Going blind- An experience worth sharing
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

May 21, 2012

This took place in my Senior year at UBC in 2008

Chop, chop, chop. Cooking dinner, I’m slicing onions and my eyes start to water. It has been another long day at school, with lectures in the morning and a plant physiology lab in the afternoon. I love B.C. but the winters can be tough when you go to school before the sun comes up and come home after dark, all the while hearing the pitter-patter of the falling rain. This onion seems particularly ripe as my eyes begin to sting with tears. I take pause to wash my face before continuing. Finishing, the sliced onion sizzles as the pieces hit the hot olive oil in the pan.

Flash- I’m working on my laptop, trying to finish a report later that night. The screen is abnormally bright. Perhaps I have been working too long, too tired. I rub my eyes and shut the laptop. I decide to take a shower and call it a night. As I shower in the dark, it seems as if the absence of light is yielding no relief. In fact, my eyes feel as if they are actively burning. I wash my eyes again, thinking some soap must have found a way under my eye lids. No relief.

Flash- I try to lie down and close my eyes, but the searing sensation begins to take shape in my imagination. Without a visual distraction, I am left only with my thoughts; dust, flames, steel wool on glass, the desert sun over cracked earth. I can’t take it! I get up and go into the living room. Awake and desperate as I am, the evening taunts my pain as it hangs peacefully outside my head. Even in the darkness, opening my eyes makes be believe my eyelids are made of sand paper; the pain is almost equal with them closed. Sitting down on the couch I shut my eyes tight and doze in and out of consciousness for the remainder of the night, unaware that I will not see again for four days.

Flash- A friend comes to pick me up in the morning to take me to the hospital. For not seeing anything that day, the memory of the day is perhaps one of the strongest in my life. Even though I did not see the three different hospitals I was transferred to, I remember the sensations of fumbling into and out of vans, falling into bushes, sitting on a bench for hours listening to foot-steps, traffic, and the wind in the trees. I have not slept in 36 hours but I can feel my other senses taking over, my hearing becoming more acute, touch suddenly more important.

Flash- At home once more in the dark. I find out both of my corneas have been burnt badly. Luckily, I also find out that corneas are some of the most resilient tissues in the human body and that in time, they should heal. Evolution works in my favor as trial and error over millions of years allows my eyes to be prepared to deal with this very situation. With roughly 3 days to wait, I can’t study; I can’t watch TV or read. I find myself alone and practically helpless in this apartment. It is music that comes to my rescue as I take peace for the first time in the soft melodies and lyrics that flow over my heightened state of hearing.

Flash- A year earlier and I walk behind a blind man. I am on the way back from the local grocery store in Cape Town, South Africa. I find myself behind this man often. He must live near me. He has a Seeing Eye dog that helps him along his way. Looking at this man following my experience, I watch in awe as the man and dog navigate streets, dodge foot traffic, glide through grocery aisles, and blend in as strangers as any other.

I did not find out till a week after I first went blind that the cause of the accident happened during my plant physiology lab. I had worked in a fume hood with an ultra violet light that was left on without my knowledge. Although I find today my eyes are more sensitive to light, I have regained full sight and a true appreciation of all the senses we so often take for granted.

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