Oklahoma Joe: Keeping tabs on optimism despite worries

Joe Hight

He was gone when I woke up in Clayton, New Mexico. For the second time in my life, a gas bubble that held my retina in place after surgery to repair it was gone after 70 days.

I now faced the reality that my sight would never be the same again.

Nan and I had stopped in Clayton for the night en route to southern Colorado for a quick trip, less than two days. The trip had been canceled three weeks earlier by my surgeon, Dr. Brian Phelps, because the eye had developed glaucoma and the bulla had not completely gone away.

After waking up, I realized that vision was blurry in my left eye, sometimes resembling that of a prism. The week before, Dr. M. Andrew Hough told me that my vision would never be the same even with correction. I also had to take drops for the pressure and the redness that remained in my eye after the operation. The result was very different from the first surgery when my vision returned to normal.

Doctors fear my right eye will do the same.

“You’re going to have to learn to see with your right eye,” Hough said.

For the past 70 days, I hadn’t been able to do much except walk around and water the plants outside. I had continuous migraines caused by the loop (described as a rubber band) around my eyeball. I couldn’t do my favorite hobbies like reading books because it strained my eyesight. Nan drove me everywhere. I had trouble seeing the computer screen to write this column.

I was afraid of possibly losing my sight. I was downstairs. So I contacted a friend, Penny Owen, who has lost much of her sight to multiple sclerosis. I wrote to him about my concerns. I told him about the column I had originally written about it.

Penny’s response changed my mindset.

“Joe, what is your biggest fear when it comes to losing a large part of your sight? Is this likely to happen? At first, my biggest fear was that I would never regain my normal sight. Once I accepted that I never would, my fear of losing my sight further became predominant. Now I’m just grateful for adjusting to the little sight I have. We live in great times to lose your sight, actually. Can’t drive? Someone else can drive, even Uber. Not sure where you’re going (especially at night) or feeling unstable? someone’s arm or asking a stranger for help. They won’t mind; in fact, they like to help if they can,” she wrote.

“…I’ve always seen you as a resilient, curious guy and a glass half full. I will think of you and hope for the best possible result. …I’ll leave you with the title of the late Gilda Radner’s book, ‘It’s Always Something.’ Is not it? Some are worse than others, some come and go. We survive and probably grow wiser from it all.

She was right. I started to think more optimistically. I can drive and use my right eye more. I bump into things on my left side and can’t recognize people from a distance. But that’s minor when you consider what the others are up against.

The first day of fall, my favorite time of year, will be Thursday. It means the long summer is over. I look forward to the days ahead, with more limited eyes.

Joe Hight is a director and member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, editor who led a Pulitzer Prize-winning project, chair of the journalism ethics chair at University of Central Oklahoma, president/owner of The best of books author of ‘Unnecessary Sorrow’ and senior editor/editor of ‘Our Greatest Journalists’.

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