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The journey ahead

Photo: Zach Thibodeaux, 8, has cone-rod dystrophy, an incurable condition that slowly causes blindness. (Credit: Tom Fox)

Fidgety and full of purpose, 8-year-old Zach Thibodeaux put on a blindfold and extended his fold-up cane.

The instructor took the Lewisville boy’s hand near a stretch of storefronts at NorthPark Center in Dallas. “Let me tell you a little bit about the route,” she said.

With a finger, Alexa McIntyre traced on Zach’s palm the L-shaped path he would sightlessly pursue: Straight down the mall concourse until it ended at the Dillard’s department store, then turn.

“Ready?” she said.

Zach positioned his cane and nodded.

“OK, go.”

Far ahead, Dillard’s loomed like a beam of light at the opening of a cave.

Though only in second grade, Zach is old enough to know he’s got a long road ahead.

Rapidly and surely, Zach is going blind — the result of a condition called cone-rod dystrophy, a degenerative disease that is destroying the cells of his retina and for which there is no cure.

Splotch by splotch, he’s losing sight of a world most of us experience visually, as if he were an artist trapped behind dark paint thrown at a blank canvas.

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