“I ask the Lord to renew in each one of you the gift of faith, that your spirit may be for us ever the light of God, the light of love, which gives meaning to your life, illuminates it, gives us hope, and makes us good and available to our brothers.”
—Message of Pope Francis
To the Italian Union of Blind and Visually Impaired
June 11, 2013
It started with a tiny spot.
I noticed it a little bit at night, when I would take out my contact lenses and put on the old pair of glasses. I wear the glasses to find my way from the bathroom to the bed in the evening and back again every morning.
I need to get a new pair of glasses soon, these are so scuffed up, I’d tell myself. And the next night I’d think the same thing.
I was the first kid to get glasses in my first grade class, and as I grew my vision kept getting worse. I switched to contacts in high school and have worn them ever since, because with glasses on I have no peripheral vision, and when they come off, anything more than two inches away from my face is a soft and poorly-defined blur.
Within a month or two of the spot’s arrival, I began craving light. I started buying new desk lamps, stronger light bulbs, pulling up the blinds. Since the Covid lockdown began, I had been working from home, and my only thought was how poorly lit our house was. Everything was too dark. I needed to see! I needed light.
Looking back, I feel shame. I hadn’t been keeping up with going to the ophthalmologist. There were multiple moves, changing jobs, a new baby, dad got sick, dad died, another new baby, a devastating layoff, a crippling depression, a new job, mom got sick, mom died. Better to just reorder the contact lenses off the internet and worry about finding an eye doctor when I have more time.
Driving home one night in the dark, in a drizzle, I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see the lines. I couldn’t see the median. I felt terror welling up in me. I slowed down. I leaned forward. I squinted. I prayed. I got home somehow. The next evening was clear. Life continued.
Not long after, I was on the walkway in front of my house. In a split second, I was face-down on the pavement, left leg in throbbing pain—had a car come from nowhere? I looked back. There was a now-slightly-askew, 2-foot-tall stack of bricks. I’d been leveled by a stationary object. I never even saw it coming.
I finally admitted that something was seriously wrong with my eyes.
A few weeks later, in the ophthalmologist’s office, my left eye tried to read the letters on the screen. How can I even describe what I saw? Imagine looking through a window covered in rain, your view obscured by the droplets moving around on the glass. Or imagine looking up at moving clouds, drifting in different directions, occasionally opening up and revealing a glimpse of the blue sky above, but only for a second.
I saw a curve on one of the letters—then it was gone. Was that a P? Or maybe an R? Pretty sure it wasn’t a D. But B is possible… They never tell you whether you guessed right.
They measured my ocular pressure. 40 in one eye, 44 in the other. Looks like glaucoma. Photos of my optic nerve next, then a field vision test.
Significant vision loss in the left eye. Irreversible. The right eye doesn’t look good either. You need to see a specialist.
Weeks followed. Eye drops, YouTube videos, worry, prayers to Saint Lucy, prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In the specialist’s waiting room the other patients swapped Covid vaccine stories from weeks before. Pfizer or Moderna? No, Johnson and Johnson. No, I haven’t had mine yet. (I’m forty years younger than you, that’s why.)
More letters on another screen. Or there should be. I don’t see any this time, not with my left eye.
The doctor said he’s seen worse, but it’s been a long time. I’m his youngest patient. He lists the risk factors. Family history? No. African American? No. Over 65? No. Thin corneas? No. Heart disease, high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia? No, no, no.
Why me? What now?
Let’s try laser treatment—are you free April 6?
And then what?
Maybe surgery. Different drops. If all this works, maybe 10 or 15 years of stability. And there are new research breakthroughs all the time.
I’m asking for prayers, for the intercession of St. Lucy and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.