Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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New Eyes

You have to be displaced from what’s comfortable and routine and then you get to see things with fresh eyes, with new eyes. -Amy Tan

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Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

For those who have experienced a displacement from all that is familiar and routine,  this statement will be self-evident.

What about people who have never experienced such a disruption and cannot comprehend that it is even possible to see things differently?

When the apostle Paul wrote about being “all things to all men,” didn’t he mean that he had learned to see things  as other people saw them?

That is the essential starting point of Christian missions.

Clouds – the welcome and the not so welcome.

And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them. Job 37:21

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Our land is dry and thirsty; clouds in the sky lift our hopes. We are sad when they only dampen the ground as they pass over. Others not far away have been blessed with rain and more clouds are in the forecast. We continue to hope.

Clouds within the eye are not so welcome. It happens to us as we get older: a cloud, barely noticed at first, comes between us and the things we want to see. I had cataract surgery in both eyes several years ago and that cloud is gone.

Another cloud to distort my vision came eleven years ago . The doctor called it macular degeneration, said he could help but I would have to consent to having him poke a needle into my eye. With that needle he would deliver a tiny amount of drug into my eye to dry up the rogue capillaries that wrinkled the macula of my retina.

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He has done that dozens of times since then and most of the time it has worked. My right eye has a tiny dark cloud at the centre of my vision, possibly because I did not notice what was happening soon enough, I consider myself fortunate, I can still see to drive, read and use the computer. If the macular degeneration had begun a few years earlier there would have been no drug available to treat it.

In March I began to notice distortion beginning again in my left eye. I called the doctor’s office and a couple days later had an injection in that eye. The tiny amount of drug in the fluid of the eye brought a cloud to the vision for a say or two. That cleared up and in a week the distortion cleared up, too.

I had another injection yesterday, preventive maintenance this time. By this evening the cloud caused by the injection is mostly gone. I will have more such injections in the future. I don’t enjoy them, but they bring hope.

Why am I still here?

It amazed us when Aggie greeted us by name. This was only the second time we had visited her and at our first meeting she had already passed her 100th birthday.

Aggie was an amazing lady all round. She did not need hearing aids; she had glasses, but still read a regular print Bible. She walked with a cane, but that was more for insurance than for need of support. Every Sunday someone picked her up to take her to church.

It had piqued our interest when we read in the newspaper about the 100th birthday of this lady whose last name was the same as my wife’s maiden name. Since she lived in a nursing home in a town not too far away, we looked her up. We never found out if there was any family connection, but that didn’t seem all that important when we got to know her.

She posed the question I have used as a title for this post. What purpose did God have in preserving her life? Her children lived far away. But a grandson had moved back to teach at the school right beside the nursing home. Aggie loved to watch the children. Why aren’t all nursing homes built beside schools?

We thought it was enough that Aggie was a little candle in a place full of shadows. She loved God, loved her neighbours, was thankful and cheerful. I want to be like that if I live so long.

Years later, we met a man over 100, a distant relative of mine this time. He lived in an apartment beside the nursing home where my mother spent the last year of her life.

Jacob still had a driver’s license and drove to his country church every Sunday. Except in winter, for, he said, “If I were to have an accident on the snow and ice, they would take my license away.”

This 100-year-old man loved to take nursing home residents for walks around the beautifully landscaped grounds, pushing their wheelchairs. He had outlived his wife and two of his children, but wasted no time feeling sorry for himself. He still had something left to give.

Perhaps I am thinking this way because I had another injection in my eye yesterday, to counteract the effects of macular degeneration. The eye specialist is often a little surprised that I can detect the effects so soon, when the scans of my retina show only the beginning of a slight swelling.

I suppose it might take me longer to notice if I spent most of my time watching TV. But I don’t have a TV; to pass my life being entertained doesn’t sound like much of a life. I am a reader, writer and bookkeeper; when a line of type, or a column of numbers, develops waves I call my eye doctor.

It is ten and a half years since I first noticed this happening and the doctor first stuck a needle in my eye to inject a couple drops of a special medication. It has worked for me so I can still drive and work with words and numbers.

But, if the macular degeneration had begun a few years earlier no medicine would have been available. The timing was right; I am blessed and so are so many others. The question that comes to me is not so much why, as, what am I supposed to be doing with the extra time that the injections have given me to use my vision? The answer seems to be that now is the time to write.

I have thought of myself as a would-be writer since my school days and have always written in free moments. There has been more time in the last few years and I have applied myself to learning and honing my writing skills. Perhaps it is time to stop thinking of myself as a would-be writer and get with it.

Don’t take your vision for granted

I wasn’t seeing quite as clearly as I thought I should, but it was difficult to discern just what the problem was. My glasses, perhaps? At the end of last week, when part of a line of text would drop down on the line below, I knew what was happening. Macular degeneration had come again to my left eye.

I have received many treatments for this problem over the past 11 years. I had seen the eye specialist six weeks earlier and all was stable at that point, but now it was changing again. What happens is that tiny capillaries develop behind the macula, the central part of the retina, and cause it to bulge, distorting vision. T This can lead to permanent vision loss and  blindness. At least to the point where I would no longer been able to drive a car, read or use a computer.

I called Saskatoon Retina Consultants Monday morning and a day later I was there to have tests done once again, including a scan of the back of the eye. The doctor looked at the results and saw just the tiniest beginning of swelling. In a few minutes he had injected Lucentis into the eye and I was able to go home, with my wife doing the driving.

Lucentis acts to dry up those tiny capillaries, it has to be placed as close to the action as possible so as to be effective where it is needed and not to affect capillaries elsewhere in the body. Thus it is injected by needle directly into the eye. Sounds gruesome, but the doctor is smooth and quick and the eye feels no more effects by the next day.

This morning my vision was more distorted than it had been yesterday morning, but now by evening I can tell that the medicine is working, the swelling in the macula must be going down as lines of type stay more or less straight. By tomorrow I expect to be able to put in a day’s work of bookkeeping. I will need two more injections, at one month intervals, to maintain the effect. I have had 12 or 15 needles in each eye over the past years and they are the reason I am still able to function. It was eight years since the last episode in my left eye.

It’s wonderful that there is a treatment for macular degeneration. It would be better to avoid having it if possible. Here are some tips for doing that:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Include green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish and whole grains in your diet
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Check your blood pressure regularly, high blood pressure is a contributing factor.
  5. Exercise regularly.
  6. Don’t spend time in bright sunlight without sunglasses.

Spring interlude

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I had cataract surgery the day after my last post on this blog (almost two weeks ago). The surgery went smoothly, the eye is recovering as it should and my distance vision is now as good without glasses as it was with glasses before the surgery.

So far so good. Better than good, wonderful. The problem is that after the surgery I couldn’t see well enough to read. My short range vision improved with the surgery, not enough to enable me to read with my naked eyes but enough that my glasses made everything more blurry.

A friend gave me the reading glasses he used after his cataract surgery. They were a step in the right direction, and helped me get some work done.  Last Tuesday I bought a pair that were stronger. Since then I’ve been doing more work, but these glasses distort everything else, giving me a bit of a queasy feeling.

I am very happy with the results of the surgery, but wish I had asked to delay it for at least a month. This is income tax season and I have done a number of personal tax returns since the cataract surgery, plus tried to catch up with my bookkeeping work.

I felt a headache coming on while doing one tax return Monday evening. This was a new client with income from a variety of sources. I had it all sorted out when I began getting error messages from Norton. The solution suggested by Norton was to uninstall the program, download it again and re-install it. I did that, then got a prompt to restart the computer, now or later. I pushed now and then realized that I had not saved the tax return. I think that dumb mistake, not the glasses, was the source of my headache. I guess that’s my reward for trying to work late. It wasn’t that bad, I already had the issues sorted out in my mind and could quickly re-enter the data and have a completed tax return.

The vision problem is also the explanation for why I haven’t been writing. Yesterday I bought reading glasses that have three strengths, one for reading, one for the computer monitor and one for looking at other items on the desk. They are distortion free and I think I am good to go now for the remaining four weeks until I can be tested for new glasses.

Back to work

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Early in the fall of 2007, I became aware of distorted vision in my right eye. I went for an eye exam and was referred to Doctor Kevin Colleaux, a specialist in Saskatoon. Within a few days I received the first injection in that eye. Over the next three and one half years I had more than a dozen injections in each eye before the macular degeneration was stopped.

I consider myself fortunate, because the drug used, Lucentis, had only become available a short time before I developed macular degeneration. I did lose the central vision in my right eye, but the left eye still has undistorted vision. I am able to drive, read, work and use a computer. I know someone who developed macular degeneration a few years before I did and he is legally blind, he can do none of those things.

More recently, the vision in my right eye has become quite cloudy. Wednesday, I had cataract surgery in that eye. The procedure involves making a small incision in the eye, inserting a tool to dissolve the lens by ultrasound, sucking out the dissolved material and inserting a new plastic lens. I was given several types of eye drops prior to the surgery, then a gel containing several more drugs was spread over the eye. It took some time for this all to work to dilate the eye and to make it insensitive to pain. The operation itself took five to ten minutes, I was awake during the procedure, felt nothing in my eye, and had no pain afterwards. I still have no central vision in that eye, but the cloudiness is gone. The plastic insert is a prescription lens giving me clear distance vision. In about six weeks I will have my eyes tested and get new glasses.

My wife had to drive me around after the surgery because that eye remained dilated for 24 hours or more, giving me foggy vision. As of today I am back to work and very thankful to Doctor Colleaux, his support staff, and all the researchers who have developed means to help me keep my vision.

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