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Learning to See What Counts: By Ingrid Ricks

Learning to See What Counts: By Ingrid Ricks

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Published by Ingrid Ricks
Seven years ago I went to the eye doctor for the first time in my life and was told I was going blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa. SInce then, I've learned to see what counts.
Seven years ago I went to the eye doctor for the first time in my life and was told I was going blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa. SInce then, I've learned to see what counts.

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Published by: Ingrid Ricks on Nov 25, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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04/17/2013

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LEARNING
 to 
SEE
What Counts
By Ingrid Ricks
 
 Going blind SUCKS.
So does walk
ing into an eye doctor’s office
for the first time in your life with trendyred cat-eye frames already picked out, only to be told that
you’ve got a serious
problem that no glasses
 –
regardless of how good they look on you
 –
are going to fix.I was thirty-seven when I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that firststeals your night vision, then knocks out your peripheral vision, then usually
takes what’s left
. I shouldhave guessed something was wrong when I sideswiped a car on the freeway after looking into the rightlane and seeing nothing. But it was dark and raining, and I chalked it up to that
. It wasn’t until I played
racquetball with my husband a few weeks later
and couldn’t
score a point that it occurred to me
something wasn’t
right.
“You can’t chase the ball with your eyes,” my husband coached
, acting as though I had never playedbefore
. “Just pick a spot on the wall and watch for the ball with your
peripheral vision.
 When the
ball whizzed by my head a minute later and I didn’t see it,
my husband
 –
who oftencommented on my tendency to bump into things
 –
suggested it was time to get my eyes checked. Iagreed, figuring a cute pair of glasses
couldn’t be all bad
.Even after the eye doctor gazed into the back of my eyes and quietly informed me that what he sawresembled a rare degenerative eye disease, I
wasn’t overly concerned because I
had gotten by just fineuntil now and figured if I did have RP
 –
which he admitted he wa
sn’t sure about –
I was in the very thebeginning stages. But I knew it was serious when I saw a nurse whispering about me to the retinalspecialist my eye doctor had recommended, then heard my name called ahead of a whole roomful of patients with scary-looking eye patches, walkers and canes.By the way they were acting, I was suddenly convinced I had a brain tumor
 –
a possibility I haduncovered during the countless Google searches I had done in the week since my first eye appointment.So I was initially relieved when the ancient-looking specialist announced that I had all the classic signs of RP. That is until he told me that I was already legally blind,
asked me how I’d
ever managed to get by onsuch limited eyesight, chastised me for waiting so long to get my eyes checked, and then propped me uplike a monkey, trained what felt like a car light on my inner eye balls, forced my eyelids open and inviteda string of residents to get an up-close look at an advanced case of RP.
 
What resources do you recomm
end?” I asked at the end
of my torture session, rattling off the list of vision-enhancing
nutritional supplements I’d found during my Internet
searches. Given that he was theRP expert, I figured he would be a wealth of knowledge. Instead of counseling me on the best vitaminbrands, he scribbled down the phone number to the Center for the Blind and shoved it into my hand.
H
ere,” he said. “I’ve yet to
discover a vitamin o
r anything else that’s made a
ny real difference with RP.Medical help is at least twenty years out and
it’s not likely to benefit you anyway. I’m sorry.”
 
“What about driving?” I
pleaded, sucking in my breath like a two-year-old.
“You seem like an intelligent woman,” he s
aid, already turning toward the door
. “What do you think?”
 I spent the next week huddled in my basement sobbing. I mourned the vision I had lost, but mostly Icried because I was terrified about what awaited me.
I cried out of fear I wouldn’t see my two
daughters, barely five and two, grow up. I cried about lost future candlelight dinners with my husbandand about the burden I feared I would become to him
. I cried because I couldn’t drive anymore and
because I was scared I
wouldn’t be able to w
ork. I cried over lost sunsets and ocean views and any otherbeautiful scenery or image I would miss out on. I cried until finally it occurred to me that I could still seeand that maybe, instead of mourning the unknown future, I should concentrate on Now.
It’s been nearly seven years since I
discovered that my tunnel-vision eyesight
wasn’t merely a
reflectionof what friends have often joked is my tunnel-focused personality. In that time, my vision has shrunkfrom a ten-degree to five-degree visual field
 –
fueling a determined quest to halt the progression of thedisease and preserve what precious eyesight I still have. Having concluded that the retinal specialist was
bad for my health, I’ve
instead sought out every alternative treatment I can find
. I’ve changed my diet,
Idown Chinese herbs, I undergo acupuncture, I ingest cocktails of vitamins, I stare into a color therapylamp, I pump electrical micro currents into my eyes, and I try to do daily eye exercises.In a world of fading vision,
I’ve encountered
plenty of things to avoid. They include coffee shops thatallow dogs
 –
one belly flop onto a hard cement floor amid a Saturday morning coffee crowd is enough;treadmills
 –
flying off of one at six miles an hour hurts; stairs without rails, crowds, darkness andnegative people.
But I’ve also discovered there’s plenty
to embrace. Every day I look at my two daughters, now elevenand eight, and soak in their amazing beauty, their smiles, and their zest for life. I walk a lot, whichmeans I
’ve
gotten to know my Seattle neighborhood and the neighbors in it,
and I’m in goo
d shape as a

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Janet Ference added this note
Hi Ingrid, I've just discovered this. And I'm so glad I did. You tell your story with such direct power, and with the grace of reflection, and with very wry humor. I see that you have a book coming out. I'll look forward to that!
Ingrid Ricks added this note
I'm watching my two daughters play basketball (HORSE) with my husband outside my office windows. It's an amazing reminder to focus on what counts in life.

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