For the first few weeks following my total loss of eyesight I was so physically shocked and busy working with my ophthalmologist and medical staff members I spent little time thinking about what I was doing. My primary concern was how I was going to get my eyesight back, and how long it was going to take.
It was not until some weeks later when I was alone in my hospital room at night that a sense of dread began to settle down deep in my heart and mind, just inches away from total panic. I could not imagine myself doing anything in life if I was not able to see.
My emotions were tossed to and fro on a daily basis. At times, there was anger that this blindness happened to me. Was I guilty of some unknown thing in the past and was being punished?
The next day I might dream my sight would be restored thanks to the surgeries being performed on my detached retinas. I also might dream that my sight would suddenly return, as quickly as it had disappeared, through some natural and spontaneous way.
As weeks passed with no sight improvement, I began to worry about real world issues. How could I make a living? Would I be a burden on my children? Would friends stick with me? I had worked in the radio broadcast news business and interviewed such newsmakers as John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even travelled with the Beatles on their first American tour. I also managed some large radio news stations including KFWB-AM in Los Angeles and KOB-AM and FM in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Initially, I slipped into a common rut that traps some people who lose their vision, exemplifying the old stereotype phrase that says: “If you can’t see it, you can’t do it.” Fortunately, that negative concept is unfounded and I soon rejected it.
At some point, if you have lost your vision, you have to accept your condition and decide what you are going to do about it. You must accept the fact you are in a new season in your life and it is a season that requires numerous changes in the way you live.
For me that new season began when some friends took me to a state run agency that provided training for people with impaired vision. In almost two dozen states, those agencies are called state commissions for the blind.
Different states use different names for such training agencies. There also are private non-profit organizations such as the National Federation for the Blind (www.nfb.org) with headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, that supports affiliates in every state. I will have more to say about the NFB in future blogs.
For me training began several months after my eyesight was lost and the surgeries were not solving the problem. During that period it became clear that my eyesight was not going to be restored during the near term and perhaps never. I had to draw on resources from the deepest wells of strength inside myself. They were wells I had never had to tap before.
Slowly, and while still in the hospital for one of the ten surgeries I eventually had on my eyes, I turned to an example provided by my father while I was very young. He had lost his job during the Great Depression of 1929.
With almost no cash reserves, a wife and young child, and no immediate prospects for work, he placed his faith and future in a higher power and prayed for guidance and assurance that something would somehow work out. Surprisingly his spirit at that difficult time was a strong as when he had been gainfully employed.
So that is exactly what I did. I put my faith in a higher power and told myself that somehow, some way, I was going to live and make my way, without the faintest idea of how I was going to do it.
The directions I went and the help I received to maintain an active and exciting life without sight, will be presented in small takes, beginning with the next blog. The first steps I took on my journey back to a productive and motivated lifestyle will be described when Blog O3 appears — so cheers.
– Art Schreiber
Some of my experiences and recommendations are contained in my recently published and award winning book, Out of Sight, Blind and Doing All Right, by Art Schreiber, as told to Hal Simmons.