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There are many pictures around my house of me as a child. There is one picture in particular of my kindergarten graduation that always makes me wonder how bad my childhood actually was. I was a skinny little girl with small eyes, a big smile and extremely large glasses. The pictures always seem to bring back memories for me. These memories are mostly bad ones involving teasing and harassment from others about my vision. When I was younger I didn’t think they made glasses any smaller for kids. It seemed like everyone I saw with glasses had the same ones I did. Now that I think about it I wonder if they had many of the eye problems I did. Did they sit close to the television? Did they hold books close to their faces? Did they have to squint? I wish I could have been normal. I wished I could see but it just wasn’t my destiny.
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I always had a vision impairment. It was always a problem my family thought was normal. This all changed towards the end of my fifth grade year in Elementary School. My teacher continuously asked me questions referring to things on the board. I told her that my glasses didn’t work, but she thought I was just trying to get out of doing my work. After several days of this she called my grandmother. I got in a lot of trouble for not doing my work. I complained often about my glasses with no recognition from anyone. It wasn’t until that summer when my glasses broke that they realized I had been telling the truth. I went to Lens Crafters, a place that sells glasses in my local mall, and the optometrist informed my grandmother and me that I had a problem. He said his equipment wasn’t advanced enough to tell exactly what the problem was, so he suggested I be taken to a specialist soon.
That day was the start of a new explanation for me. I was excited to find out what was going on. A friend of my grandmothers recommended a specialist to her shortly after we were there for a visit. After a couple visits with tests, I was notified that I had a problem in my central vision. He was unable to tell me what the problem was because my tests came back inconclusive. After this news the specialist referred me to the National Eye Institute located within the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. This hospital was known for solving and detecting many problems associated with the eyes, and they do a lot of research on rare abnormalities of the eyes, as well.
Throughout the month of August I went through a long series of eye tests. I would spend days hooked up to machines staring at lights and colors. After this long tedious process my problem was diagnosed as Amblyopia. Dr. Caruso explained to me that it meant that there were spots in my central vision through which I cannot see. He continued to tell me that my peripheral vision was perfect. I sat there looking at him thinking, “oh great I can’t see straight, but I can see from the sides Whoop Dee Doo.” Then he told me that my problem gets worse over time. I began to tense up as he said I would eventually become legally blind. He also said I would never be able to drive. Those words crushed me because that’s what I had been looking forward to doing in the future. The image of driving down the street listening to the radio, headed to the movies with friends was suddenly crushed. Dr. Caruso explained to my grandmother that I wouldn’t be able to function normally in my classes and that there were several options for me. He offered me many devices that would enhance my ability to see. He suggested I use a magnifying glass or a mini telescope. When they showed me the devices, I thought they were so ugly. I couldn’t believe they were considering these things.
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That September I ended up with the same teacher from the year before. When she heard about my disease she apologized for everything she said that previous year. Throughout the rest of my years in school my teachers were pretty understanding about the problems and the things I had to do. I had to sit in front of the class which never seemed like the “cool” thing to do. This may not seem like a big deal but the front of the class for me was two feet away from the blackboard. Some teachers used to say I would get in the way but I just took it all in because it was the only way I could learn. The kids weren’t as understanding as the teachers were with my situation. I had many people asking me questions like “how many fingers am I holding up?” I thought it was pretty funny at first but after a while it got old and began to bother me. I remember going home occasionally and crying because people made fun of something that wasn’t my fault.
It was so hard for me growing up. I had to deal with the names and stares on top of all my medical problems. Not only did I have a vision problem but I also had seizures that always seemed to occur at the wrong time. For years throughout Junior High school my nickname was blind and seizure girl. Even in elementary school when kids were thought to be innocent I was showered with names. Normal activities were hard for me and it seemed like everybody knew it. It always felt like everyone was out to get me. It was a big event to watch me read a book because I held it so close. I remember one day in the cafeteria I asked the girl next to me what was on the menu for lunch and she started laughing hysterically. “I forgot you can’t see.” She said it so loud and then proceeded to tell me the items while laughing at me. Going to the movies with friends was hard because in order for me to see clearly, by my definition, I needed to sit in the front. In order to stay together I’d just go sit in the back and pretend it was okay. Taking notes in class was even harder because I couldn’t make out the words on the board. My teachers never had to worry about me cheating on a test because they knew I couldn’t see what was on the paper next to me.
One day in high school, I figured it was time for me to face reality. Having 20/20 vision isn’t a part of my future. I had to stop placing blame on everyone and just accept what I was given. I knew that my life didn’t have to be this way. If someone had noticed when I was little that there was something more serious than just nearsightedness my sight could have been saved. When I received my diagnosis from Dr. Caruso, he told me that it had been there from birth. Knowing that I might have been able to see hurts. I faced my problem head on and decided that what everyone said about me wasn’t important. My work began to improve when I decided not to worry about the looks anymore. I started to use the telescopes and magnifying glasses. I kept thinking that some people out here have it worse than me. I also had to remember that this problem made me a better person.
Because of my problem, I’ve learned that people are not always responsible for the unfortunate things which happen to them. I don’t like for people to treat me differently because I don’t want to feel like Im helpless. I stopped making fun of people because you never know what could be wrong. I’ve learned how to buckle down and do more work because it takes an extra effort for me to do many class activities. It has enhanced my listening abilities because sometimes in order for me to take notes I have to listen closely. I’ve learned how not to use this to my greatest advantage because many people feel so sympathetic towards me that they give me many advantages. I try not to look at my problem as a handicap, but as something for me to learn from.
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