Postcards show the world to an 8-year-old blind boy Nathan Hiltman

10:18 PM, Dec 21, 2012   |    comments
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Hiltman is a mother of two. Nathan is autistic. His vision has been getting progressively worse over the last two years.

"It's heartbreaking," Hiltman said, "They've told us he has no peripheral vision. He has no depth perception. His balance is off. He's uncoordinated. He runs into things. He can't ride a bike. They told us he'll never be able to drive a car based on his vision. To me, those are rites of passage for a child. Every kid should be able to ride a bike."

Hiltman had to talk about the pain she was going through. So, in June, she started blogging.


"It was very cathartic," Hiltman said. "Just getting out what I wanted to say. It was just to let people know what was going on with Nathan. It was just really friends and family kind of a thing, and it just expanded."

Hiltman says the doctors can't say if Nathan will go fully blind, but say he has what they call "visual memory."

"He's at the age when we show him a picture of a cow, in 10 years, he'll remember what a cow looks like," Hiltman said.

Based on the doctors' conclusion, Hiltman decided to show her son the world before his vision worsens.

"I asked my friends and family if they would be willing to send postcards so I can show him places he might remember down the road," Hiltman said.

The response was overwhelming. Friends told friends and perfect strangers sent handmade cards, posters and trinkets - little pieces of the world Nathan can see if he looks closely.

"I have seen the good in people, which is nice," Hiltman said. "I was mad for a very long time. This has kind of restored my faith in people that people do care - people I don't now, people I've never met, never will meet care, enough to go to the store, buy a postcard, put a stamp on it and put in the mail."

The family has received hundreds of postcards from all over the world so far, and they keep coming.

"These are not postcards just for Nathan. These are postcards for the whole family. These are postcards for her [Hiltman's 10-year-old daughter Madison] and for her to experience as well," Hiltman said.


Madison is Nathan's older sister. The 10-year-old goes to the same Douglas County School. Nathan goes to Pine Grove Elementary. They're in different classes.

Madison admits being a big sister is often hard.

"I think it's cool knowing that he can see stuff," Madison said when asked about the postcards. "But also [it's] sometimes sad because they're all just to him. It makes me feel left out."

But Madison would do anything for her little brother.

"He's losing his vision, so he won't be able to see the things that everybody else is going to see," Madison said. "So it's sad; [it] makes me sad."

Right before Thanksgiving, students had a show-and-tell class. Madison brought some of the cards and souvenirs her family recently received from the Middle East.

"I told them my brother had optic atrophy and that he's going blind," she said. "Since he won't be able to visit the world, he can see it without having to be there."

"I have never seen fifth-grade kids with such a look on their faces," Madison's teacher Michelle Strabala said. "They know who Nathan is but they didn't know this about him. They just stopped, and they were hanging on every word she said. It blew me away. I started crying. When she was done, about four [or] five girls just impulsively went up and hugged her. They had no idea she was going through this on a daily basis."

Strabala says she was so moved by Madison's presentation, she sent out an email to the parents of her kids.

"It's Thanksgiving week. I know many of you are going to some pretty amazing places. I know people are coming in from amazing places. Let's send Nathan a postcard so he can see the world. [I] put it on Facebook. It's exploded. He's got stuff coming from all over the world now, and we've adopted him. He's our special little guy now," Strabala added.


Nathan loves Star Wars and Justin Bieber. He has the dimples "to die for," his mom says.

"He's very socially behind. He doesn't interact with his peers appropriately. He's pretty naïve. If you're sarcastic with him, he won't understand your sarcasm," Hiltman said. "He doesn't understand jokes very well. He's just Nathan."

But, he adores Madison. Nathan doesn't quite understand much about the postcards, but he knows they're for him.

"Because I can't see well," Nathan said about why he's getting all the postcards.

He's getting to see small pieces of the world, and that's what is important to his mom.

"You want to give your kids everything, and you want to give them the world. I feel like we can do that with Madison," Hiltman said. "I feel like we can send her off to college and give her the education, and she can go on to be whatever she wants to be. With Nathan, I don't know. I don't want to limit his possibilities. He is who is he is, and he will be whoever he's able to be. But I don't know there will ever be enough because as a parent you want the most for your kids."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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