In the eyes of the beholder: Lulu Sammons sees black and white in living color
By Sam Goodman
Editor in Chief
Close your eyes, now open them, can you imagine seeing double. Strange, huh? Well, that’s exactly what 20-year-old Pepperdine University Junior Lauren Sammons felt when waking up after her eye surgery in fifth grade.
Sammons was born with a coloboma, essentially, a key-shape hole in the structure of her retina preventing her from being able to see out of her right eye.
In fifth grade, when her eyes began to cross, Sammons received surgery and after waking up, she began seeing double. Sammons, who was blind in her right eye before her surgery, now saw double out of her left.
“I remember waking up and being scared because I didn’t know what was happening and when I told [people] they didn’t believe me,” Sammons said.
This began the process of figuring out which of the figures she was seeing were actually there, and which were just a side effect of double vision. Taking about a year, Sammons soon adjusted to seeing double, as at the time, she was a softball player.
She was a softball player, that’s right, every time she stepped up to the plate, it wasn’t a matter of hitting the ball, it was a matter of figuring out which one to swing at.
“Not being able to see out of my right eye and seeing double [out of my left] made it challenging to do everyday things. You know how some people can see to the side of them without turning their head, I have to turn my entire head. Driving was also challenging,” Sammons said.
Sammons did not want to wear glasses, goggles, or contacts for protection, which is part of the reason she quit sports after 11 years.
Aside from being blind, and seeing double, Sammons was born with two different colored eyes— one blue and green and the other brown and green. Getting a lot of attention for her eyes— at school, in public —by passers find her disability fascinating.
“Everyone thinks it’s really cool when they [see my eyes]. They stop me and they stare directly into my eyes for almost an entire minute. I’ve never gotten any negative reactions but some people think it’s weird,” Sammons said.
Sammons is currently an art student, who, after figuring out how to connect a stick figures’ body to the correct head, has completed courses through high school and college in drawing, painting, sculpture, studio art at the AP level, digital art, photography, and yearbook. Sammons describes her art style as abstract expressionism, being most inspired by the thing that previously held her back— her vision. Sammons just completed a 10 piece project for her Studio Art course inspired by her grandfather (see art below).
“My grandpa was in the hospital for six weeks and he is the only person that I like talking to every single day. So I decided to create my project around his experience not being able to speak or see for four weeks and my experience seeing him going through that. I took the structure of the heart, and my emotions mixed with hi, to depict my feelings. Some pieces are more literal and others are more figurative, just a mix of colors,” Sammons said.
You see, if Sammons closes her good eye, all she can see is an array of colors on the left and pure darkness on the right.
“I wish my eyes were the same color. When I look in the mirror I think [my eyes] are weird. I don’t ever see myself thinking my eyes aren’t strange. Though, because not many people have it, I think it can be beautiful,” Sammons said.
Close your eyes, now open them? Has anything changed?
“I see an array of colors mixed with black and white…and that’s beautifully bizarre...”
‘What advice would you give to a young person with a disability similar to yours?’, I asked as Pepperdine Junior Lauren Sammons looked at me with her multi-colored eyes and keyhole pupil.
“I would say ‘take the advice that I don’t take myself— embrace it because it’s unique, don’t try to hide it. Embrace it, because it’s beautiful.”