And Another Thing………

Something along the lines of ‘full disclosure’ compels me to add the final piece of the Easter story I have been relating.

The condition I believed I had, but now conclusively don’t have, has a characteristic symptom which I omitted to mention: double vision. Fatiguable Muscle Weakness shows up in the fine muscles that coordinate vision, and the ability to ‘converge’ both eyes to the required length of focus is impaired.  So the optometrist told me. When I first developed my theory of self-diagnosis (never, ever do that!) I must have thought this was a bullet I had dodged. By the time I wrote An Easter Miracle?, three weeks ago, my vision had deteriorated significantly, but I didn’t include it in the story.  When I wrote last weekend I ignored it once again, which I assume was simply denial.

I generally read for an hour or two at night before lights out, and I like to read a couple of books at a time, often several. I’m not a quick reader, despite having done the all-the-rage speed reading course in the late 70’s, but I have read widely over the years; it’s an essential part of life. Soon after Easter I noticed I was “closing my book” (which sounds more poetic than turning off my Kindle), sooner than normal, but thought nothing of it. In mid May was still reading for an hour at a time; and less than a fortnight later I was struggling to read three paragraphs. I’ve found myself using one eye at a time for the better part of every day since then. I have these semicircles of black cardboard to put inside the frame of my glasses all over the house; I put one down and cant see where it’s gone so I make another one!

If you happen to have access to a wheelchair may I suggest the following experiment: Make a cup of tea, properly filling the cup, with properly boiling water, and then carry it in one hand while you propel the chair to the other end of your house, preferably through at least one closed door.  The proper technique involves changing which hand you hold the tea in according to which hand you need free to steer the wheelchair as you swerve around the furniture.  Not spilling a drop, obviously. Now, repeat the course with one eye covered. Finally, if you have passed the test so far, translate this whole exercise into a supermarket aisle with people walking in both directions,  plus trolleys, plus a child or two. Plus an elderly customer with a walker. The hot tea is replaced with a basket on your lap containing a list of things for you to find on the shelves. Having tried this I now have a  strict rule: two eyes must be used when driving in public.

I can’t down play the effect this has had on me; It’s not a case of making it humorous or dismissing it with a clever turn of phrase; this a disaster. Fortunately my vision is very rarely double; but it is quite blurred often and the eye strain when using both eyes at once is nauseating. I’ve rapidly learned all about the ‘Accessibility’ features on i-Things and computers, zooming in to get nice huge font sizes. I’ve discovered that some Kindle books are available with an Audio Narration, and that the words (nice, large words) are automatically highlighted as the voice reads them, and the pages turn by themselves.  It’s terrific! … if that’s the way you have to read. One of the hardest things is looking at people’s faces during conversation. The absolute hardest thing is unpacking the dishwasher: the constant change of focus is dreadful.

At the very same time that all this has been going on I happened to have another project of quite extraordinary proportion: I spoke to 1.2% of the world’s population. 60 million people around the globe heard my voice, briefly, on BBC radio. That’s quite a startling number, wouldn’t you say? I had submitted a question to a science programme, and they asked me to record it in my own voice. They included my recording in the programme that went to air, and they told me the size of their audience.  All of which just goes to show, once again, that life is a mix of the most amazing elements, highs and lows, grand and minute, exhilarating and tedious. It has taken quite some time to type this, with one eye, and a good big font; and that’s all there is to say. No more re-reading, no more checking for mistakes. Done!




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Rejoice! from 2009

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