When I couldn’t see how much salt I was shaking on a casserole, it was — so to speak — an eye-opener. That slight change could indicate a continuing advancement of the macular degeneration I’ve fought for more than 20 years. I want to believe that episode was just a little bump in the road, nothing to worry about. However, the past few weeks I’ve noticed more difficulty reading, even with my magnifier. When I was first given the diagnosis by a local ophthalmologist, he emphasized that the condition would progress to blindness. I argued that a cure could be found in the future but he was emphatic that I would become blind. A blunder in that office prompted me to find a Vitreo-Retinal Ophthalmologist in Dayton to receive the necessary treatment. My eyes are tested every 4 to 6 weeks, followed by an intravitreal injection of a medication called Lucentis, which stops the bleeding. I’ve had 39 injections and am so thankful they are working for me.
All of this brings me to the point. I have started watercolor painting again, in conjunction with a program organized by the Piqua Arts Council. On paper the size of a playing card, local artists have created miniatures in their medium of choice. A question may arise — how can I paint when I’m “supposed to be blind.” ( I only heard that once and it was devastating.) No one is SUPPOSED to be blind! Who would pretend to be? Blind doesn’t mean everything goes black because that isn’t true. Many people with low vision can see colors and/or shapes. I have different methods for identification: The shape of a body or face, a consistent style or color of hair, the sound of a voice and choice of words, the place I’d normally expect to find that person. Light is a very important factor; I need enough to identify familiar features but too much obliterates detail and the face becomes a balloon. Besides blurred vision, a major problem I battle is distortion. I can’t see a straight line; everything is curved or wavy, buildings look like they’re going to topple over and picket fences make me dizzy. Occasionally I experience double vision, which doesn’t help me determine what I’m looking at. Magnifiers are vital for reading and I have a wonderful little gadget called “Opticaid,” like a miniature windshield that clamps on my glasses. It folds into a tiny pouch for traveling and costs only $35. I have a large magnifier with a “natural light” bulb on a movable base that I’m using along with my Opticaid. With all that paraphernalia, I managed to complete three miniature paintings which, along with works by other artists, can be viewed on Piqua Art Council’s web site.
Sometimes what I think I see isn’t even close to what’s there. For example, while in the car with RB, I believed I saw a large dog sitting alone on a corner and I instantly concluded he was lost. “He” turned out to be a fire hydrant.
That brings me around to Marian, one of my long-term patients. When helping her to the toilet, we always handed her a pad of folded toilet tissue. One evening she reached for the whole roll, ripped off a long trail of it and wadded it up for her own use. For some reason, Marian examined it before discarding it. Shocked, Marian shouted, “A chicken!” I could see the resemblance; the ragged edges of the paper fluttered, perhaps looking like feathers. The little dot of urine could have been the chicken’s beak. We suggested she drop the paper in the toilet. Disbelieving, she asked, “The chicken?” and continued to stare at it. She never once asked how it got there. Firmly we repeated, “Throw it in the toilet, Marian! Let go of it! Drop it in the toilet!” Horrified, Marian shouted, “NOT the CHICKEN!” Just let me say here that ….it…passed away.
I’m not quite at that stage yet — but I didn’t tell RB about the lost dog and the fire hydrant.
Carolyn Stevens may be contacted via mail at 719 Park Ave., Piqua or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.