An Eye for Compassion

Life changed in an instant. Literally with a blink of my eyes, I experienced the most frightening episode I could imagine. As my husband drove to our weekend home, images in the distance all became distorted. I felt like was in a 3D Fast and Furious movie. When I looked in the distance all of the images were doubled. Two cars became four and everything was out of focus. I was not concerned about an imminent life-threatening issue, but worried anyway. I decided to return to New York City and go to the emergency room. The hospital physician assured me I could wait until Monday to see my eye doctor. Monday could not come soon enough for me. Little did I know that this was the beginning of weekly visits to my ophthalmologist.

After a very comprehensive eye examination, my condition was diagnosed as Idiopathic Diplopia. That translated to muscle weakness of unknown origin. I didn’t care what it was called. I wanted to know when my vision would return to normal. My doctor told me it could take up to six months for the weak muscles in both my eyes to strengthen. If they didn’t, I could need surgery to straighten the eyes that were now unable to bring two images together.

I looked at my doctor and cried. I couldn’t imagine six more minutes of the misery that had become my new normal. I felt so scared and totally out of control. So many thoughts were racing through my mind at once. What about the speaking engagements, judging, and conventions I committed to attend? I was told I had to disconnect from all television, reading, phones, iPads, computers, driving and limit my stress. This was like telling me to stop breathing for six months.

The final blow came when the doctor told me I had to wear an eye patch on my glasses. My eyes were light sensitive and I had to wear dark sunglasses. The quest to find a patch that would work was an odyssey in itself. Each day felt like a year as I struggled to feel like my old self. I decided to see a world renowned neuro-ophthalmologist for a second opinion. I had to wait a month to get appointment. I am not someone who is able to wait, especially when it relates to my own health. I decided to have my internist order an MRI and the complete battery of tests the other doctor would order had I been able to see him sooner. The results were all negative and the unknown origin about my condition was confirmed. Yet, each night as I tried to sleep I prayed that the gift of sight would not be taken from me in the light of day.

I struggled, but I kept all my commitments. People who knew me asked multiple questions. The eye patch really did make me look like a pirate and strange. I watched people stare at me, point, laugh, and make pirate jokes. One person, who I didn’t know, asked me if I he could see what it looked like to be missing an eye. People’s comments were cruel, mean spirited, and unnecessary. With it all, I learnt the most valuable life lesson. I will never look at someone who has a disability or is different from me with anything but compassion. No one ever deserves to be made fun of, bullied, or shunned.

Luckily, my vision returned to normal in 3 months. But my life will never be the same. I learned the true meaning of the word acceptance. An author said it best: There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.




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