Wanda Merritt Anthony

Wanda Merritt Anthony

Sunday, June 5, 2016

All But Blind

Yes, it has been a long time since I wrote.  I've been going through great and terrible transitions.  Between losing my usable sight, and moving across the country, I haven't been able to write until now.  I will talk about photography too; afterall, this is a photography blog. 

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2011.  the eye drops haven't been able to control my inter ocular pressure, so my sight got progressively worse. 

Last fall I was able to upload some Halloween cupcake pictures.  I was encouraged because this was close work but I needed to use my magnifier to check the image on the back of the camera.  I knew my eyes saw pictures on Photoshop as overexposed so I didn't adjust Levels.  Many were accepted by stock agencies and some sold.  After Thanksgiving I only set up one Christmas concept.  It was the close candle with the wreath boque, or however it's spelled.  Normally I'd look it up but using the screen reader is still a challenge for me.  I know the files were accepted put I don't remember if any sold.

By the time I took the Christmas pictures I needed the magnifier for everything.  I had to use it to check and change settings, as well as see the image on the back of the camera. 

Using the computer had become increasingly difficult.  Everything I wanted and needed to do on the computer was a chore.  Submitting photographs had became an ordeal.  Online bill paying was scary because it was so difficult to make sure I was in the right field.  Enjoyable pursuits such as Facebook and Youtube were a frustration. 

I had been trying to get screen reader lessons since I'd been diagnosed with glaucoma.  All kinds of obstacles appeared before me.  Things started out well; a lady came out to discuss my needs and screen reader lessons were at the top of my list.  I wanted to guard against the day when I could no longer use the computer normally.  Before I had my first lesson, the agency lost funding for at least a year.  Then because I didn't want to attend school or seek employment Services for the Blind decided they wouldn't pay for the lessons.  The Center for the Visually Impaired also have screen reader lessons but their clients must be at least fifty-five years old.  At that time, I had a couple years to wait.  I was told a branch of the public library offered screen reader lessons.  Either I had just missed the class or another would be starting in the spring, summer, fall, after the first of the year, etc. 

In September of 2016 I turned fifty-five and could seek help through the Center for the Visually Impaired, CVI.  I jumped throught their hoops and finally got to talk to somebody.  I was told how difficult learning a screen reader would be.  The Lady suggested I learn to use an IPhone because IPhones have great functionality for blind people.  Next, she asked if I had an IPhone?  I told her I didn't.  She said I'd need to get one. 

I am a computer person, not a smartphone person.  I have a cheap smartphone I bought when my sight was better.  I thought I would enjoy using it because most people like theirs.  I set it up and tried using it; I didn't like it very much.  My blind friends are fond of saying how much better an IPhone is than an Android.  I borrowed an IPhone 4 to see how it was different than the Android I already had.  Both Voiceover and Talkback made me want to throw the phone out the window.    Somehow I killed S.E.R.I. so I returned the IPhone 4 to my friend. 

I spoke to CVI in December so the plan was to get started in January.  I didn't hear from them in January, and by then I had planned to move to South Dakota.  Every day I hoped there was no mail.  Dealing with mail was almost impossible, even on a closed circuit tv.  Someone needed to take me to the grocery store because I could neither see to push the cart, nor chose items off the shelves.  My youngest daughter and her boyfriend took pictures Christmas day.  She also did most of the cooking.  While my daughter was home from college she mentioned my moving to South Dakota so she could help me with mail, bill paying, and cooking. 

Things fell into place like a miracle.  I put my house on the market and had an acceptable offer in four days.  We found a newly built townhouse community near campus.  The still had a few openings and I was able to get one.  I flew out of Atlanta to Sioux Falls on March ninth.  I signed my lease in Vermillion March tenth. 

I called the Independent Living service as soon as I was settled.  A lady came out and we discussed my needs.  "Here we go again," I thought.  I mentioned screen reader lessons first thing.  She said they have a technology guy that will come to my home and teach me whatever I want to learn technology wise.  She said an agency called Dakota Link would pay for five hours of technology lessons.  She told me about a free screen reader called NVDA.    I really didn't expect anything to come from this meeting; at least not anytime soon.
In late April or early May, I got a call from CVI in Georgia.  The lady apologized profusely for taking so long to get back with me.  I told her I had moved out of state.

Shortly after meeting with the lady from Independent Living, I got a letter from Dakota Link.  they wanted me to set up my first appointment for technology lessons.  The tech guy came the following Wednesday.  After four hours of NVDA screen reader lessons I can do quite a bit on the Internet.  My goal was to learn how to use Facebook with the screen reader.  I figured if I can use Facebook, other websites will fall into place.  I used my fifth hour to get a handle on my tablet.  Like the smartphone, Talkback makes me want to throw the thing out the window.  As I said before, I'm a computer person, not a smartphone person. 

Even though Dakota Link prefers Apple devices; they were willing to instruct me on the products I already had.  I'd complain to friends, "I've already got a computer, why do I need to spend $600 on a smartphone.  I don't even know if I'd like it."

"A man is plowing the field behind the apartment," Andrea said.  For a brief moment, I was excited.  I thought about the photographs I could take.  During this moment I thought of wide, overall shots; low angles with lots of sky; high angels from upstairs windows using a telephoto lens, detail shots of the machinery, furrows, and the machinery making the furrows.  I could get a few video clips too.  That wonderful moment was replaced by the memory that I can no longer see to take photographs and video.  This saddened me for the rest of the morning.  If I were still taking pictures I'd have had another category to offer my stock images in.  I would have been able to follow the crops growth from planting to harvest.  So I mourned the loss.  While I was writing about this, I just remembered I sold my telephoto lens along with my older camera equipment. 

My sight changes throughout the day.  No matter if it's bright and sunny or dreary and gray, it is quite dark when I wake up.  Turning on the light makes little or no difference.  It takes about five minutes for my vision to 'improve' if it's going to.  At this point things looking normal with or without something that looks like tiny water droplets, bright and foggy, or dark and foggy.  After about half and hour normal disappears; it's either bright and foggy, dark and foggy, or dark with faint light perception.  These change throught the day with the addition of bright and blind.  Sometimes all I see in the middle of the night is white.  Before my vision started to change I'd put in my first set of eyedrops after I get up.  Drops didn't effect what I saw on dark and/or foggy days; but they did cause the good moments in the morning to shorten.  I experimented by waiting for my mision to worsen on good days before putting in drops.    I'd be upset with myself when I automatically put in drops on a good day.

Remember, the drops weren't controlling my inter ocular pressure.  A good IOP reading is in the teens.  Last time I saw the eye doctor my pressures fluctuated wildly.  My left eye, which I had laser surgery on, had readings in the twenties and thirties.  My other eye would change from 19 to 61.  All within the space of a few minutes.   I have a friend who stopped taking his eye drops because he thought they were doing more harm than good.  He has since changed doctors and started on another drop.  I don't know how it's working for him. 

Sparkles woke me up to take him out the other morning.  This messed up my normal routine of putting in eye drops right away.  This happened to be what I call "A good eye day">  I had a few hours instead of a few minutes of somewhat good vision. I decided not to put in eye drops first thing in the morning when my eyes are somewhat good.  I wanted to enjoy those extra few hours of decent vision. 

This was one of those mornings I was mad at myself for forgetting to leave out my drops until later.  I put in the drops and the fogginess came.  Some of my friends with glaucoma have scary stories their doctors told them.  One friend said she went to the doctor because of terrible headaches.  Her doctor told my friend her pressure was so had her eye would have burst if she hadn't come in.  Another friend's eye doctor told him his pressure could get so high a blood vessel could rupture in his eye while he was sleeping and he'd bleed to death before he could do anything about it.  I don't believe these tales, I think they are akin to urban legends.

This morning I told Andrea how I was mad at myself for taking my eyedrops on a good eye day.  She said something about you may can see better but you may be harming your eyes.  She said, "That's like saying 'you can sleep when you're dead;." 

I agreed with her.  Given the choice to live three to six months with the vision I had two years ago or living into old age blind, I'd choose the three to six months of my old vision.  I'd take the time to photograph everything on my bucket list.  I'd use the money I got from the sale of my house to finance the trips.  I don't know if I'd shoot stock for old times sake.  I'd buy a macro lens and another telephoto lens, take some photography workshops, and live and breathe photography.  I'd get the online versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, and spend nights learning to use them.  So much for wishful thinking.

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