The 33-year-old who moved from Los Angeles, Calif., to Tennessee with his family has found himself in place that he did not dream of being about 10 years ago. He is an art major at Cleveland State Community College.
At the age of 23, he woke up one day and everything he could see through one of his eyes was blurry. He thought it was just “sleep” in his eyes.
After rubbing his eyes in an effort to improve his vision, he found it didn’t work.
After a trip to the doctor, he learned he had a disease called Keratoconus that impacted the shape and structure of the corneas in his eyes.
Doctors said he might have been able to receive a cornea transplant to correct his vision in one eye, but he lost vision in his other eye before the surgery could take place. Doctors then refused to do transplant surgeries for both eyes because they believed the success rates to be too low.
He was blind for roughly seven years.
He said he “got in a little trouble,” gained weight and became depressed. A man who loved art had lost his ability to see.
After dealing with blindness for about seven years, something “miraculous” happened.
Ladd found a doctor who was willing to try the cornea transplant surgeries, and the corneas needed for the surgery became available to him.
Despite what some of his other doctors had predicted, the surgeries worked.
Now that he can see again, he is attending college to learn how to be a better artist, and he wants to use his artistic abilities to help others. He said he is also able to do more to be a good husband to his wife and a good father to his six sons.
“I want to show gratitude for what the Lord has given me,” Ladd said. “He gave me my sight back for a reason.”
After he decided to pursue a college degree, he found he needed to gradually get back into the education scene. He said the staff and faculty of Cleveland State have helped him navigate through the process of becoming a student again.
He said he has had to get used to attending classes, studying and doing homework again.
Though he had been out of school for a long time and he is “not very computer-savvy,” Ladd said he has been able to achieve what he has set out to do with the college’s help.
While he is not 100 percent sure about his graduation date, he has already taken most of his prerequisite courses and is currently navigating a full-time schedule with seven classes.
While Ladd said he enjoys all types of art, he especially enjoys drawing still-lifes and religious subjects like the ones that can be found on the ceilings of grand places like the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, which features the work of Michelangelo.
He will often try to draw portraits of people in the same style as artists like Michelangelo.
Art has always been something he enjoyed, he said. While he described his upbringing as “not the best,” he said he has always enjoyed doing things like drawing. When times got tough, art became a kind of stress relief.
As he works toward graduation, Ladd said he has a few different ideas for how he will use his art degree. One of the main options he is considering is becoming an art teacher so he can teach children how to use art to express themselves and handle the stresses of life in healthy ways.
He said he has already begun practicing his teaching skills with his boys at home.
Ladd said his drive to succeed is a drive to show how thankful he his for being able to see once again.
“I’ve faced some adverse times in life, but the Lord has gotten me through it,” Ladd said. “He’s using Cleveland State today to help encourage me.”