Shaela Warkentin back in school against all odds

FRESNO, Calif.

In many ways 16-year-old Shaela Warkentin is your typical teenager. But sudden blindness has forced her to rethink her entire outlook on life.

Shaela Warkentin has shuffled through the corridors of Bullard High School hundreds of times before, but this year, it's a little scary. She can hear her peers all around her, but they seem so far away.

"It was really overwhelming," said Shaela. "I don't feel like I have all the friends that I used to. I don't know if people are not wanting to talk to me... Or shy or scared? Or intimidated?"

Shaela started back to school two weeks ago. She is taking mainstream classes, but has the help of a specially trained instructor. She records her classes on an audio tape, and she has had to learn how to read and write in braille.

Shaela says some days her circumstances are overwhelming, and though she has a strong faith she wonders why this happened to her.

Shaela said, "Why, what am I doing living here? If I'm going to be blind... what am I going to do? How am I going to live my life without my eyesight... how can I see the world that god created?"

Last March, Shaela and her sister were stopped at a stoplight on their way home from church. The driver of a pickup truck slammed into the back of their Mustang. The impact sent Shaela crashing through the back window, crushing her eyes and leaving metal and glass fragments in her skull. The truck driver was arrested for DUI.

Six months later, Shaela is particularly self-conscious about her appearance, and has to depend heavily on her family to help her pick out clothes. Since her mom works nights, her father Ken is now in charge of Shaela's hair and makeup.

Shaela's father, Ken Warkentin said, "You just kind of think of what a young kid wants to look like and do what you do. I've never put eyeliner or mascara on anybody before, but it's not so hard."

Before school started, Shaela was fitted with two prosthetic eyes. She's isn't completely comfortable showing them off all of the time, but she wanted to take off her sunglasses for us.

Shaela said, "Okay... alrighty... (Takes off her glasses) I'm trying to go through all of that and saying 'hey it doesn't really matter what I look like, it matters who I am inside and how I act.'"

One thing is clear, Shaela is a fighter, and has a family who loves her, and all are willing to take life as it comes, one day at a time.

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