By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — —
Before he almost completely lost his eyesight four years ago, Zeke Lopez of Mt. Vernon was a very independent person known for being a handyman around the house.
His disability, however, changed all that as it forced him to become more reliant on others for help.
But instead of letting his new circumstances bring him down, Zeke has rededicated himself to doing home repairs, an effort that has already yielded positive results.
“That helped me a lot. I got a lot of confidence from that, a boost,” Zeke said.
A month ago, Zeke embarked on a large-scale effort to replace his home's retaining wall and the project is nearly complete.
Water had been leaking into the home's basement and the cost of having a professional fix the problem would have been $5,000. This motivated Zeke to take on the project himself.
“That $5,000 made the incentive to do it myself and also keep me busy,” Zeke said. “It's harder (to do), but I mean you've just got to deal with it.”
The project has involved digging a trench, installing a new drainage pipe, and constructing a new block-type retaining wall.
Zeke had to do much of the work by feel, but his family has been very impressed with the results. Aside from getting some help from his stepson and one of his friends, Zeke has done nearly all the work himself.
“I think it's good. It amazed me,” said Cheryl Lopez, Zeke's wife of nearly 22 years. “Now he knows that, hey, I still can do something.”
Zeke lost the sight in one of his eyes when he was a very young child. He's unsure how this happened.
Then, four years ago, Zeke developed a central retinal vein occlusion or blockage in his good eye, which has led to an almost complete lack of vision.
Eventually, after his diagnosis, Zeke had to quit his job as a tote lifter at Walgreens because his vision kept getting worse.
The most difficult thing to adjust to, Zeke said, has been not being able to drive anymore.
“The thing that really bothered me the most was driving,” Zeke said. “Everything, I have to rely on somebody. To go to the barbershop or the dentist or the doctor, you don't realize how much you rely on a car.”
Early on, Zeke's family would take him to St. Louis for medical treatments, sometimes twice a week.
“It was rough in the beginning because we didn't know what was going on — emotionally, mentally, obviously physically — for him,” said Ashley Hoffman, Zeke's stepdaughter. “It's such a life-changing thing to happen.”
Zeke used to attend a support group for blind people in Jefferson County, which helped a great deal, Hoffman said.
“He made a lot of friends doing that,” Hoffman said.
Now, with the retaining wall project nearly behind him, Zeke is looking forward to tackling other repair jobs.
Next on the agenda will likely be fixing the air-conditioner in Cheryl's car, which is malfunctioning. Zeke will work on that project with his stepson, Matthew Piercy.
Cheryl said Zeke's positive attitude throughout his ordeal has been inspiring.
“It's never really seemed to get him down,” Cheryl said. “He's done very well with it. I know if this were me, I wouldn't have done nearly as well with it.”