Model: India Iman Kaltsas West
Multiple disabilities & visual impairment
Zebedee Talent Agency, model

When I was four years old, I became very ill. I was having frequent headaches, loss of balance, constant nausea, and sometimes sleeping up to 15 hours a day. I was losing my peripheral vision and having intermittent pain in my neck, which I later learned was advanced hydrocephalus. My life was slowly slipping away from me. I was very overwhelmed, and I had a difficult time expressing my symptoms due to being so young. Finally, I was diagnosed with an optic nerve brain tumor that was about the size of a golf ball, located directly in the center of my brain.

I ended up needing emergency brain surgery, and I came home from the hospital in a wheelchair, completely blind. The wheelchair, combined with my vision loss, created a boundary between myself and the world. I could come up next to it and, at best, be an observer, but never a participant.

Comparison truly is the thief of gratitude. I have learned to frame my lens on life differently. Through that lens, I am 24, but grateful to be free of the brain tumor, an adaptive surfer, an author, a disability activist, co-founder of a business to support people with disabilities, and an assistive technology consultant. My journey, my experiences, and my life’s purpose…are mine only and unique to me. I know I have a purpose, as we all do. I am excited to fulfill whatever that is, one day at a time.


Photographer: Duane Murphy