By Tammie Hefty
How many of you remember Mary Ingalls going blind? Having grown up in the late 70’s and 80’s, I am a product of Little House on the Prairie and I will never forget Mary screaming, “Pa, I can’t see, I can’t see!!!” Charles scaled the ladder to the loft faster than a squirrel up a tree, and Mary grabbed hold of him with clenched white fingers, as if holding on for dear life.
This was the image still embossed in my brain when I learned that my daughter, Evie, would be blind. She was only a few days old when we learned of her eye condition that is called Aniridia. She doesn’t have irises, the colored part of her eye, just pupils. Cataracts and glaucoma are also a threat to her eye, and she has an increased risk of developing keratopathy (dry eye) or a detached retina.
The interesting dilemma we find ourselves in today, however, is that, although Evie is legally blind, she still has very useful vision. She needs to learn braille and cane travel skills because it’s easier to learn that now, while she’s in school, and while her brain is still quick to absorb all the information that children can and do. Learning braille is just like learning Spanish or German, while learning cane travel is much like taking ballet. But still having the “useful” vision that she does gives her the innate compulsion to USE that vision rather than learning the methods used by those who are fully blind.
I equate this dilemma to when my sister and I traveled to Mexico for a home stay with a family. The family spoke Spanish and we were there to practice our Spanish. We had to talk slowly, dig around in our brains for the right translations, and often we learned what we didn’t yet know. But we DID know English, and that would have been faster for us. So whenever we met someone who spoke English, we would revert to that first language that we’d been hearing since birth.
In the same respect, Evie reverts to using her remaining vision whenever she can. She’s learning braille and she memorizes the dots in the braille cells just like we memorize the shape of the English alphabet letters, but when the dots are there on the paper in front of her, rather than feeling the dots, she will hold them as close to her right eye (the “good” eye) as possible and READ the dots. A blindfold is required when we practice her braille because of that strong gravitational pull that draws the paper to her eye. Yes, I have to blindfold my blind child to do her homework.
It’s just interesting to think that her usable vision, which we ultimately know will fade as she gets older, is an obstacle that keeps her from leaping forward in the “subjects” that are helpful to those who are blind. Of course we cherish every day that Evie can see, can read large print, can read signs in the stores and on building fronts, can recognize faces…it’s all a gift. I know many families of children with Evie’s condition have struggled with watching the vision that their child once had disappear. I know we will go through that, too. But for today, I’ll thank God for making Evie “just blind enough” that we can plan for the future, but still see what beauty is here before our eyes.
What is the one thing that YOU would miss seeing if you were to go blind?
Originally published on www.mycuplifted.blogspot.com on 12/14/2013
Tammie Hefty lives in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin and regularly blogs about her experiences of raising a child with special needs.
Featured image: Erin Moore Photography