Three years ago, the day she crashed her bicycle, Diana Santiago suspected something might be wrong.

Not long after that, she began to have trouble with her coordination and vision. She’d fall down stairs. Wobble while standing. Fall backward without warning.

It soon got to where she could no longer see straight to paint or draw, two of her fondest loves.

She saw a doctor in Holland, Michigan, who thought she had suffered a stroke.

“It would be like my eyes would go cross-eyed, then they would fix,” Santiago said. “Then it got to the point where they stayed that way permanently.”

Her life, and her eyes, only began to improve once she met Brooke Geddie, DO, a pediatric ophthalmology specialist at Spectrum Health Helen Devos Children’s Hospital. 

At 57, Santiago is certainly no child, but Dr. Geddie, who also works with adults, could help with her issue.

“I noticed the symptoms for about three years before I met Dr. Geddie,” Santiago said. “It took my quality of life. I crashed on a bicycle and broke my collarbone. I was falling down stairs. I couldn’t drive anymore. I couldn’t ride a bike anymore. It just took my life from me.”


Dr. Geddie diagnosed Santiago with double vision due to esotropia, crossing of the eyes.

She performed Strabismus surgery on Santiago in December 2014.

“I adjusted the muscles that control the movement of the eyes, to achieve better ocular alignment, therefore eliminating her double vision,” Dr. Geddie said. “Diana now enjoys straight eyes. Her brain is using both eyes together well.”

Santiago couldn’t be more grateful.

“Now I can see a bird sitting on a tree about 10 blocks down,” she said, laughing. “I feel fabulous. They did a tremendous job with me. Everything is fixed and I was told I can now have my driver’s license back. I can ride bikes. I can do everything I couldn’t do before. It was like getting another chance at life.”

Santiago said the symptoms came on gradually, but for no known reason. She hadn’t suffered any head injuries or eye trauma. No warning. No anything.

“We take things for granted until something is taken from us,” Santiago said. “When it’s gone, we panic. Then you go into a whole ’nother life, and become another person.

“When they fixed me, there were no words I could have told Dr. Geddie to thank her for giving my life back,” she said.

Santiago’s voice cracked as she spoke. Her eyes misted with tears.

“I bless her every day,” Santiago said. “I think of her every day that I can see. And I praise the Lord for giving her the steady hand and knowledge and for going to school for what she did. She did a miraculous job.”

Santiago said she didn’t feel the stitches. She didn’t feel any pain. And there are no residual effects.

“You look at my eyes and you don’t even know anything happened,” she said. “They’re healing beautifully. My surgery was right around Christmas in 2014. That was the best gift I could ever get.”

Mixed messages

Prior to the surgery, Santiago’s brain would send messages to her eyes, but her eyes just wouldn’t respond properly.

That’s how she crashed her bike.

“I thought I saw the pole,” she said. “I’m looking straight at the pole in front of me and I thought I was looking at it straight. When I went by it, my front tire grazed it and my handlebars hit. I hit the pole, broke my glasses and went flying.”

And it wasn’t a one-time event.

“The second time, I was going to the store to get my mother some things,” Santiago said. “There’s a bike path in Holland that goes under a bridge. I know it like I know every wrinkle on the back of my hand. I think I’m seeing right, but I went and flipped and hit the wall and really tore myself up. I said, ‘Something is wrong.’”

She would wake up some mornings with her eyes crossed. Eventually, they’d stay that way half the day. Then all day. Then all night.

“I said, ‘Well, Lord, if this is what I need to learn to live with, I will live with it,’” she recalled. “That’s what I did for two or three years—until I met Dr. Geddie.”

New window

Following the surgery, Santiago asked Dr. Geddie if she had installed high-definition in her eyes. Her vision had become that crisp.

“Oh my God, everything was so bright, so vivid,” she said.

The artist inside her embraced the vision.

“When I started to see again, I made a beautiful portrait,” Santiago said. “Everything we paint comes from parts of our soul.”

What came from her soul? Gratitude, for Dr. Geddie.

Santiago painted a portrait of the good doctor, which Dr. Geddie keeps in her office.

“Many patients express their gratitude,” Dr. Geddie said. “However, it was extra special to receive artwork from Diana.

“The treatment of her esotropia and resolution of her double vision allowed her to return to a hobby she had not been able to enjoy for some time,” the doctor said.

Santiago spent a great deal of time on the pencil drawing.

Fittingly, she paid extra attention to the eyes.

“When I did that portrait of her, it was a portrait of a really beautiful female,” Santiago said. “She had sunglasses down to the bridge of her nose. I gave her the most beautiful eyes I could think of to give her. Our eyes are the windows to our souls, and I thank her for giving me mine back.”