Gainesville resident Mark Green has spent most of his life with a sight impairment that does not allow him to focus on objects from a distance.
That is until just recently, when his co-workers from a local Wendy’s and franchise owner company Calhoun Management Corporation came together and raised funds to help Green purchase an eSight device.
Now with this device, which is worn like a pair of sunglasses, Green can see objects and details unlike ever before.
“When I first put the eSight on, I was able to see the blades of grass outside, I was able to see leaves on the trees, I saw a baby bird on a branch and I’ve never been able to see that before,” said Green.
Green explained that he was born with a condition known as visual nystagmus, which causes his eyes to constantly move involuntarily. This movement makes it impossible for Green’s eyes to focus like they should and therefore unable to see details that are common to most people.
Green’s sight impairment may hinder him on most days, but in a twist of fate the condition helped to save the lives of himself and his family on the night their home caught fire.
Green said on the evening of June 9, 2019, he and his wife were awoken by their dogs barking at a bright light outside of their bedroom window. That light was actually the flames from a fire that started in the garage of their rented two-story house on Sardis Road in Gainesville.
Green, his wife, their daughter and Green’s mother-in-law were all in the house asleep when the fire started but were able to make it to the kitchen and attempted to exit from a back door. Unfortunately, Green said the back door was stuck and conditions inside the house were worsening as black smoke continued to fill the kitchen area.
Green said he and his wife had their cellphones in hand to use as flashlights as they were attempting to pry open the back door. In a moment of desperation, Green handed his cellphone to his daughter to hold while he attempted to open the door.
“I knew that we were seconds away from blacking out from the smoke inhalation,” said Green.
Green said that normally direct light in his face, such as a flashlight from a cellphone, would temporarily blind him due to the nystagmus. But the smoke in the kitchen was so thick at that point that Green said he could not even see the light.
In order to combat the conditions, Green closed his eyes and was able to feel his way to open the door, then grab his family to push through it.
Green said it was only a matter of seconds after he and his family escaped the house that the area they had just been in went up in flames. Shortly after, the entire roof of their house caved in. Green said that the fire had been so close to them in the kitchen that it burnt the hair off his left arm.
“Just to give you an idea, according to the Fire Marshal’s report, the call went in to 911 at 11:23 p.m., they arrived nine minutes later and the house was already more than 75 percent involved in the fire,” said Green.
Green said that officials with the Fire Marshal’s office told him that most people would not have been able to escape the conditions that he and his family did; Green credits their ability to get out to his visual impairment.
“I am so accustomed to not seeing well…over the years I’ve gotten accustomed to being able to find my way around using other senses and trusting my instincts,” said Green.
Green and his family lost everything they owned in the fire, including 13 pets. The only exception to their losses were a few possessions from a small walk-in closet that was the sole structure left standing in the home.
Green said he and his family have worked since the night of the fire to slowly recover what they lost. In the meantime, he discovered the eSight device a few weeks ago during a Google search and the company that developed the device, eSight Corporation, sent Green a demo to try out.
Green said he wore the device to work at the Wendy’s on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, where he is the General Manager. Despite his success with the device, and the eSight company’s discounted offer, Green said he still could not afford it.
Fortunately, eSight Corporation created a fundraiser page for Green, whose co-workers at Wendy’s and Calhoun MC contributed to over a period of two weeks.
One day short of the one-year anniversary of the house fire, Green got a call from Paul Rambler, Vice President of Operations for Calhoun MC, regarding the remaining amount of money Green needed to purchase the eSight device.
Rambler told Green that he and Calhoun MC co-owner Pick Lindsay had decided that Green deserved to purchase the eSight sooner than he planned, so the two were going to pitch in and send Green a check for the remaining balance on the device.
“We just decided that with something like that, that could change his life so drastically, we felt like it was something that would be a good thing for us to help him out with the rest of the funds,” said Rambler.
Green said he received the check the next day, making it exactly one year to the day from the house fire that Green had enough money to purchase the eSight. Green said neither Rambler nor Lindsey knew the details of the fire, or that the day they sent the check was the one-year anniversary.
“[On] June 9, 2019 my wife and I, and my daughter, we lost pretty much everything as far as material possessions, but June 9, 2020, I was able to order a device that I’ve dreamed about my entire life,” said Green.
Green said that he is not after notoriety or attention in telling his story, but does hope that it will raise awareness for an awesome thing that his company did for him, as well as inspire other companies to do the same.
“I’ve lived my life to not ever have to be dependent on anyone, so that’s made me to the point that I don’t ask for help,” said Green. “The fact that they [the company] decided to do that on their own, it should be a lot about their character…it made me proud to be a part of an organization that cares that much for one of their people.”
As for the company’s part, Rambler said it was a great feeling to be able to help Green.
“Mark is a very good manager and he does it with a disability,” said Rambler. “For us it just felt good to be able to help him because he’s overcome so many challenges, with all of the things he has to deal with, he perseveres…it was an honor for us to be able to give him the gift of sight.”
Green added that he wants his story to encourage others who might go through a similar situation as him.
“I would want people to know that even being disabled or having a handicap shouldn’t stop any of us from living our lives and pushing to always try to be better than other people think that we can be,” said Green.
More information about eSight Corporation and the device is on their website.