I had lunch with my daughter, Emily today. Since she started working downtown, we have been saying that we are going to go out for lunch occasionally, but today was the first time that we actually did it. We spent a wonderful hour together. Having adult children is really a blessing of parenthood. It is amazing to see the woman Emily has become and I am very proud of her. It is delightful to spend time talking with her.
While we were talking, Emily asked me to explain more about my vision since having my cataract surgery. She reads this blog ( 🙂 ) and she suggested that I write a new post about my vision. I am going to assume that, since Emily wants to understand more about what is happening with my eyesight, other readers may also want to know more.
My vision varies throughout the day, so I thought I would describe my eyesight as it generally progresses each day. When I wake up, my eyes have a hard time focusing. I have a hard time figuring out what the things I am looking at actually are. If I look toward a brighter area it is even worse. When I look out the window, I see blobs of color. I can guess that a green blob is a tree, that a white blog is our neighbor’s car. Some mornings, when I am still half-asleep and forget that I am visually impaired, I feel as if I am losing my mind because I can’t make sense out of what I am seeing. This initial lack of focus, with which I begin each day, usually lasts just a few minutes but can last up to half an hour. It is very disconcerting and I am still not used to it. It is as if I have to relearn how to see each and every morning.
Once my eyes have figured out how to make visual sense of my surroundings, everything is much better. My vision is now 20/400 in my left eye and 20/100 in my right eye – uncorrected. This means that I now see better without contacts than I could previously see with contacts. This is an amazing miracle. When I am tested in the eye doctor’s office, they put a little screen in front of my eye that has pinholes in it. This helps eliminate some of the blind spots that I have to work around, and my vision improves to 20/200 in my left eye and 20/70 in my right eye. (I sometimes wonder why they don’t make reading glasses with pinholes if it makes such a difference.) My vision at the distance of the eye chart is very much improved from before my surgery.
My close vision is a bit more of a problem. I can no longer focus on anything within an arm’s length of my eyes. I can not read the newspaper. I can not read my texts. I can not read a menu. I am using drugstore reading glasses and they help somewhat. For example, I am able to write my blog on my laptop with standard windows accessibility magnification features. Even with the reading glasses, I have to limit my time on the computer or trying to read because these produce eye strain and headaches. The good news is, once my eyes are fully healed from the cataract surgery, my eye doctor will refract my eyes for prescription reading glasses that should make a big difference.
In addition to focus problems, I still have blind spots caused by the macular degeneration – both from the bleeding and from the repairs by using PDT. The worst thing about these blind spots is that they distort my vision in a way that makes it hard for me to recognize faces. Very few things are more embarrassing to me than not being able to tell who someone is. Sometimes I try to guess and use the wrong name. Sometimes I ask and worry that I am offending the person. Sometimes I just pretend I know and figure it out as we are talking. I am getting really good at taking cues from the way people walk and talk because recognizing faces is just beyond my ability. Luckily, no one at the agency where I work thinks a thing of this. People are used to announcing their names as they enter a room because so many people who are blind work there. It’s when I run into people out and about who haven’t seen me in a while and don’t know my story that I am embarrassed to have to admit I don’t recognize them. I always worry that they don’t understand that it’s not that I don’t remember them, it’s just that I can’t see.
Another visual challenge is my loss of depth perception. It is hard for me to distinguish curbs, steps, clutter on the floor, anything that causes the ground to unexpectedly change. Luckily, mobility training has helped a lot with these issues. I walk confidently now, because I know the cues to look for and I use my other senses. Steps are still hard and I still have to force myself not to look down as I descend. I feel really proud of myself with regard to coping with my lack of depth perception and with my willingness to ask for help when I need it.
Light plays a major role with my eyesight. If the light is too dim, it is hard for me to distinguish shapes and everything becomes very shadowy. And yet, sometimes dim light feels so soothing and I welcome the break from the light. If the light is too bright, the glare makes it difficult for me to see. I am really learning the importance of having sunglasses on hand all the time. If I am out in the sun, I always need them. My office at work has these gorgeous big windows and my office gets a lot of light, which I love, but which sometimes causes me to have some vision problems. Since I love the light so much, I never shut the blinds. Still, they are there if I need them.
A big change in my vision happens in the mid-afternoon. After staring at the computer screen and reading material all day, my eyes grow very weary. I have had fairly constant headaches since my second cataract surgery, but mid-afternoon is the time that my headaches peak. I stand and look out those big windows in my office, focusing on the city view and giving my eyes a break. I walk around and talk to people, just to get away from the computer. This is the time of day when I remember that I am supposed to be giving my eyes breaks throughout the day. I rarely remember until it’s too late. Once it is mid-afternoon and my eyes are tired, my close vision gets even fuzzier and remains that way for the rest of the day.
In the evening, I often feel as if my eyes are “done” for the day. I sometimes can not use the computer. I skip writing my blog post on those days, which makes me a little bit sad. I can not read books or magazines or even correspondence in the evening. My eyes are too tired to do the hard work of focusing.
All throughout the day, I have some other aberrations with my vision. Light sometimes makes things appear to sparkle. Floaters get in the way and make me think I have to take out my nonexistent contacts and clean them. Places with a lot of things to look at cause too much visual clutter and everything blurs. These things are just strange occurrences that make my days interesting and challenging.
Emily asked me to describe my eyesight and this is my long-winded way of doing just that. I don’t have all the proper medical terminology for some of the vision problems I have. I hope that what comes across is the idea that, while I have some vision issues, I am very thankful for the vision I have and I have learned to cope with what I am missing. My world is not reduced by my vision loss. In fact, the experience of losing my vision has opened me to many new and exciting possibilities. The most important one, to me, is the ability to look around the world and to recognize beauty that I had overlooked when my vision was normal.