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    • Brian McKeever on becoming a Paralympic hero

      April 1, 2014

      Original Article: Aaron Hutchins, MacLean's

      Sixteen years ago, Brian McKeever was a teenager with dreams of cross-country skiing in the Olympic Games. Then he was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a hereditary form of macular degeneration causing him to lose most of his vision. McKeever didn’t stop skiing, though. Coming home from Sochi this week with three gold medals in cross-country, the 34-year-old is the most decorated Winter Paralympian in Canadian history, with 10 career gold medals.

      Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed with Stargardt disease? What was it like?

      A: I was about 18. In 1998, [my brother] Robin and his wife both qualified for the Olympic Games and I qualified for the world championships. It was just a great year. I hadn’t even noticed I was losing my eyesight until a couple of weird things happened, like giant billboard signs weren’t making any sense to me anymore. Parts of the large words were getting hit by blind spots, so I would see T’s as being I’s. [One day] we were trying to find the address for this end-of-year gathering for all of our friends and family. I couldn’t even see the street signs, let alone anything written on them. And they were reading street signs two blocks away. We started talking about it. At that point, we hoped it was just mom’s bad eye—astigmatism or something like that; she wore glasses her whole life.

      We went in and had it checked out and the doctor said, “It’s really strange, I can’t get your eyes any better with lenses.” I knew exactly what it was because of my dad and my aunt. [Both have Stargardt.] I was referred to an ophthalmologist and we did some blood tests and realized I was the carrier for the same dominant gene...