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Technology allows paralyzed woman to communicate

Imagine being unable to share your thoughts or even tell your family you love them.

A car accident took one woman’s ability to do just that, but for the first time in more than two years, she will finally be able to communicate with her loved ones.

It’s all done through an Eagle Eyes system — technology that allows a person unable to otherwise communicate to operate a computer using his or her eye.

For one local family, Eagle Eyes has become a true miracle.

“It’s a big day for us,” said Faye Thompson, watching watching eagerly with family members as her daughter, Jeanette, is on the verge of communicating for the first time in more than two years.

Jeanette, 32, was in a car accident in January 2011. She was not wearing a seat belt. Severe brain trauma rendered the mother of two paralyzed and speechless.

“She was a very fun-loving — loved the outdoors — type of person,” Thompson said of her daughter. “She’s very family-oriented.”

Since the accident, Jeanette has only been able to moan, smile and give an occasional thumbs-up.

That is until Ron Williams, a member of the Opportunity Foundation of America, visited the Ashton Living Center to set her up with a new Eagle Eyes system.

“We place five electrodes on Jeanette’s face,” Williams explained. “It takes that electrical output of the eye and it turns that into a movement of the cursor on the screen for the computer.”

Jeanette started with a simple exercise, moving the cursor to click on monkey-shaped targets in different corners of the screen, just to get used to the motions.

“As (patients) become more proficient, they can move into more complex activities,” Williams said, mentioning it could take a month or two to learn to communicate.

Those tiny movements were a big step for Jeanette, topped off by a big smile.

“It’s been a prayer answered with us,” Thompson said.

The Ashton Red Hat Ladies organized a fundraiser, rallying several other groups in the upper valley to pay for Jeanette’s Eagle Eyes. It cost about $3,000.

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