As a child, I suffered an accident that left me blind in my right eye. I was very young, so the I was unable to express that anything was different with my vision.
The disability was not identified until I was in third grade. The school did the customary vision tests. They thought I was faking because I said I couldn’t see anything on the right side when they covered by left eye. I was sent to an optometrist who verified that I was telling the truth.
Fast forward to age 15, another optometrist identifies that I have a small congenital cataract on my left eye. It has been growing slowly for 36 years now.
As an adult, I finally realized why sports were so difficult for me–no depth perception. Can’t see how far away a baseball really is. Can’t see how far away the basketball goal really is. I’d spent junior high physical education going through humiliating exercises where I couldn’t go to the dressing room until I made a “basket”–I was always the last one in my class to do so.
I am lucky in that I have a world-renowned optometrist whom I stumbled upon in Kansas City before he became quite so famous. You can’t get an appointment with him now unless you have an unusual and serious eye disease. Someday, he will remove the cataract–a surgery that can go wrong and leave me completely blind.
As we age, we tend to lose peripheral vision, but mine has been deteriorating since I was in my 30’s. At this point, I frequently walk into objects that I cannot see in my periphery. I have to increase the font on computer documents so I can identify the 0’s from the 8’s.
I have to consider how I will live my life if I end up blind. I protect my left eye like the precious thing that it is. It is hard to imagine what it may be like to never see the faces of my loved ones, never see sunsets, never drive, or be able to read again.
My disability is invisible–there is nothing that looks different about my right eye. I try not to think about it or talk about it. But, I sometimes wonder if tomorrow will be the morning that I wake up and the cataract has grown to the point that surgery is emergent. And what will be the outcome of that surgery-plunged into darkness or restored visual clarity.