FORT MADISON — Thanks to a new, camera-equipped visor and a hefty donation from an anonymous donor, a Fort Madison man is seeing things with clarity for the first time.

Standing outside of his home Thursday, Kevin Holland pointed to license plates across the street and proudly read them aloud. He likes to sit in the chair on his front porch and watch birds — which previously looked like nothing more than black objects — taking in the fine details of their feathers and the color of their beaks.

"Now I have to get a bird book," Holland said. "I don't know what a blue jay looks like."

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Holland was born legally blind due to a condition of involuntary eye movement known as nystagmus, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 3. Thick glasses seemed to be what worked best for them, but even with glasses, he required large-print books, which he still had to hold close to his face, and was unable to see details of far-away objects. 

"I can see better with glasses, but it's still very iffy," Holland said.

These things were normal to him, and he accepted his handicap as something he was just going to have to live with.

That changed soon after he came across an eSight link on Facebook, which he dismissed at first.

"You see things on Facebook, and you thing it's just a hoax or it's not real or it's not for me," he said.

Two days later, a friend whose two children recently were diagnosed as being legally blind sent him the same link and suggested he look into it. Skeptical at first, Holland began to warm up to the idea the more he read about it.

The visor works by capturing whatever the wearer is looking at with a high-speed, high-definition camera and displaying it on two close-up displays on the inside of the visor in real-time. A hand-held remote control allows users to adjust the zoom and focus. It doesn't work for everyone, but Holland was hopeful it could work for him.

"And then I saw the price tag, and I thought: Not gonna work. Not gonna happen," he said.

The visor costs about $10,000. Still, the results sounded promising enough, and he decided it wouldn't hurt to call and look into it further. He learned the company had a free demonstration on the visor in Des Moines.

"I was reluctant because of the price but I was hopeful because of what they said the visor had done, so I went with an open mind," Holland said.

He and his sister, Julie Gerveler, went to the demonstration, where he did several exercises with and without the visor. Without his glasses, his vision is 2200. The best correction his glasses afford him bumps him up to about 20/80. When he put on the visor, he had the visual acuity of a person with 20/15 or 20/20 vision.

"I saw things in the room that I've never saw before," Holland said. "I was able to read the chart."

Gerveler said he was able to read more on the chart than she could.

"I couldn't read the bottom line and he could," she said. "That's when I knew that it worked."

Having seen what he'd been missing out on, Holland didn't want to go back. But the price remained an issue. Knowing he was serious about getting the visor, the company began working with Holland on getting the funding. They told him they would help him set up a GoFundMe account to help raise the money needed as well as contact state and local agencies on his behalf to see what kind of funding he could qualify for. But it turned out he didn't need all of that.

One day, he received a call from eSight saying his visor would arrive in a few weeks. Someone had made an anonymous donation for the full amount, and the company needed to now if he wanted his visor in black or white as well as his glasses prescription so lenses could be fitted to go with his visor.

"I was completely floored. I wasn't prepared," Holland said. "I thought it was a joke, but no, it was legit."

His visor arrived three weeks later.

He's been using it in moderation, allowing his eyes time to adjust. He can see the insides of flowers and read small print from far distances. He can see menus at fast-food restaurants. Using the remote control that comes with the visor, he can take pictures to look at more closely later, which allows him time to review menu items and select what it is he wants rather than what he's used to.

"Because of (the donor's) generosity, I've been able to see things for the first time that I haven't seen," he said.

He also looks forward to attending the Burlington Bees' July 14 game against the Great Lakes Loons and the fireworks that will come afterward.

"It'll be my first ball game," he said with excitement.

He also plans to buy a bird feeder.