Merry Christmas Eve day!
This week as I was out and about with a dear friend, she was describing a nonverbal exchange she had with a customer at the establishment we were visiting. Well, while she had an herbal tea I had a latte!! I’m sure you can guess our location! 🙂
As she described the nonverbal communication that took place, I began thinking about truly how much of our interactions are nonverbal. For a brief instant I felt left out and a bit angry about being blind. After acknowledging how I felt, I wanted to turn my negative emotions into something proactive. So this post is dedicated to all those who have shaped my overall positive attitude toward blindness. Whether it was a teacher, my parents, siblings, or friends this one is for you.
I am going to attempt to answer common questions I receive about my disability. These often are How did you become blind? How did your family react? How did your family help you to live a “normal”, “regular” life? What did they do to make you become more independent?
I was born 3 and a half months premature which caused its own challenges for my parents. My Dad told me I looked like a rat and I weighed less than a pound of butter. My Mom told be about the difficult decisions and choices she had to make after my birth. These included whether or not to keep me on life support, confronting the possibility that I may have disabilities due to a brain bleed and the painful realization that I may not survive an open-heart surgery. Despite receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, I made it through the surgeries on my eyes and heart. Since I spent nearly 4 months in the hospital and the doctors weren’t as educated in the impact of too much oxygen on developing eyes, I was diagnosed with ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity).
A few months after coming home I had surgery in Philadelphia on my eyes which gave me some useable sight. Until high school, my usable vision was a hindrance and a help all at the same time. As a child I had the typical bumps and bruises that kids seem to acquire. However, there were a few occasions where my sight caused me to misjudge objects and distance. Once I accidently rode my bike down a flight of concrete stairs which resulted in having my head stitched up.
My visual impairment was never treated as a hindrance by my family. My parents held the same expectations for me as they did my sisters. Even when I tried to pull the “I can’t see that”, it was an unacceptable excuse. My sisters thankfully sure did not cut me any slack. We played the typical rough and tough games outside and when it came to chores, they made sure I pulled my weight.
I do not recall many adaptations as a child. I did learn Braille early on since reading large print was not a viable solution. Despite being resistant to using a cane and reading Braille, I am so thankful for the teachers who did not give up on me and allow me to simply use the sight I had.
In high school I developed glaucoma. After trying many different prescriptions for different eye drops, the difficult decision was made to remove my eyes. I was in agreement due to the intense pain. There was one week I spent most of the time in the Emergency Department receiving Demerol drips due to excruciating pain.
After going totally blind, I began to develop fears of walking by myself. Fortunately, the proceeding summer, I attended a 5-week intensive blindness program for teens in Baltimore. At this program I brushed up on my cane skills, learned how to cook, worked on Braille and computer skills with lots of fun adventures mixed in.
As an adult I attended the Orientation Center and Adjustment program in Des Moines Iowa which was a game changer for me. I truly accepted my blindness and dealt with the anger I felt toward those who had usable vision. I began to believe I have the ability to be independent and developed confidents. The skills, friends and lessons I made in Iowa still positively impact my daily life.
Blindness and other disabilities are not what society often portrays them to be; they do not promote ableism, discrimination or subservience. Although blindness is a very small portion of society, I pray there comes a day where I am not automatically identified by others by my lack of sight. While I am blind, I am a person who is just as flawed and idiosyncratic as any sighted person.
If you are curious about answers to common questions about blindness and how I and others complete tasks, I encourage you to check out an entertaining YouTube star who happens to be blind from birth.
I pray you have a blessed and Merry Christmas. Remember Jesus is the reason for the season.
Until next time,