenders, murderers, white-collar frauds, men, women, Jews and Beduin. The only thing I’ve found hard to do was talking to sex offenders. But I’ll work with them, too. There’s no one else in Israel doing this, and certainly not on a volunteer basis as I do,” Kadar says with pride.
Kadar’s life changed in a positive way when her attitude toward other disabled people changed. “For years, I chose to associate only with sighted people,” she confesses. “I didn’t want to belong to the society of the blind. Then, about seven years ago, I discovered Etgarim.
“It’s a nonprofit that was first organized by a soldier who was disabled in the Yom Kippur War. Etgarim’s motto is ‘Anyone Can.’ They work with all kinds of disabled people, through sports. There, I discovered that other blind people are nothing like what I imagined.
I became friendly with some, and of course we wound up becoming best friends. I started with Etgarim’s swimming group and got caught up in the magic of sports, teamwork, and, most of all, the togetherness. I belong to their bicycling group and their running group. I also do folk dancing with Etgarim, and now I’m walking the Israel Trail with them.
“The funny thing is, I used to dislike sports; never understood people who love them. Now I’ll jump in and do just about anything.”
For a blind athlete, everything depends on his or her relationship with the volunteer attendant. To ride a bicycle, for example, the volunteer sits in front of a double bike, and the blind person sits on the back seat. The volunteer steers the bike and keeps up a running description of the surroundings as they ride.
Kadar enjoys running, especially the night run organized by her hometown, Beersheba, which was held on May 25.
It was the second time she’s done a night run.
“When a running group started in Beersheba, I immediately joined up. It’s wonderful, good for body and soul. You prove to yourself once again that you can do anything you determine to do,” she says.
Each blind person teams up with a sighted person. They’re joined at the wrists with a long elastic band. The sighted one steers the blind runner and describes all the big and small things happening around them as they run.
“It’s not so simple, running blind,” explains Kadar. “You’d think that for a blind person, it would be the same to run at night. It’s only a tiny bit more comfortable because at night, it’s cooler. In fact, it’s harder in some ways. You have to trust your volunteer absolutely. You can’t do it without that trust. I do trust my volunteer with my safety 100%; I don’t feel the least bit of danger when I run with her. And the Beersheba night run is wonderful. There’s music and great cheering from the onlookers. I was born and raised in Beersheba, so I know lots of the people who show up. It’s a great family atmosphere,” she says.
“It feels great to run,” she concludes, “but the truth is, the best part is when you finish. Then you feel, OK, I did it. There’s just no better feeling.”
How does Kadar get along in day-today life? “I walk with a stick, and I’m waiting to get a seeing-eye dog. And,” she emphasizes, “I couldn’t have come this far without my family’s support.”
Kadar has 2% version in one eye, meaning that she can distinguish between light and shade in a small part of it.
“It’s blindness, all right,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone. “I can’t go out alone. I’ve never seen my children’s faces. You can’t imagine what it is to learn every single thing all over again. Lighting a match, boiling water – all the things I did so naturally before, I had to relearn, step by step. And I did learn; nowadays I don’t depend on special devices to manage my housekeeping. I cook, iron and do laundry like everyone else. I use the timer a lot, though. What I do have, and really appreciate, are voice-activated communication devices: my computer, the iPhone. Those things have been a huge relief to me because now I don’t have to wait for my husband to come home or my kids or siblings to visit to communicate with the world outside.”
METRO ASKED this inspiring woman if she had a message for anyone who’s become disabled.
“The main thing I want to say is don’t give up. Blindness is a constant battle for independence. Even after many years of blindness, I get up every morning and fight for my independence again. Looking at the full cup – that’s where I am. I think there’s no alternative. But it’s not all happy-happy. I certainly go through moments of self-pity and anger. But they’re only moments, and they don’t come often anymore. I think even sighted, healthy people feel like that sometimes. I decided to overcome those feelings and go forward.”
And Sharon Kadar does.
Find out more about Etgarim: (in Hebrew).