I met Murry Everson in a Zoology lab dissecting a frog at ASU over thirty (yes 30) years ago. We dated throughout our undergraduate years. We became partners in our science classes, camping, and hiking adventures.
After my undergraduate studies, I worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Research and Development. That led me to work for Armour Pharmaceutical Company in Phoenix. I was the Microbiology Quality Control Manager. We made porcine skin dressings for individuals who had suffered traumatic skin injuries (third degree burns over the body, etc.). I enjoyed the work especially because I knew we were doing good work to bring some relief to others at very turbulent time in their lives.
While working at Armour Pharmaceutical, I was offered a job as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative for another company that was expanding into Tucson, AZ, and I thought this would be a good time in my life to move to another part of the state and have new life experiences...so I moved to Tucson. Murry decided to stay in Phoenix...but we continued to see each other although it was on an occasional basis. It was a very hard decision to move because the University of Arizona was in Tucson, my worst enemy as I was an Arizona State University alum. After a few years of working as a sales representative, the company closed the sales territory and I was soon to be out of a job.
I remembered when I was in the process of making presentations to doctors regarding new drugs, etc., I would sit in the waiting rooms until my scheduled time. I usually saw women coming in with young children and or babies, and bringing elderly men or women with them for an appointment. It seemed to be a real disruption in the daily routine for these women who were also put in the position to be caregivers in the family.
I had thought it would be a reasonable idea to create a company that would be able to take family members to their appointments so the women would not have to give up their day to escort the family members to doctors or whatever other activities they may have needed to do. Sometimes ignorance works in your favor. I had no idea that this great “idea” I thought I had was already part of the huge medical industry. If I had known that, I may not have taken my first steps in this endeavor. Who knew, right?
So, when I found out I was going to be laid off, I started talking with the front office staff and doctors that I saw in my territory. Lo and behold, they thought it was a good idea also! Then I began contacting some clients I had been given. Some said no, but some said yes! Soon I discovered these elder clients also needed some light housekeeping and grocery shopping. Within a year I had more clients than I could handle and hired someone else to help. We worked six days a week usually 12 hours per day and some evenings.
In July of 1983, I was feeling out of sorts and saw my doctor. He thought I was working too hard. He told me to start taking vitamins and to check back with him at a later date. I continued to feel tired and dragged out and went back to see him in September. At that time, he informed me I was pregnant. I was in shock and felt I needed confirmation about this diagnosis. So, I decided to get a second opinion. I saw a doctor I had known from my pharmaceutical sales days and made an appointment for the following week... he put me into the hospital that night because I was going into labor.
The next day, Kristin was born (16 weeks premature and weighing less than two pounds). She was taken immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital and was not expected to live through the night. But, she literally kept kicking. At a week of age, they had to do surgery as her heart was not functioning properly. They could not give her anesthesia as she was so small, the doctors feared it would kill her. She was intubated the whole time she was in the hospital so we could net hear her cry. The doctors cut into her back and collapsed a lung to have access to her heart to do the surgery with no anesthesia! I do not recall every feeling more fear or helplessness than I did that day. But she came through it much better than the doctor even thought. She was in intensive care at the hospital for the next 5 months and what an emotional and medical roller coaster ride that was!!! She was going to live, then maybe not, blood transfusions, cat scans, bradycardia, and tachycardia. It was discovered at about 7wks. that she had Retinopathy of Prematurity and may be blind. I was taught as a child to be tough and strong, but I must have cried all the tears I have stored up in my life during those first months of Kristin’s life.
Murry was in Tucson as much as he could be and we worked and went to the Neonatal Intensive Care at the hospital every day until she was discharged to go home with us 5 months after birth. She was still so small that we would dress her in doll clothes. It was not until she was about 6 months old that we discovered she was mentally delayed. We were assured that she would catch up. We are still waiting for that, now that Kristin is 35 years old.
I was able to go back to work within a month. Murry worked his 40 hrs. at UPS in Phoenix from Friday night until Sunday and came to Tucson to be with Kristin. I worked on Monday through Friday and was home with her when he went to work.
I was able to take my daughter with me when she was a baby and the clients enjoyed having a baby around but most clients were at work when we came to clean. I began to feel frustrated because I did not have the skills and knowledge base I needed to help my daughter as she was growing up. At 5 years of age, Kristin started attending the AZ School for the Blind and attended there until she was 19. By the time she was in first grade we realized that her development was delayed and she would be a candidate for a functional program that would teach daily living skills.
Now, at age 35, she has the cognitive skills of a 6 or seven year old with some splinter skills of a 10 year old. I looked into the Master’s program at the UofA and made an application for the next school year. I was accepted at that time. If there had been a minority apply, I would not have been accepted. I sold my business which helped fund me while I attended the UofA programs for 4 years. Upon completion of the program I worked in the eastern highlands region for the Az. School for the Blind outreach program. I traveled to the Navajo and Apache reservations and various small communities in northern and northeastern Arizona providing Braille, Orientation and Mobility, and provided teaching support for students with visual impairments. I worked in school and home settings because some of the students did not have transportation to school. I became aware of the fact that many of the family members, like I experienced also, did not have information or skills to help their children when they came home to live after graduation the educational programs the state offered. I noticed that the visually impaired students did not have access to adaptive technology and were pretty isolated from peers they knew through their school years. They began to lose some of the Braille and technology skills they had learned during their time a school. Some developed emotional and psychological issues due to their feelings of isolation.
After the program in Northern AZ was completed, I worked for the public schools in Florence, Toltec, and Coolidge, AZ and found the same situation there with the lack of knowledge families had as far as supporting a blind individual. I worked at The Southern AZ Association of the Visually Impaired in Tucson for 10 years, providing rehabilitation services for individuals aged 55 and older who have experienced vision loss. Many individuals felt the training was very valuable to them. There are people in the population that do not know where to go or how to access this type of training. I currently work with school age students in Florence, AZ who are blind or visually impaired.
During these past 15 years, Murry and I have become very involved in the blind community and worked with organizations in Tucson and surrounding areas that support charitable causes. I became a member of the Lions Club, whose main focus is helping those with vison loss. Murry became very involved with the Optimist clubs that work to support school age individuals. We have developed relationships with several visually impaired individuals support them any way we can. Murry is now the station manager in Tucson for Sun Sounds, a reading service for the blind that is funded through the Library of Congress.
We became involved in the School for the Blind while Kristin was attending and have kept our relationship with several of the teachers and administrators since she graduated. We worked with the physical education staff for the blind who introduced us to Camp Abilities, a sports camp for the blind. We have been hosting and fundraising for this program in Tucson for the past 18 years.
Murry and I established the Evermor Foundation in 2000. It is a 501(c)3 charitable tax exempt organization. The focus of the Foundation is to provide services and teach techniques to help individuals with vision loss develop skills to help them become as independent as possible. We also want to provide assistance to family members so they can partner with the visually impaired individual. Since the foundation is a non-profit we can, at a small degree, help other small businesses and organizations that support missions such as ours. Our goal is to help as many families and individuals who have family members with vision loss to fulfill their potential.