My First Low Vision Device–An eye patch: “Ahoy, Matie” [and why pirates wore eye patches]

May 7, 2016

I woke up on a lovely Pennsylvania fall Saturday morning and something was not quite right. It took a bit for me to realize that my left eye wasn’t seeing… Well, it was seeing a little. Across the top, even to this day, there is a line of light that comes in. If I move my head about, I can see a narrow–very narrow–squished image. Under that is a line of ‘lavendar’ darkness. A tiny bit of light. Then darkness. I didn’t mention to my spouse for awhile. I was waiting to see–literally.

I don’t think my vision loss is quite like Kubler Ross’s stages of grief [denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance]. I was more confused than in denial. I had been diagnosed with drusen in my optic nerve in both eyes some years earlier and had slowly been losing peripheral vision. If you search on drusen, you will find that there are two types. The other type that I have not been diagnosed with is related to macular degeneration. There is a family history of macular degeneration on my mothers’ side, but I had been told that drusen in the optic nerve is rare and only related to peripheral vision loss.

I emphasize the latter because it is a rather unfortunate thing that loss of peripheral vision had been treated in conversations between me and a long list of eye doctors as ‘only.’ First, I lost the central peripheral vision. I have not seen my own nose except in a mirror [or photos] in years. And, yes, that has posed few problems. Then I lost the lower peripheral vision. Still not limiting in costing me driving privileges. But try stepping out to go down stairs with no lower peripheral vision…scary. I always edge my way to the handrail and in settings where I am often needing to use stairs, I count them. I memorize how many there are so that I don’t have to go too slow in terms of holding onto the hand rail.

I had begun to lose some side peripheral vision by the time this central vision loss occurred. Interesting fact: each state determines the vision requirements for having a driver’s license. My regular ophthalmologist had warned my husband and I prior to this latest event that I was approaching the zone where I would not be able to hold a valid driver’s license due to peripheral vision loss. But I digress.

So, the odd event wasn’t changing. I told my husband. We live in a rural area where a visit to the ER for vision would be something done if your eyes were bleeding, I guess, but not for what I was experiencing. I was, however, at the specialist’s office at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. Many things followed. I remained confused. My brain was also confused. That little line of light coming in above my central vision field was making my brain fight to try to see ‘normally.’ The solution–a beige eye patch like the one in the picture here.

No pictures of me wearing one. No one ever saw me wear it except my spouse and one colleague. A knock at my office door and I could have that thing off in a flash….

http://www.sightconnection.com/ProductImages/778_m_635719018154899028.jpgSo, what does it remind you of–a pirate’s eye patch? Me, too. Do you know why pirates wore eye patches? So that one eye could be used to see in the darkness of the bowels of their ships…that’s right. Remember my story about orange lenses and contrast? Yep. They had it figured out. Interesting story about it here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/52493/why-did-pirates-wear-eye-patches

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