Woman blinded, disfigured in 2007 chemical attack bouncing back after eye surgery

  • Carmen Tarleton speaks with her sister at her home in Manchester, N.H., on Dec. 4, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photograph — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/28/2019 10:16:57 PM
Modified: 2/28/2019 10:17:03 PM

Carmen Tarleton is grateful to have regained some of her eyesight after surgery in Boston last month — even if there are limitations and no guarantee it will last.

“The improvement has been great,” Tarleton, the former Thetford and Fairlee resident who in 2007 was the victim of a disfiguring chemical attack by her estranged husband, said in a phone interview Thursday from her home in Manchester.

“I can move around indoors without bumping into stuff, which is a lot better than I could say before.”

Tarleton, 50, already was legally blind as a result of the attack when she awoke with severely worsening sight on Veterans Day last November. By the time she arrived at a Boston hospital later that day, she couldn’t see a thing.

Tarleton had retina surgery on Feb. 7 in her left eye — her right eye is permanently blind — a procedure that included the insertion of a temporary protective lens over a new artificial cornea. While the lens is helping her eye to heal, it also limits the capacity of her vision.

“It’s like being in a thick fog,” said Tarleton, who in 2013 received a full facial surgery. “What you can see from 200 feet away, I might be able to see from 20 feet away. I’m biding my time and trying to be patient.”

At least until the protective lens is removed, dimly lit settings allow Tarleton to discern the most.

“I can generally make out what stuff is, but the problem is that daylight obscures everything,” she said. “For now, I’m living like a vampire.”

Determined to live independently, Tarleton last year moved to a neighborhood in Manchester where she can walk to services. Her sister, Kesstan Blandin, has returned to her home in Florida after initially staying with Tarleton while she got settled.

While Medicaid covered much of the cost of her surgery, Tarleton has a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for basic living expenses and weekly visits to Massachusetts Eye and Ear, where she received her surgery last month. The account had raised more than $18,700 as of Thursday afternoon.

While hopeful that sight in her left eye will continue to improve, Tarleton is prepared to live blind if necessary.

“I expect to see well enough to help me keep my independence, but what happened in November was a wake-up call,” she said. “I’m happy with what I have today. If it stops improving or goes away, it’s going to be OK. I will figure it out.”

Tarleton’s work as an inspirational speaker and author took a hiatus following the November setback, but she has since lined up a speaking engagement for nursing students at nearby Saint Anselm College in early April, she said. She also plans to soon resume writing her second book.

The first, Overcome: Burned, Blinded and Blessed, was published in 2013 and received a bronze Independent Publisher Book Award in the Inspirational/Spiritual category.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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