A sight for sore eyes

A sight for sore eyes

by Christopher Anderson
article from Monday 4, March, 2013

I SUFFER rom the eye disease called glaucoma. Using the word "suffer" makes me feel a fraud because the only time this affliction is painful is when I fall over, or collide with, the furniture. Any suffering involved is experienced by my lady wife when dealing with my outbursts of bad temper and barrack room language, on occasions when I carelessly walk, for example, into the edge of a door.

Another trick I have perfected is falling over or accidentally kicking the dog. This has resulted in Kirsty, our little West Highland Terrier, when she is with me, developing a better body swerve than Ronaldo. No, the insidious glaucoma is not painful, it is more of a bloody nuisance.

Glaucoma, to which unfortunately there is no cure, affects people according to the severity of the onset of the disease and how soon in its progression medical attention is received. I was lucky, in that, on having the routine eye tests when purchasing new spectacles, the young lady ontologist (to whom I shall be forever grateful) realised that something serious was amiss and then and there arranged for me to be examined at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh. My luck held when I was seen by the top gun, the head specialist surgeon Dr Hilary Devlin (pictured), who decided to operate without delay. Within a matter of days I had undergone the first of, what would turn out to be, four lengthy operations. The surgery consisted (in layman's terms) of cutting little trap doors behind the eyes, to allow sufficient lubrication at the tear ducts. This is crucial to prevent the onset of complete blindness.

An unexpected complication to the surgery was that I was found to have unusually tender flesh in the area affected and Dr Devlin's work, to use her own description, resembled embroidery rather than the normal medical sutures. Predictably my family members, who never miss a tackle, quickly let me know of their astonishment to hear that there was anything tender about me at all.

To date, I'm happy to report that, due to the expertise of Dr Devlin and her colleagues, the progression of the disease has been halted in it's tracks and I have now only to attend for an annual check up, as a matter of routine. To me, there is no doubt that the first class reputation of this hospital is indeed well deserved.

Love may make the world go round but humour, I believe, keeps us sane. Many unlikely situations do have a surprisingly comic aspect. I have no peripheral vision on one side and cannot see downwards without tilting my head a great deal, hence the dog's Ronaldo routine. Because of this peculiarity in my vision, I now also have developed the cute habit, when out walking, of occasionally bumping into items of street furniture. In my surprise and assuming that I have collided with some person I haven't seen, I immediately and automatically apologise. As I do not particularly look as if I am blind, this behaviour seems slightly odd to other pedestrians, who tend to give me a wide berth. I am probably known locally as the weirdo who talks to Royal Mail pillar boxes.

On attending a dinner dance with my wife, shortly after having surgery, I was forcibly reminded of the immortal words of Robert Burns "Oh would the Lord the gift tae gie us, to see ourselves as others see us". It was when we were all performing one of those happy clappy prize dances, which involved frequently changing partners, every time it came to my turn to dance with one lady in particular, she looked distinctly uncomfortable, tense and almost horrified. I was really puzzled until I found out later that she was one of those people who find blind people "spooky". This was a new experience for me and did nothing for my ego. I'm sure that I didn't touch her where I shouldn't have. Well anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

One afternoon, another unexpected hazard loomed up on me, while shopping in a supermarket with my wife. This was before I had become wary of my dodgy eyesight. She was wearing a nifty, new, bright red jacket. Spotting some bottles of coffee on one of the shelves, I slipped my arm around her and said "Look at that, Darling, Camp coffee. I haven't seen that since I was a wee boy in the wartime. It was all you could get then, because of the shortages". To my chagrin, a strange voice replied "Well, that's very interesting, but who the hell are you?" Yes, I was fondly embracing a lady in a bright red jacket – but a total stranger. All this scenario needed, to be completely bizarre, was Chris de Burgh singing "Lady in red" over the tannoy system. Probably because the lady had a sense of humour and she saw that my confusion obviously was genuine, prison was avoided once again.

I am not allowed to drive now, which is a bit of a bore of course, but speaking of driving my golf game has improved immeasurably. I can now quite easily hit the ball out of sight !

My annual hospital check-up in Edinburgh is due quite soon, always a wee trauma and a nervous time. Every time I go there I'm totally lost in admiration of others I see who are completely blind, but who cope brilliantly and with such wonderful spirit. There is a great truth in the old saying "The man with no shoes thinks he has a problem until he meets a man with no feet".

Anyway, if you do happen to see me bounce off a lamp post in Auld Reekie, dont accuse me of being clumsy. I'd take a dim view of that !

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