LyCynthia Baskin Shares Her Story of Vision Loss, Eight Comas, Near-Death Experience, and Double Transplant
A lifetime of battling Type I diabetes took its toll on the health—and the vision—of Jonesboro’s LyCynthia Baskin. But thanks to Drs. Michael S. Jacobson and Scott Lampert at Georgia Retina, the state’s largest retina-only private practice, Baskin has regained her eyesight and is working on a book about her experiences.
The wife of Clayton County Tax Commissioner Terry L. Baskin is also working on her Ph.D. in public health and hopes to teach health-care administration.
Diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of nine, Baskin spent most of her life monitoring her blood sugar and going to Dr. Lampert for annual vision screenings. However, by the early 1990s, she began to develop vision problems. In spite of the doctors’ best efforts, she lost most of her vision.
“For awhile, I had lost my eyesight, but Dr. Jacobson restored it. Thanks to him I have my independence back,” she said.
Even during the worst of her vision problems, the doctors at Georgia Retina encouraged her and sponsored her in the Mrs. Georgia International pageant in 1998.
As she recalls, “I had very little eye sight at the time of the pageant, but Dr. Jacobson believed in me. When I won, it opened the doors for me to raise public awareness about diabetes,” she said.
During her time as Mrs. Georgia International, she used her celebrity status to talk about diabetes awareness, a commitment she continues through serving as a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association.
In addition to vision problems, diabetes caused numerous health issues throughout Baskin’s life. She has had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardio-vascular disease, and kidney failure. She went into a coma eight times, had a near-death experience, and required dialysis before undergoing kidney and pancreas transplants in 2007. Thanks to the transplants, Baskin is no longer diabetic, but still has to manage her health carefully.
Maintaining, then restoring her vision required multiple surgeries at Georgia Retina as she developed glaucoma followed by diabetic retinopathy and then a detached retina.
Surgeries restored vision in both eyes before scar tissue developed that left her with only 20/200 vision in her right eye but good vision in her left eye.
Now 53, Baskin takes every opportunity to share her story and tell others how important it is to manage diabetes. “It requires a lifetime commitment to healthy living. The most important thing you can do is take care of yourself,” she said.
Of her treatment at Georgia Retina, Baskin says, “I have watched Georgia Retina grow from a small practice to the size it is now. I think they do an astronomical job of saving people’s sight. I’m honored to know Dr. Jacobson and Dr. Lampert. They are my heroes.”
In 1998 Baskin received the Defeating the Odds award from The Center for Black Women’s Wellness, Inc. for delivering her message of strength and hope by regularly speaking on behalf of the American Diabetes Association as she struggled with her health issues.
Baskin and her husband have one daughter, Rachel Renee. They are members of World Changers Church International and have lived in Jonesboro since 1990.
At Georgia Retina, patients’ vision needs are the top priority. As one of the largest retina-only medical practices in the southeastern United States, Georgia Retina specializes in treating diseases of the retina, macula, and vitreous. Its nine board-certified ophthalmologists have received special Fellowship training in vitreo-retinal diseases and surgery, and are engaged in clinical trials with the goal of advancing research into retinal diseases, their causes, and their cures.