By May 24, 2012 0 Comments

Light and Dark

When I was a child, I underwent a number of complex surgical procedures to my eyes.  I suffer from extreme Strabismus, a vision disorder where the eyes are unable to co-ordinate and work together.  The old school of thought was to treat all sufferers with surgery, which in time proved to be in fact detrimental.

Medicine and technology were very primitive back then, laser was only mentioned in science fiction movies and even then, it was a subject of ridicule.  Surgeons were devoid of humanity and completely detached from their patients.  I remember being on the cold leather operating table being put to sleep, terrified at my predicament and completely at a loss.  I could not even comprehend English or speak it well enough to understand what the ‘grown ups’ in scary surgical masks were talking about.   They went on with their business as if I wasn’t there and only spoke to me when it was time for me to count back from 10.

The aftermath of the surgeries were painful and very dark memories and I mean dark in a literal sense.  My eyes would be shut for weeks and I was completely blind during that time.  I used to wonder if I will ever be able to open my eyes.  Being in the dark is a horrible feeling, you cannot see and you can only hear and feel the touches of your loved ones.  You cannot even reach for water or eat from a plate… It is isolating, intimidating and very scary for a child.  My mother, stayed with me in hospital during these times.  She used to feed me, clothe me and help me cope.  Her English was extremely limited back then and she used to fight against the few ghastly nurses who tried to bully me.  My father was in charge of my younger brother and they would dart back and forth between the hospital and the hotel.  At the time, I felt that I was being hurt by everyone and I hated all grown ups but in hindsight I now realize that they probably hurt even more than I did.

After the second surgery, I remember that I was assigned to a room in the children’s ward but it was also close to the adults’ section.  I was without sight and completely blind and I used to listen to the children playing in the ward, singing along to nurseries and playing with their toys.  I so much wanted to play with them but I could not, I was confined to bed.  One night, unable to sleep, I listened to the deep painful moans of an elderly gentleman who probably had gone through surgery.   They were long, eerie haunted groans, akin to the sounds that stereotypical ghosts make.  I lay frozen in bed, scared from the sound, unable to do anything.  My mother was asleep, I could hear her breathing but I did not want to wake her up, so I spent the better part of that night awake, blind and in the dark and in fear of the voices.

I will spare the reader gruesome details of how crudely the nurses dressed my injuries and how they forced open my eyes when it was finally time for me to open them.  The thought now makes me shudder and I remember the warm trickling of blood on my face as they pinned me down to bed to stop my struggle and my muffled agonized screams.

As a child, in fear and in pain, all I was concerned about was to go to home.  Little did I know back then that my painful experiences would build my character and teach me to trust my core senses.  As I grew older I found myself ‘feeling’ or ‘sensing’ situations and people, my perception changed forever and what was once a nightmare has now in fact turned out to be a blessing.

I very briefly touched a reality that many of us fear and would not even wish upon our enemies – I experienced blindness.  In doing so I learnt how fortunate I am because despite my visual disability, at least I can see.  My predicament was temporary, I regained my vision but the blind do not usually regain their vision.  I salute their courage and admire their determination.

My brief venture into the ‘dark’ taught me a lot about myself and about life.  One of my most valuable observations is that a large majority of people lead their lives with open eyes but they are unable to see for in spirit they are completely blind.

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