Could you imagine being blind? Robbed of the world's incredible sights and wonders, and your every interaction with it a complete mystery? It would have to be, without a doubt, one of life's biggest challenges. Yet a select unfortunate few struggle through with it every day. Luckily, new technology can help some of these people, and even change their lives forever. The story you're about to hear is about one of those amazing times. This man not only got his life back, but saw his wife for the first time. And what he said next will melt your heart... The video at the end of this slideshow will put you in tears.
At first glance, Gene Purdie is just another regular guy. A good looking father from Denver, with a steady job and not a care in the world. But the reality for him was far different than what it would seem...
The nightmare for him began when he was just 16 years old. Up until then, his childhood had been just about average. Then, all of a sudden, he noticed his vision was starting to fail. The doctors diagnosed him with the fast-acting Stargardt's disease, and within months he was completely blind.
This was only the beginning. Stargardt's disease isn't something you can just recover from - it's permanent. For the next 16 years, Gene would struggle through with his blindness, slowly learning to adapt to his new life. He even found a job.
Doctors still really don't know how, or which, people get Stargardt's disease. It affects roughly one in 10,000 people, making it uncommon but not incredibly rare. Sufferers of the disease encounter rapid degradation of the macula, the middle part of the retina responsible for sharp, straight-ahead vision.
Because it doesn't affect the entire eye, Stargardt's disease isn't like the typical total blackout that you would expect of blindness. Not that it's much better: anyone with the disease can basically only see the fuzziest of shapes and blobs. It's something like looking at the world through a dozen frosted glass windows.
Despite everything, Gene really was trying to live a life as normal as he could. And one day, he met a woman named Joy who would change everything. Although he couldn't see her, they found were perfect for each other.
Is there any better proof that love conquers all? From the very beginning of their relationship, it never mattered to Gene that he couldn't see Joy. It was enough for him to just be with this beautiful woman, a woman that he quickly fell in love with.
They got married in due course, but naturally were a bit hesitant about starting a family given the fact that Gene would have trouble helping look after the child. But eventually they took the plunge, and a couple of years ago they had their first child, Lincoln.
Let's introduce a new element into the mix: the effervescent chat show host, Rachael Ray. Never seen her before? You should. Over on CBS, she's constantly being lovely and doing all those heartwarming and soul-searching things that Oprah was so famous for.
It was by watching Rachael Ray's show, in fact, that Joy discovered something that could change their lives forever. Purely by chance, she saw an episode where Rachel gives the gift of sight to another person with Stargardt's disease, and she realized that Gene had the same chance.
Now, Rachael's not God or anything - all she did to restore her other guest's sight was to give them a special pair of glasses developed by some very smart people at eSight, an optical correction company specializing in degenerative diseases. We don't know how it works, but it does, restoring 20/20 vision to Stargardt's disease.
There was only one problem, and that was (surprise, surprise) money. Basically, at $15,000 a pair, Joy and Gene couldn't afford the new technology. It looked like another dead-end, and another crushed hope for Gene. But then Joy had a brilliant idea...
If she could do it once, why not do it again? Joy wrote in to Rachael, begging her to help Gene out like she did with the other guest. To her surprise and delight, Rachael got in contact with Joy and said she'd be glad to help. All she had to do was come on the show.
Finally, the moment had arrived. 16 years had led to this point, although Gene looked pretty relaxed on TV as he and Joy chatted about the difficulties they had faced together. Relaxed, that is, until they handed him the eSight glasses and he slipped them on. Then he looked at Joy.
After all this time, Purdie only had two words for her. As he cracked a huge smile and she broke into tears, he simply said "you're beautiful." It was the words every girl wants to hear, and he meant it. The audience went wild. Another win for love.