May 15, 2015, Medford, Oregon — Standing outside her closed door, I could hear her sobbing, heart-rending, as beyond grief as the stars are hidden beyond a sky of lashing rain.
Today Susan, my sweetheart, has received a phone call, almost a death sentence. It was the doctor’s tests, come back, confirmation of her deepest fear: she is blind.
A few weeks ago in a different life, she caught the airplane to visit her sister Pammi in Arkansas. They had a wonderful time, catching up on laughter, held a “Soul Collage” class for a dozen women, visited a wonderful art museum. They’d hiked to see a beautiful waterfall; she was bitten by a couple of deer ticks, just another adventure. On the way back, she went through Vegas to visit a daughter, then returned to me and the dogs, in Medford.
The day following her return, she turned to me and said, “My vision is weird today. I’m seeing geometric shapes and flashes.”
The next day it was worse, and over the next four days, her vision just … went away.
Before I met her, fifteen years before, she’d lost most vision in her left eye. Most people didn’t know. She got around so well. And now, over four days, her right eye just shut down, growing hazy, and a darkness descending.
The local eye doctor was uncertain, referred us to a specialist in Portland. A two-day trip produced a extensive examination, some tests, an MRI scan, and he pronounced it might be an inflammation, a swelling of the optic nerve, a “neuritis.” There was some evidence of this, though it lacked the usual symptoms. If tests proved inflammation, there are remedies. Drastic medicines, but possible to regain sight.
But he also said that if tests showed no neuritis, then it was “neuropathy.” This means a loss of blood flow with damage to cells in the optic nerve. Much like a blocked artery can cause damage to the heart, a mini-stroke can block blood to the optic nerve. And this neuropathy is probably untreatable.
We returned to Medford, awaiting the call with test results.
And then the call came.
The news? The news was what we did not want to hear.
Susan is an artist. But now she cannot see. Susan has a small business. But now she can no longer buy inventory, no longer operate the computer, no longer ship merchandise.
She can no longer drive, text. or check email as once she did. It’s dangerous to cross the street. Magazines and mail … impossible. On the big television, she must hear the actors’ voices because their faces are unreadable.
And her pain tears my heart.
Sometimes she wishes to be alone. Sometimes we sit together.
Her life is changing. She has made some adaptations already: huge phone numbers that fill an entire page, so with careful scrutiny inches from the page, she can read them, and learning to operate the phone by the feel of the buttons. Special keys on her computer to turn three inches of the screen into mammoth letters, a few at a time.
No solution to transportation. No bus comes down our street.
I’m guessing that only a miracle is likely to help at this point.
And so far I’ve not seen a miracle, come to help her. It’s bad, and no “positive thinking” is going to change that. There may be blessings in it, who knows? But right now, it’s a bad thing, and I don’t want to hear any woo-woo bullshit about it. Not until the shock and wrenching pain has filled up its time, and finally subsides to the dull ache of remembrance, to become the way of our lives.
I know there will be more tears, more frustration, more challenges. But yesterday as dawn came through the kitchen windows, we worked together to create a breakfast, and she said to me, “I know I’ll cry some more, but tomorrow is another day. I’m going to become the most independent person I can be.”
So, yeah, I’ve not seen a miracle, come to help her.
But I have seen a miracle. Her name is Susan.