Ok, confession time.
There's something about me that's not quite...normal.
It's my right eye. (Some of you are probably relieved, but also surprised. I bet you were expecting something far more bizarre, nefarious or lewd. Sorry to disappoint.) The short version is, my right eye doesn't work...at least not well. Even though my left eye has 20/20 vision, my right eye is legally blind.
When people find this little fact out, the first response is, "What?! It looks so normal. Shouldn't it be, like, cloudy or something?" I then have to navigate the other questions that are soon to follow:
"How can you drive?"
"How long have you been blind in your right eye?"
"Can you see this?" (This one is usually followed by someone frantically waiving their hand in front of my face, or holding up an arbitrary number of fingers a short distance away. My answer is yes, because the people who do this seem to forget that, despite my right eye being broken, my left one is still open and works just fine.)
All of this sparks discussion, and I usually tell the full story to satisfy the questions that come my way.
It happened in February, 2005. I was in my last year of high school. I had just finished a gruelling few semesters of all the classes I need to get into university, which resulted in my last semester of the year being pretty slack. I filled my spare time with what I could; a whole lot of nothing. My school was in a rural town, and there wasn't a whole lot to entertain a bored, mischievous teenager. We usually made our own fun, like breaking into the church next door to climb on to the roof to throw a mannequin onto the pavement below while the Grade 7 foods class witnessed the event from just far enough away to think it was a real person. Or, using stolen roadsigns as makeshift shovels to bury a friend's car in a small mountain of snow. Or, assembling a crew of ne'er-do-wells to roam the countryside repeatedly attempting to steal all shapes and sizes of lawn ornaments, only to switch them with other ornaments that were miles away. Or, sneaking into the teacher's lounge to make off with bountiful armfuls of donuts, cookies, and other tasty treats without getting caught. Or (unsuccessfully) trying to eat a dozen honey crueller donuts and almost making it to the bathroom before they decided to make a reappearance (some of these events may or may not be related). You know, the usual.
When I wasn't wreaking havoc, I wandered my tiny little school, helping out in the woodworking shop, pulling pranks on classmates and school staff, and sneaking into classes.
I snuck into the gym to visit a friend. I sat down at the edge of a gym filled with amateur badminton players, and we discussed whatever it was that we discussed, and I got up to leave. However, unknown to me, there was another student horsing around, smashing around a badminton bird in random directions. One of those directions just happened to be one I stepped into, and the next thing I knew, the whole right side of my world went completely black.
At first, I thought my eye couldn't open. I reached up and touched my face, only to realize that not only was my eye wide open, but the swelling was instantaneous. I was immediately shuttled away to an ophthalmologist in Edmonton, where he delivered the bad news; the impact of the badminton bird caused such bad swelling and bruising on the retina of my eye, my vision would be permanently impaired. The question wasn't, "how long until my vision is back to normal," but rather, "how much of my vision will I get back?" The doctor prescribed a plethora of eye drops, a week of absolute bedrest, and over the next week, the doctor and I saw each other more than some people see their children. I was sent to a retinologist, where they repaired a tear in my retina via laser surgery. I tell you, there is nothing that reminds you of how fragile a human being is like the sensation of feeling your eyeball being burned by a laser.
After a few weeks, I was back full-time at school. But, there were some definite struggles. Fluorescent lights made my eye throb, so I would wear sunglasses through my school. I ran into chairs, desks, doors and walls due to altered depth perception. 3D movies no longer worked for me. (I distinctly remember being on a date some years later, where I confessed this to the person I was with. She responded with, "Meh, it's not that great, you're not missing much," to try and make me feel better. She then promptly screamed at 3D dirt thrown from the screen, and turned crimson from the embarrassment.) But eventually, I adjusted to life with monocular vision. I even managed to get back on a baseball field and eventually work my way onto a college team.
For the most part, unless I was doing something that required precise, up-close depth perception or the use of one eye, my day-to-day life was (relatively) back to normal. Once my friends realized I was going to be ok, they even tried to make me feel normal with a brand new nickname: Cock-Eye Newman. (You know, because a badminton bird is a shuttlecock. And it hit me in the eye. Insert Foghorn Leghorn impersonation. Shuttlecock. Eye. Cock-Eye. It's a joke, son. Ba-dum-tss.)
However, I wasn't out of the proverbial woods just yet. In 2007, a routine yearly check-up revealed that I had developed something called a macular hole (A.K.A. something that really sucks). When the doctor told me I needed surgery, I thought he just meant a quick laser-shot to the eye again. I was wrong. I was terribly, terribly wrong. The doctor meant real surgery, and there was no waiting. I was shipped off to the retinologist that day, where he told me I had to have something called a vitrectomy. (Here's a video for the not-so-squeamish. The thing is, this guy has more than one video of these procedures, and they all have happy, royalty-free soundtracks. Is it supposed to make this feel less icky?) Within seven days, I was laying on a gurney at the end of a long line of patients waiting to have their eyes punctured, just like me.
Well, almost like me. You see, dear readers, most people run into eye problems like a macular hole when they're a little...older. And by a little, I mean I was the youngest one there by about 10,000 years. I heard three different patients in the surgery queue refer me me as a "whippersnapper." I'm sure one of the other patients actually farted dust. I was terrified; not because I was surrounded by people who were decades my senior, but because I had a sudden panic attack. The only thought I could think was, "if this is what my eye is like at my age, how bad will it get when I'm their age?!" A nurse sat beside me, saying nothing, in an attempt to quietly comfort me. They rolled me into the OR, and within seconds of the anaesthetic being pumped into my IV, I was out.
I woke up groggy, still on the gurney, in the exact same position in the queue line as I started in, with the same people still waiting, and the nurse in the exact same spot. My first thought was that it was a dream, and that I had to do this all over again. But it wasn't. My eyeball had been punctured, poked, prodded, and bandaged quicker than my family could get breakfast.
But, I wasn't out of the woods yet. If the surgery was unpleasant, the recovery was my own personal Hell. The "bandage" that helped the tissue inside my eye heal was a gas bubble to keep my eye fluid from touching my retina. Since the retina is at the back of the eye and because gas floats, I had to lay face down for seven days. Everything I did - eat, sleep, watch TV, read, go to the bathroom...all had to be face-down. But, the gas bubble disappeared slowly. So, for the next two weeks after I was allowed to be upright, my world looked (more or less) like this until the bubble dissipated:
Now, it's been over ten years since that fateful day where my right eye was smashed to proverbial bits, and I just recently got the all-clear from my eye doctor at my yearly check-up. But, while my eye isn't getting any worse, it'll never be back to normal. But, it hasn't stopped me. I never let it stop me. When it first happened, I thought it was the worst thing that could've happened to me. But, it wasn't. Life went on, and I accomplished some pretty awesome things, despite being a monocular human. I did - and still do - a whole lot of things I never thought I'd be able to.
Except use a 3DTV. Dammit.
Newman Mentalism: Mind of a Mind Reader
Welcome to the Mind of a Mind Reader blog! This is where you can find my thoughts about mentalism, performing, science, psychology, personal thoughts, or anything else I just happen to find interesting. Enjoy!