Zooming in on the Positive

When The News Isn’t What You Want to Hear

Twenty-eight years ago I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), an incurable hereditary eye disease. This morning, when I entered the professional building , bits and pieces of that  long-ago specialist’s appointment returned.

The moments of deja vu kept popping up, like unwelcome obstacles in my path. I figured they were there but I didn’t know when I’d find them. I didn’t have to wait. It started with the busyness in a bustling maze of offices. The stinging of the eye drops flashed me back to the uncertain deciphering of letters on the wall chart.  The “put your chin  right here and slide your forehead forward,” moment carried me back to that nervous girl who wondered why she needed so many tests to get new glasses. Until I tried to hold my eyes open against the onslaught of blinding lights, I’d forgotten the photographs taken of the back of my eye. The technician probably even said, “I know it’s hard but try to keep from blinking. Keep that right eye open.” FLASH! FLASH!

As I wiped the involuntary tears away with a tissue the technician handed me, I wondered if the doctor would recommend surgery. I’d see a lot better if my dislodged lens from earlier cataract surgery was put in place.

In the examining room, when the ophthalmologist told me to look straight ahead and asked me how many fingers she was holding up, I didn’t see anything. Or when she was waving them. She was just a foot away from me.

An icy spot settle in the pit of my stomach.

After she left, my friend, Judie, and I waited for the retinal specialist to arrive.

“I didn’t see her waving to me,” I said a few minutes later. Although we hadn’t been talking, Judie knew what that really meant. 

She stumbled over words meant to support me.

“It doesn’t look like a tunnel,” I protested. Tunnel as in tunnel vision.

The specialist came in at that moment.”Are you related to the man with the tree business?”

Oh-h! He knew my dad. “Yeah, I’m his daughter,” I enthused.

“He was a VIP and you’re more than a VIP.”

His spirit blew a warm breeze over that cold spot in me.

A few minutes later, the doctor bent over and examined my eyes. A steady stream of jargon came out of his mouth as he looked into each one. Perhaps the technician was recording his findings. I wasn’t sure. Some words sounded familiar: clump of interretinal pigment…narrow arteries…pale color.

I asked him about the narrowing part.

He corrected me. “I said narrow. This is the first time I’ve seen you. I don’t know if it’s narrowing,” he reassured.

During the exam, it came out out that it bothered me to learn about the loss of my peripheral vision.  I sighed. “It’s one thing to know it intellectually. It’s another to have it proven,” I murmured.

“The brain has a wonderful ability to fill in the missing pieces and provide you with information that you can’t see.”

It wasn’t only his words that made me sit up straighter. It was, again, the warmth in his voice. He followed it up by reminding me that I was young and fully functional.

How did he know I was? He didn’t see me maneuver around the hallway or office with my cane? Or had he? Perhaps in the hallway earlier.

It was as if he had reached down, picked up my downcast spirit like it was a broken-winged bird and showed it the blue skies of freedom again.

I wasn’t okay. But I was.

As for my dislodged lens, I found that answer soon enough.

“It’s not technically correct. The lens isn’t dislodged. It’s the debris of your cataract.”

I didn’t really understand what he meant so I kept going back to the operation that would reduce my blurred vision in that eye.

He patiently explained. The debris meant I still had some of the residual cataract missed by the surgeon in 1999.

“Oh. Why do I always think there will be an easy fix?” I asked.

“I’m not ruling it out but we have to move cautiously so you don’t get hurt. I don’t want to get your hopes up for something that may not even help that much or might be risky.”

This specialist cared about me–and not just because he’d liked my dad.

He recommended that I see a second specialist in Pittsburgh for more answers. Turning to Judie, the doc instructed, “Write these down,” and dictated five of the most pertinent questions I had.

When Judie and I made the follow-up appointments with one of the three busy receptionists, the sense of deja vu disappeared.  The only aspect of me that I still shared with that twenty-eight-year-old younger self  was the sense of adventure I carted around.

Then, I was headed to a far-flung country to teach new students in a foreign culture. I’m still ready to learn about foreign cultures. Since I’m traveling, I want to have the right gear to fit in–only this time it’s to a land with hard-of-hearing and vision-impaired individuals. It occurred to me I’m still teaching, only my classroom  is mobile as I travel from one place to the next to share what I’ve learned about vision and hearing loss.

As the tip of my cane hit the base of the glass door, I smiled. The doctor left me with words to ponder: “The harder you work, the luckier you are.”  

I knew one thing, I wasn’t going to give up–not with gene therapy right around the corner. Early days for that. Blurry. I couldn’t see where it was but I was heading for it.  I knew that when the time was right, I’d zoom in on it.

I walked out the door full of hope. Gratitude that God gave me a specialist that treated me “more than a VIP.”

I was lucky. In fact, I’d had a string of good luck when it came to my eye doctors.

Funny how God knows what we need. He lets the bad debris float through in a dark tunnel. The good is there all around us. God has a wonderful  ability to fill in the missing pieces and provide us with information we can’t see.

Who do you know that points you to hope in difficult times? How long does it take you to trust new people?

You have just read, “Zooming in on the Positive” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright October 22, 2015. If you enjoyed or found value in the post, please share!

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