Seeing Clearly

Seeing Clearly

I prayed that was vision would not be harmed.

It was a hot July Iowa day and I was in a hurry. I had to drop off a proof-reading project and then rush across town for a two o’clock appointment with my optometrist. Recently I had noticed some changes in my vision and I wanted a new prescription. Because the doctor had squeezed me into his schedule for an exam and refraction, I wanted to be on time. As I drove I daydreamed about some more stylish frames. Maybe I wasn’t seeing clearly.

I have always worn glasses. I started when I was two. Born with strabismus, the muscles of my eyes weren’t coordinated and images sent to my brain were out of sync. My left eye wandered. Surgery at the age of five fixed my left eye, but by then the right had become permanently weakened or “lazy.” I traded the strabismus for amblyopia in my right eye. So I grew up aware of having only one good eye. If something was thrown at me, I learned to cover my eyes with my hands.

The nurse began the eye exam with the usual chart reading—using one eye at a time you read from top to bottom these lines of letters that move from large fonts to very small.  I was puzzled.  I was having difficulty reading the letters with my left eye, the good one.  This had never happened before and in my life I’ve had more than the normal amount of eye exams.  The nurse put drops in my eyes. After twenty minutes she took a light and studied my left eye which stung incessantly from the drops and the constant presence of the light. When she stepped back and left the room, I was anxious. The doctor came in. After quick hellos he sat down and also began to examine my good eye, using light and magnification instruments.

“I think I should refer you to a retinal specialist” he finally said. “It looks to me like a problem with the thin covering on the very center of your retina. The macula. It determines your central vision.”  He wrote down a doctor’s name, briefly rested his hand on my shoulder, and  left the room.

I could feel myself starting to cry. I was scared. I gathered my things and quickly left the office. In the car I did cry—much of my life is about reading books and writing. How could I do intricate proofreading with my weak right eye? Magnification wouldn’t even help it. If there was something seriously wrong with my good eye, something that would get worse, my life would radically change. And it had all happened so quickly. As tears clouded my vision it struck me like a flash of lightening, if this had to happen to me, why didn’t it happen to my bad eye. WHY?

I called my husband. He spoke quietly and positively reminding me to be especially careful driving home. I’m sure I prayed that night, asking God to help me. But just like my eyes recovering from the eye drops, I wasn’t focused.

A week later my husband drove me to the appointment with the retinal specialist. I liked the doctor immediately and felt a sense of calm settling over me. As I waited for more eye drops to take effect, I convinced myself that the chances of this being nothing were almost 100%. My mind wandered to the proofreading work I had at home and a list of other things I would accomplish once the dilation and blurriness wore off.

But when the exam had hardly begun, the doctor stepped back. “You do have a fold in the macula of your left eye. It’s not a hole yet, but a fold. It’s tiny, but it’s there and affecting your ability to see the letters on the eye chart.” I focused on his words, realizing yes, with my glasses I could still read print, find tiny periods and commas when I proofread, but the eye chart was a challenge and so were street signs and license plates until I was almost on top of them.

“I’m not exactly sure why this has happened,” he said. “The vitreous or jelly in the eyeball is pushing on the macula and creating the fold. We want it to stop. And it might release. But if it gets worse, we have to do surgery and it’s not a pleasant recovery. For now I can only tell you that you should be able to still do your work and I’ll see you in six weeks.”

Six weeks?

I thanked him, moving clumsily out of the exam room because of my dilated eyes. I wanted to get home and be alone; this just wasn’t happening to me. In the car I relayed everything to my husband.

“It could release.”  I said the words and they echoed in my head all afternoon as I tried to work. But I was angry and struggling. Why was it my good eye?  Would someone please tell me that! And if I needed the surgery, how would my vision be afterwards? Would I be able to sit and read WAR and PEACE, my plan for retirement?  I pictured myself with one of those lighted magnifiers. Then the words echoed again. “It could release.”

Something opened in me when I heard those words. Were they full of hope? “It could release.” Maybe they were like a door partially opened—yes, that was it. God had done that, He had partially opened the door and all I had to do was ask that it be opened the rest of the way. My thoughts ran on—if I prayed, it would release. There was no medicine I could take, no exercise I could do, so I would believe in my body’s ability to heal and God would help. Faith, strong everyday faith, would help my body. With faith the vitreous would release and I would be able to use my left eye, my only good eye. I prayed hard that night.

The next day as I drove to drop off my proofreading assignment, I found myself listening to silence.  I prayed.  Over and over I called on my faith so my eye would heal. I pictured the fold releasing as I prayed. From then on I did this every day in the morning when I awoke and every time I was alone in the car. I was focused. Six weeks passed and the doctor saw no change.

“It’s the same, no bigger. I’ll see you in two months.”

Good news?  I slipped back into my old thinking; I got angry. How long was this going to go on?  Would I approach every article I read in the newspaper, every book I picked up  with fear hanging over me?  The doctor acted positively, but he didn’t have all the answers. This was my sight, my job and the life-long ability to read stories and gather information. To that effect I had read about the surgery and just couldn’t see that it would solve this problem. I had never complained that I only had one good eye. I wasn’t some hero athlete dealing with a throwing arm, or a prima ballerina with a bad Achilles tendon, or even a rock musician who had blown away her hearing. I just wanted to be able to read. That day and night I forgot to pray.

The next morning I was driving again, squinting at street signs. Tears filled my eyes as I began to pray over and over, release, release, please make the fold release, save the sight in my eye. Then I said aloud, I will believe and work through this challenge, through the possibility of having a permanent handicap.  But was I strong enough? In any case, I had no choice. This was mine and I owned it, surrendering my fear.

On a cold autumn day I was out raking leaves. I would see the doctor in a week. In the graying twilight, I looked down and an inky black thread crossed my vision. I closed my right eye—yes, the vision in my good eye was being hindered by this new black, thick floater.  Now my heart was pounding.  I hurried inside, saying nothing to my family.  Recently I’d had silver flashes in my peripheral vision, made phone calls to the doctor, researched retinal tears. I was getting used to sorting through symptoms, trying to understand what was happening to my vision.

I calmed myself down as I made dinner. I would wait an hour or two. Then maybe I would go to the emergency room. But in that time period, the black threads disappeared. My vision was the same. I slept well that night.

“Now we know what happened,” the retinal specialist said a week later. “You have gone through what we call a posterior vitreous detachment, PVD; the vitreous jelly slowly detaches from the retina with no harm done. And it usually happens very slowly as you age, so slowly you don’t know its happening. Yours went through like a runaway train and left a tiny fold. And maybe even that will go away, but aside from the street-sign-reading problem, your vision is good and you won’t need surgery.”

I was ecstatic. I thanked God. But something more important had happened and I began to truly see it. Some release may have occurred in my eye, but the true release was in me—I was the one who opened the door all the way and let my faith in. And my faith held me up. In the end, there was a change in my eye, but also in me. I would no longer take my good health for granted and I would protect it every day. I guess you could say I was seeing clearly.      

Thanks to Google Images