FAST FORWARD : A Second Look at Some of the People Who Made News in 1991 : Family: LaNona is blind, and Martin has seizures. But many of the couple’s early worries about taking care of their robust baby boy, Daniel, have been put to rest.
Daniel Hoke is almost 8 months old--old enough to sense that his mother cannot see him.
“Daniel makes more noise to get Mommy’s attention than he does to get Daddy’s attention,” says LaNona Hoke, 34.
Her husband, Martin, offers his own evidence.
“He doesn’t look directly into LaNona’s face, but he looks right at me,” he says. “Daniel seems to know that she isn’t making eye contact with him.”
It was May 3 when Daniel arrived, a week overdue. A story on the Orange family’s situation appeared in The Times shortly thereafter, prompting numerous gifts of clothing and toys.
Back then, even LaNona and Martin questioned whether they could pull this off--a blind woman and an epileptic man rearing a child.
Now, however, many of those worries have been put to rest.
“I’ve stepped on Daniel a couple of times,” LaNona says. “But he’s usually very good at letting me know his whereabouts.”
At first, Martin shied away from holding the baby, for fear he might drop Daniel during a seizure.
“But after a while I decided that if I kept worrying about breaking my son, it would do psychological damage to both of us,” he says.
Life has never been a straight, paved road for these two.
Martin, 35, began experiencing epilepsy when he was 5 years old. Now that he is an adult, the seizures are usually mild, but they prevent him from driving. He and LaNona depend on their parents and other family members for transportation.
At 6, LaNona was felled by a malignant brain tumor. She miraculously emerged from a three-year coma, but her illness took her sight and erased all memory of her earlier life.
Their latest setbacks: LaNona recently developed painful tendinitis in her wrists, and her hearing--partially impaired years ago by the tumor--has worsened.
Adding to their hardships, the Hokes have hit red tape trying to receive Social Security and Medi-Cal benefits for Daniel. Meanwhile, their part-time jobs at a fast-foods restaurant garners only $200 a week.
Yet despite the difficulties, LaNona and Martin are lucky folks--blessed with an adorable, robust baby. His sweet looks won him second place in a baby pageant.
LaNona has moments when she longs to see her son.
“My grandmother says, ‘He’s so cute--oh, I wish you could see him!’ I think, ‘If only I could get my sight back.’ But I just try to appreciate what I have.”