Meet Bruce. He’s the author of the second post in our series for Children’s Vision Month. His perspective is so interesting, because the bulk of his experience happened when there wasn’t as much knowledge about children’s vision issues. Here is his story in his own words.
I was born in the later part of the 1950s. My first memory of having vision that was different than other children was prior to going to school. I remember being taken into the city on a fairly regular basis to see an ophthalmologist. I also wore glasses and I can’t remember any other children wearing glasses until I was in grade school. I, on the other hand, had started wearing glasses at 18 months of age.
By the time I was six years old I had my first eye operation for strabismus, or a lazy eye. This was a horrifying experience for a six-year-old in those days. I was taken to the city hospital for the operation, and neither of my parents could stay since they had other children at home, limited funds, and there was no such thing as a Ronald McDonald House at the time. Very little of what was about to happen was explained to me, as I am sure was standard procedure in those days. Thankfully, the medical system has come such a long way in this regard. I was taken into the operating theater and I will always remember someone putting a mask over my face to administer ether. Not knowing what was going on, I was sure they were trying to kill me! I fought my way off the table only to be captured and restrained, and to have the mask put on my face once more. I woke up with patches on both eyes and was sure I was in another world. The nurse in the recovery room assured me that I was still alive. I spent the next few days in a hospital bed with patches on both eyes and a straightjacket on. The straightjacket was used to ensure I did not pull off the patches.
Around eighteen months later, I needed another operation for strabismus but I had no desire to repeat my prior experience. I was finally convinced to go when it was explained to me that they could give me a needle and not the gas to put me to sleep. This time the operation was only on one eye and I had a better idea of what to expect. I was also pleased to find I did not have to have a straightjacket because I only had a patch on one eye this time. With the eye surgeries completed, I then spent many months wearing a patch over one eye to try to strengthen the other one. I was quite the sight to be seen with a patch on one eye and glasses too. Not exactly a fashion statement that other kids my age thought was cool in any shape or form.
Even with the major medical challenges behind me, I still had obstacles to overcome. When I tried to play sports, I often was made fun of as the four-eyed kid. My hand-eye coordination was never good, and it’s still not great to this day. As I went further into school more and more kids were wearing glasses so I no longer stood out, and life as a kid with vision difficulties became much better.
Life as a vision-challenged adult has also been very good. Over the years, I’ve had to learn my strengths and weaknesses, and also how to compensate for my difficulties. For example, I ended up in a career that required me to do quite a bit of public speaking. My colleagues would often use crib notes to remember their speeches, but this luxury was never possible for me. Glancing down at a piece of paper to easily and quickly read pointers wasn’t possible with my level of vision. All of my pointers and speeches were seared into my memory and I never used any notes. I always thought it was funny when after a speech people would ask “How do you do that?You don’t have notes or anything, you just speak!”
I’ve also learned that having a sense of humour about life’s challenges goes a long way. I often have a good laugh when I think about how many children I’ve coached in sports in which I never excelled! Additionally, at one of my recent visits to an optometrist, I was asked if I struggle when in bright sunlight. I answered by saying I wasn’t sure because my vision has always been the same, so being in the sun is the same as it’s always been.
Although I wonder from time to time what it must be like to have great vision,I also feel blessed to have the eyesight I have. I have always been able to do whatever I wanted, and I have never felt limited by my challenges. I may not do as well as others in certain situations, but I am still able to have a full life and plenty of enjoyment!