Jesse Ramirez (right) and his caregiver Joe Matrishion celebrated Ramirez receiving his eSight glasses at Harrah's Ak-Chin Monday night. Photo by Adam Wolfe

Harrah’s Ak-Chin hosted a ceremony for U.S. Navy veteran Jesse Ramirez to receive his eSight glasses and gain a second chance at sight.

The campaign to raise funds for Jesse’s glasses took nearly nine months. The funds built up slowly, but Jesse and his caregiver Joe Matrishion never gave up. They kept campaigning local sources, and the funds kept trickling in.

On Monday night, the duo’s hard work paid off, and Jesse got his second chance at seeing the world.

“Getting the glasses means a lot to me,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to open up a whole new world for me. I’ll be able to see what I’m reading, a movie theater, my back and front yards, and I’ll definitely be able to match my clothes so someone doesn’t need to help me get dressed.”

The journey to this moment began nearly eight years ago when Ramirez lost his sight and suffered severe brain injuries in a car accident. He had to relearn most of his basic motor functions on top of learning how to cope without the ability to see.

Matrishion stated the journey has been difficult, but Ramirez kept progressing. “It all began with me meeting Jesse when he first came to the nursing home at East Mesa Healthcare,” Matrishion said. “I saw him come through the doors on a stretcher and I told my boss ‘he looks like a challenge and I want to work with him.’ We’ve been working on [fundraising] since January, so this has all been a long, long road.”

During the ceremony, the eSight glasses were hooked up to a television so the crowd could see what Jesse saw. For the first time, Jesse was seeing many of his donors and friends. Many members of the approximately 100-person audience cheered while others cried. For many involved, it was the celebration of a long journey.

Members of the Maricopa chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars attended the event and thanked Ramirez for his resiliency. The VFW voted to donate a pivotal $1,000 to help Ramirez afford his glasses last month.

“Everyone was nickel and diming him and he wasn’t getting anywhere,” VFW Commander Mike Kemery said. “So we took a vote and gave him $1,000. After that, people jumped on and helped.”

For Matrishion and Ramirez, the glasses mean much more than just Jesse regaining his sight. Over the last eight years, Matrishion has seen his role in Jesse’s life turn from caregiver to best friend. He has lived with Ramirez, taken care of Ramirez and suffered with Ramirez.

He was there when Ramirez first tried on the eSight glasses, and he tested to see if Jesse could really see by sticking his tongue out at him. He fought and lobbied hard to raise the money for Ramirez to receive his own pair, and of course, he was able to celebrate when the funding came through. The glasses represent Jesse getting his independence back. Matrishion doesn’t have to do everything for Ramirez now. Jesse can dress himself, cook for himself and help with the landscaping. Matrishion will still be there to take care of Ramirez, but he can also have a life of his own.

“Once Jesse gets accustomed to the new eSight glasses, he’ll go through a training period so he can get used to them,” Matrishion said. “It’ll just make his life a bit easier, and at the same time, take some stress away from me. Although he’ll still need help and companionship because he’s still a traumatic brain-injured person.”

It will take roughly six months for Ramirez to get comfortable enough with the glasses to be able to walk around on his own, but that hasn’t dampened his excitement. He eagerly awaits the next chapter of his life and what he’ll be able to see. “I think these new glasses are going to make me a new person from what I am now,” Ramirez said. “I think it’s going to make my life a lot better and a lot easier for me and the people around me who are helping me. Hopefully I’ll be walking around with these glasses very soon.”