Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Blind Mind’s Eye

4 April 2012

I spend a fair amount of time talking about my medical problems on this blog and today is no different. I have a lot of different medical problems none of which are really life threatening at present. They have had major impacts on my life and It my hope that maybe people reading this will draw some benefit from my insight and experiences.

Today I am talking about my blindness. I am partially blind and have been since 1980. I have little to no peripheral vision in both eyes and little blind spots in my remaining field of vision. What I do see, I see very well. What I don’t see, I don’t see at all. It’s not “black” it’s just nothing. Places where I don’t see. It was manageable throughout most of my life up until 2003 when my heart problems happened and it became an issue enough to warrant my decision to turn in my drivers license. It is way too dangerous for me and for others if I drove.

 I can get around ok on my own. Except at night, as I no longer have any night vision. If I walk outside at night, I need to be escorted or guided. Also in crowds or crowded areas like grocery stores or public gatherings, the pace of other people’s movements is near impossible to track so it’s best if I am guided. In a grocery store I always have a cart in front of me. I do ok in my house or places I am familiar with. Mainly because I am able to commit to memory where everything is. Move something and I will bump into it. I learned early on how to scan a room or area to note obstacles quickly. I learned how to adapt to this disability. Still, I do my share of bumping into things. My shins, legs and other parts of my body almost always carry bruises, nicks and scars from where I have walked into something I didn’t see.

As I said earlier, it started in 1980. I was a young man in the US Air Force and stationed on the island of Crete, Greece. I spent a lot of time on the beach and it started with my feeling like I had grains of sand in my eye. It started in my right eye first. I didn’t give it much thought at first until I noticed I was bumping into walls, doors and people. I went to the clinic on base and they examined me and determined I needed to be seen at the military hospital in Wiesbaden Germany. There, the doctors ran all kinds of neurological tests and scans. At that time the CT scan was just coming into use and I was sent to an off-base German hospital to get my head examined. After all the testing was done, the doctors there in Wiesbaden determined that it was not Multiple Sclerosis. The determination was that my loss of vision was due to optic nerve atrophy and that there was nothing that could be done to correct it. Basically my the nerves that send the optic messages between my eyes and my brain no longer work because they do not get blood flow. If you were to look into my eyes and see them, they would be grayish white in color. There was no discussion as to why my nerves had “died” or why they were not getting the blood flow they needed to work. At that time I was 21 years old and I did not have the presence of mind to ask or even think that circulation was an issue. I left the doctors in Germany with a scheduled follow-up in 6 months to check for any progress or worsening of my vision. The final word from my military doctors was that there was nothing they could do about it and to see them again if it got any worse. It never did until 2003, after I retired from active duty.

I noticed the vision started getting worse after my bypass surgery. Driving had become a bit challenging especially in traffic and I eventually felt unsafe being behind the wheel. My ophthalmologist examined my eyes and saw the nerve atrophy and gave me a perimeter or “field of vision” test. I had this test in Germany as well. You strap your head into this half egg shell shape and fix your eyes on a center point in the half shell.  A pin light is then flashed around the areas of your field of vision and every time you see the light flash, you press a button. A graph is then produced that illustrates your field of vision and any blind spots. I didn’t have my test results from Germany as my records had been lost somewhere so I couldn’t prove if it was worse based on the test results. But I could tell it had gotten much worse. My ophthalmologist agrees it is not safe for me to drive. So now, in addition to seeing my heart doctor regularly, I see my “eye guy” once a year. He gives me a “field- of-vision” test and a thorough examination. So far nothing has changed and every year I ask if anything is available that might fix it. Each year he tells me “No.”

I notice it more these days, especially in my right eye. There is a big blind spot in the area where the eye meets the bridge of the nose that is bothersome. It looks like a spot of nothingness that has blurred edges. When I am tired my vision seems to get worse and this particular spot even more so. Besides that, I am used to it. I have adapted to it for the most part and it is second nature now. There is nothing they can do about it yet to make it better so as far as I am concerned, there is no need to fret about it. I have seen a lot in my time. 

Have a Blessed Day Ya’ll!

Today’s “Did Ya Know?”  It is “National Cordon Bleu Day!!! Is there anything as good as this dish??? You take a chicken breast, stuff it with some good ham and cheese, give it an egg bath, cover it in seasoned flour and bread crumbs and bake it until it’s good to go! Easy, right? Have you seen me cook stuff? Cereal is a challenge! But this sounds easy and it is OH SO GUT GAWD!!!!! Now here’s a kicker, throw some jalapeno or green chilies up in that cheese!!! I’m tappin’ out and lighting up a Camel!!! I LUV me some Cordon Bleu and you know it’s fancy because they spelled “Blue” in the fancy French way so that means it is good!!  Plus they gave Cordon Bleu its own special day so it must be good right?

Related Links:

AARP “Healthtools” article on Optic Nerve Atrophy:

WebMD article on the “Field-of-Vision” test:

National Cordon Bleu Day:

YouTube video on Cordon Bleu recipe:

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