Award Winning Blind Master Chef Alerts People to the Value of Eye Exams to Prevent Vision Loss

Master Chef Christine Ha of Dublin is coping with the fact that an accurate diagnosis years earlier would have prevented her blindness. Christine now spends a great deal of time alerting others to have their vision checked and hopefully preserve their eyesight.

Symptoms Began When She Was Twenty

In an interview with People, Christine mentioned that when she was twenty years old her vision became slightly blurry. Then two years later she experienced tingling and numbness in her left leg. Test results led her doctors to believe that Christine had multiple sclerosis (MS). The treatments prescribed for MS were ineffective for Christine.

For the next four years, Christine’s symptoms worsened. Then a neurologist decided to test Christine for an autoimmune disorder called Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD). Christine received a positive diagnosis of having the disease in 2003.

It was then that she gradually began to lose her vision. Still, she had the motivation to overcome her disability and taught herself to cook. Christine also enrolled in Houston University’s graduate program for creative writing.

Fast forward to 2012 when Christine auditioned for the third season of “Master Chef”. This would be her submission for her writing class. Although that was her original intent, Christine prevailed over the competition and won.

There are many Christines in the world of the disabled. She is referred to as ‘The Blind Cook’. World sight day was celebrated on October 13 and Christine was in the middle of the event reminding people to have their vision checked. She is an excellent example of someone following their dreams despite limitations.

Christine, now 43 years old, told People that she is fairly certain that she could have retained her vision if she had not been misdiagnosed over that four-year period.

Christine is unstoppable. She has a rare inflammatory disorder affecting the spinal cord and optic nerves. It is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis. NMOSD may lead to paralysis, vision loss, or both. By the time she was twenty-eight, she had lost almost all of her sight.

Yet rather than dwell on her illness, Christine wants to encourage others through her successes. They include opening two restaurants in Houston, winning the MasterChef award, publishing her cookbook, and hosting special cooking programs for those who are visually impaired.

The Partnership

Christine has partnered with Horizon Therapeutics and participated in March NMOSD awareness month. The theme is NMOSD Won’t Stop Me and Christine can attest to that.

The goal has been to keep the disease in the spotlight in March and beyond through examples of personal experience and storytelling. People who submit their stories will receive a copy of Christine’s cookbook called Recipes from my Home Kitchen.

She reminds people that her disease is only part of her. She is a writer, chef, and entrepreneur and enjoys learning how others with the disease see themselves outside of their condition.

Dr. Kristine Patterson, a medical director at Horizon, is pleased that there has been significant progress for people with NMOSD. Dr. Patterson said their organization intends to fulfill its commitment to support the community not only through medicine but by joining their advocacy partners and providing much-needed resources.

Dr. Patterson emphasized the importance of self-advocacy and how Christine is a good example of the long journey to an accurate diagnosis.


The National Institute of Health defines NMOSD as affecting the optic nerves and spinal cord. Symptoms may involve bowel and bladder problems, temporary loss of vision, weakness, and pain. The onset of the disease may begin at any age. NMOSD may cause vision loss and permanent muscle weakness. The cause of the disease has yet to be determined.

The focus and goal of Horizon are to discover and develop medicines addressing critical needs caused by rare and severe inflammatory disorders. Horizon emphasizes science together with compassion.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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