Monday, February 12, 2007

Changed Forever (An Essay I wrote for my English Class)

This is pretty long, but I thought I would post it anyway. I know most of you are already familiar with my story, but for those that are not...

Have a great one. (day, week, month, year)

Miss Angela L. Braden

Changed Forever

When challenged with the task of writing about an event that impacted my life so dramatically to the point of causing a shift in how I view the world and how I engage myself in it, so many life-altering events come to mind. In particular, the first and most obvious experience that springs forth in my mind is the dreadful process of losing all my eye sight during my adolescent years. There’s clearly not another event that has single handedly and so massively changed the course and texture of every aspect of my life and how I choose to live my life. In fact, I am left only to imagine how my life would be if I had not contracted glaucoma, the thievish disease that robbed me of my sight. One thing I am certain of is that life as I knew it and expected it to be changed forever when I was diagnosed with glaucoma. The responsibilities of learning how to drive a car, looking out of the window of a jet as it soars forty thousand feet above the earth, and being able to admire my reflection in the mirror were converted into impossibilities when the darkening veil was draped over my eyes.
I was only ten years old when tragedy slithered its way and introduced itself to me. Before any perceivable warning, glaucoma began its very vicious attack on my young eyes. The dreadful thing about Glaucoma is that it often can permanently destroy parts of the optic nerves without being detected, which most of the times results in significant, permanent vision loss. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to me.
While in the fifth grade, I was afforded the very exciting opportunity to go on a week-long camping trip in East Texas with my classmates. Upon arriving at the campgrounds, I immediately noticed the towering pine trees that guarded each side of the dirt roads, the crystal clear sky, and the strange yet beautiful flowers that grew like vines around the massive trunks of the trees. There was something else that became strangely apparent to me after arriving at the camp. As I cautiously hiked along the muddy trail to the log cabin that I, along with six other ten year old girls, would call home for the week, it seemed that the clarity in the colors of the leaves and wildflowers was not as defined as I expected them to be. Low hanging branches were discovered only when I walked into them. My ability to discern dry ground from puddles of muddy water was impaired. To say the least, my ability to independently navigate, without incident, had been seemingly altered overnight. However, I didn’t know why.
With good reason, I experienced a great deal of trepidation when traveling throughout the campgrounds. No matter how careful I tried to be, I stumbled into one accident after the other. I was either stepping my brand new, white sneakers into a puddle of murky mud, getting clawed in the face by hanging limbs, or tripping over large stones and fallen branches.
The mystery of why I couldn’t see was baffling. Fear, confusion, embarrassment, and anger took turns visiting me while I was at the camp. I was scared and concerned for my safety. Likewise, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t manage to take a step without stumbling or losing my balance.
Children being the cruel, little people that they are so capable of morphing into tormented me with their jokes and ridicule. The more they laughed, the more I stumbled, and the more I stumbled, the more they laughed. The kids managed to keep my embarrassment heightened. I grew angry at the children for laughing and taunting me, rather than being concerned. Even my classmates, who knew me all of our school-aged-years were laughing and making jokes about me the entire trip.
After three days of observing my unusual clumsiness, the directors of the camp contacted my parents to tell them about the problems that I appeared to have with my sight. My parents did not hesitate to travel to the out-of-town location of the camp to come and rescue their child from whatever was happening to her at the camp. My mother immediately took me to an ophthalmologist, thinking that I only needed a prescription for some glasses. Although my parents were right about me needing glasses, they were completely oblivious to why my sight was being impaired.
After arriving at the doctor’s office, a nurse was instructed to run a battery of tests on my eyes. With each test, the nurse’s pleasant mood drifted and became more solemn and grim. After the tests, a strikingly tall doctor came into the tiny office and spent what seemed like an eternity peering into my sick eyes. The doctor walked over to his desk and released a frustrated sigh. The words that followed massively changed my life from that moment on. The doctor looked at me and then over to my mother and announced, “Angela has glaucoma.”
Suddenly, silence dominated the room and held all of us hostage. I inhaled and my eyes raced back and forth over the doctor’s small examination room. I looked at my mother, the shiny medical equipment that stood around me, the fading vision chart that hung on the wall over by the door, down at my innocent feet, the doctor and then back at my mother. I saw my mother’s brown eyes widening with every second that slowly crept by. I looked back at the doctor, who somehow managed to lock his eyes on both my mother and I, without flinching.
The doctor broke the silence and repeated his diagnosis. Tears formed in the corners of my mother’s deeply concerned eyes. He informed us that I had already permanently lost some of my sight and would likely lose more sight if we didn’t aggressively combat the glaucoma.
I stared at my doctor in disbelief. He continued to explain the diagnosis. The words were lost in the firestorm that erupted in my mind. I saw his mouth moving, but heard no words. I was being consumed by the fear of being blind. I couldn’t believe that what the doctor was describing was actually happening to me. I trapped the air that I inhaled in my lungs and insisted that my tears didn’t escape from my sick eyes. Then suddenly, the air from my lungs broke free and my salty tears leaped from the corner of my eyes and blurred the sight that I did have left.
Whether or not I was emotionally prepared for what was to come, the doctor’s diagnosis was the beginning of a seven year battle to retain a fraction of my fading sight. Despite fourteen eye surgeries and countless visits to the finest eye health professionals in the country, the glaucoma was successful at robbing my eyes of any sight by the time I was seventeen years old.
Before I started losing my eye sight, I was a vibrant child who was interested only in playing games, reading books, and observing the beauty of nature. Up until that point, hardship and tragedy were foreign. I was truly living the carefree life that all children should get a chance to live.
That carefree life was violently interrupted by the terror of losing my sight. I was forced to deal with the reality that I would be blind for life.
My exposure to tragedy at such a young age helped me better understand that life was not only a place to have fun and relax, but it is a place to work hard, recover from the injuries of tragedies, and find hope in a crisis. After I started losing my sight, I slowly but surely began to understand that what I once thought would be my life was now shattered under the weight of being blind forever. After nearly four years of throwing pity parties, I burst the balloons, vacuumed the confetti, and decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I gathered myself and determined that I was going to succeed no matter what life was to bring. I got focused and made up my mind to remain focused in the turbulent times.
I’m still a person that enjoys to play a game or two, experience the pleasures of life, and to read a good book. But I also know that life demands each one of us to face the inevitable, trouble. I feel like my brush with hardship at such a young age prepared me to deal with life as an adult with dignity and strength. I am indeed blind; and yes, losing my sight was certainly a tragedy. However, I refuse to allow this tragedy to define my life and impair how I choose to navigate through it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a great story.