By Mike Morris
Here we are. With the rapid decrease of vision in my left eye, the doctors have decided I have a form of macular degeneration. The most consistent term the doctor uses is choroidal neovascular membrane (CNVM). For those of us that don’t speak the medical language, this means fluid is leaking between the membranes of the macula, which is the central part of the retina.
In normal eyes, the macula (about the size of the point of a ball point pen) is clear, allowing the light to pass through. As I understand it, this fluid prevents the light from passing through and this is what disrupts my vision. That is enough medical talk for now.
I don’t want to be a member of this club. If you read about the stages of grief, you’ll learn the first step is denial. I didn’t know it then, but I was stage one. Others with vision loss, along with medical professionals, welcomed me to the club. My employer, with the best of intentions, sat across the desk and reassured me that they were ADA compliant and would provide any assistance they could to help me do my job.
Why? I was fine. I had one good eye. In fact, I often joked about it. I could review a financial document and catch an error. When I pointed out the error, someone would say “good eye.” Yes, thank you. I do have a good eye. How’d you know?
It was rare that I would ask for help. It isn’t because I didn’t want help. Rather, I wanted to demonstrate to myself and the world I was still capable of doing anything I wanted. Others with similar vision challenges may be part of this club, but not me. I’m not a member of this club!
Tough guy talk. That’s what I told the world. That’s the image I wanted to portray. On the inside, the story was different. While I didn’t want to be “different,” I knew I was. Some tasks previously taken for granted were no longer that easy. Driving, especially at night, was becoming more of a challenge. None of this mattered. As long as I told myself and others that I wasn’t a member of this club, I wasn’t.
Once in a while, I had to fess up to someone that I was visually impaired. I found this awkward. If I was faced with something outward showing, then I wouldn’t have to explain anything. For example, if you’re walking past someone with a cast on their arm, trying to open a door while holding two bags of groceries, you help. You don’t wonder why they are struggling to complete a task. The challenge they are facing is obvious. When your vision is compromised as mine was, the obvious clue didn’t exist. That was starting to create a mental challenge.
This would lead to events such as a day where I am sitting in a board room at work. Someone hands me a spreadsheet at what must be 6-point font. They want me to interpret the data, but I can’t read the data. How do I explain this? Do they think I can’t read?
Or, someone wants to meet with me before the sun rises early one morning. I can’t, because I’m not able to safely drive in the dark. How do I explain this? Do they assume I can’t drive? Had my license revoked for a criminal act?
Between October 2010 and June 2011, I received six injections in an attempt to improve the vision of my left eye. Through this time, the results I expected weren’t happening. My corrected vision in the left eye remained outside 20/200. Despite the lack of improvement, we continued with treatments, hoping the eye would respond. I knew that once it did, this nightmare would be over and I could turn in my membership card to this club – the one I still didn’t feel I belonged to.
To be continued…look for the next post from Mike Morris to find out if he decides to join the club.