Monday, December 17, 2007

Never Take Your Vision For Granted

imageOperations do not scare me. They never have and probably never will.

There have been so many eye surgeries: nine on my right eye, the only one that works, and seven on the left.

It’s been a 30-year slugfest against glaucoma. My left eye has become sightless in the past several years. Obviously, there is great concern about further right-eye surgeries or vision loss but such thoughts do not rule my life. Of more concern is my thoughts about my 19-month-old great-grandson who just underwent surgery on one of his kidneys last week. The malfunctioning organ sent his blood pressure as high as 290/110 and he’s been in the hospital nearly six weeks.

This isn’t written specifically about me or little Reece. This blog is written in hopes that readers will have their vision tested at least once each year after turning 40 years old, and be checked for glaucoma. You may see well at this time and still be cursed with glaucoma. Most people take their vision for granted, which was hammered home years ago after undergoing my first eye surgery.

Before glaucoma came visiting, no one in the Richey family ever had glaucoma ... until me. We really didn’t know that it is the greatest sight robber of all. My father developed glaucoma late in life, and my twin brother was on the bubble for glaucoma when he died 4 1/2 years ago.

My vision was never great, and never was 20-20 corrected vision found in our family. My brother began wearing glasses in kindergarden, and thick glasses also covered my face, so it’s been glasses or contact lens from that day forward. My life, after the onset of glaucoma, has become one of eye drops and surgeries.

It was after my first glaucoma surgery 20 years ago that the idea of looking and seeing, and paying closer attention to things unseen earlier in my life, became so important. My glaucoma came on suddenly with headaches, blurred vision and preliminary tests were done.

And then came even more complicated tests as doctors determined that my intra-ocular (inner eye) pressure was four times higher than normal.

Glaucoma pressure at a higher-than-normal rate causes pinching of the optic nerve. The more the nerve is pinched, the more vision loss is noted. By the time they determined that glaucoma had set in, some of my vision had already been lost. My depth perception began to go, and stumbling over things became a problem, and peripheral vision was soon lost as more and more open doors suddenly jumped out at me.

The early surgeries helped, but the vision loss kept disappearing like a mirage. Outdoor walks, hunts and fishing trips with friends became more meaningful, and stopping to study the spring flowers and smell the roses, became much more important as time went on.

Soon those spawning salmon and steelhead that had been easy to spot in earlier years, were now very difficult to see, even with polarized sunglasses. More than once an improper step found me plunging into holes along the river bank, and on more than one occasion, my wader-clad boots would trip over a submerged log and we’d come splashing ashore through cold water like a beached whale.

My companions thought it was funny, and we laughed at my apparent clumsiness, but it wasn’t a case of being clumsy. It was caused by poor vision. No longer was the river bottom or a drifting dry fly visible. But no one laughed any louder than me. It was funny the first few times but the bloom is now off that rose.

The times spent outdoors have become more dear in recent years. It’s easy now to marvel at glowing sunrises and sunset, and although grouse hunting was always a passion, there were more missed birds than ever before. If they scooted out the sides, my peripheral vision would miss them. Once every 10 flushes a bird may be seen somewhat clearly, but that didn’t necessarily translate into a hefty bird in my game bag.

It’s still possible to hunt deer, and many folks ask why my bow range for bucks is 15 yards or less, and the answer is the animals can’t be seen clearly enough at 20-25 yards to make an accurate shot. Knowing my limitations, and hunting within them is my key to success. Give me a rifle with a quality scope, and there are no missed shots. The magnification allows me to place the bullet accurately, but one doesn’t walk around with a scope to his eye.

It’s become necessary to adapt to this problem. My lack of vision and my life has changed and my thought is to ask my valued readers to learn from my situation. Get your eyes checked once a year after the age of 40. Glaucoma damage to an eye is irreversible.

Hunting and fishing has been my life, and now it is slowly changing, and this points out that life holds no guarantees for any of us. My operations have helped save my right-eye vision. My life could be much worse. I can still fish and hunt but do so with certain personal rules I must follow, and follow them I do.

Much of my time is still spent outdoors. Winter days are spent tracking bunnies and squirrels around the house or wherever life takes me, and hours are spent watching birds from my kitchen window. It’s easy to drink up the outdoor sights like a 21-year-old chugging their first brew. Ice fishing has become a special pleasure for me.

My thought is to store up outdoor memories, to place pictures in my mind of things seen and done, and places visited in the past, and if my surgeries don’t do the job, there are countless memories stored to be relived in the future.

Don’t feel sorry for me, nor shed any tears on my behalf, and please, above all else, don’t pity me. My life has been one wonderful adventure after another. Day after day, week after week, and year after year for more than 40 years, the outdoors has been my private banquet table where it was possible for me to feast heartily on all sorts of wonderful and exciting fishing and hunting experiences.

Any upcoming surgeries will be just one more in a long line of adventure. Each new day is another adventure as time is spent looking forward to another new experience. Time will tell, but one way or the other, any future surgeries will happen. So, until then, my vast warehouse of memories continues to grow.

Never take your vision for granted, and live each day to its fullest, and suck up all outdoor memories like a new kitchen sponge. One day we may need them to flow vividly through our mind’s eye.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/17 at 04:23 PM
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