Friday, June 28, 2013

A Cold Brings a Random Thought

One of the things I wish is that being blind was a bad enough disorder to mean you never get other forms of sickness like a cold or flu.

Darn it though, I cough up my lungs for the thirteenth time this morning, colds still hit me. Not as often as they did back in England were they were almost as regular a monthly event as the phases of the moon.

For three weeks now I have had a cold which has now settled on my chest. Conversation is nigh on impossible and going to the cinema is met by a hail of hisses from the surrounding audience as I sit and cough and cough until it feels like my lungs have been scrubbed out with steel wool.

On top of the misery of my cold is the promise of looming heat. 107 Degrees Fahrenheit or more for the next week, and worse than those daytime temperatures are the nighttime lows of 75 Degrees plus. A cold and sleepless nights. Yuck!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Accepted for Guide Dog Training

Tuesday June 25, was quite a red letter day for me. Mid morning my cell phone rang and I answered. It was a call from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

It turned out to be the call that I have been waiting for since I started the journey of applying for a Guide Dog last December.

"Mr Elliott, we are pleased to accept you into the Guide Dogs for the Blind Family."

I am still a little stunned by the swiftness of the change in status. A few hours ago I was wondering if my application was prceeding, now I have been accepted, have a start date for training at the end of October and a file on my computer with all the documentation that I require to begin studying for class.

I have looked over the study documents, there is a lot of information in there. Quite a bit of the information follows what I learned on the home visit, back on Memorial Day,  some of it is new.

Much of the work appears common sense, behavior policies, helping your dog transition to a working relationship and care of your dog. All of thr information is clear and I am excited to be embarking on this new course.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Last Avastin Injection

At my last retinologist visit, Monday June 24, there was a pretty serious matter to discuss.

Over the past year the Avastin and Lucentis shots in my eye have been getting less and less effective. The injections used to work for several weeks, now there is no improved vision at anytime, in fact the eye is actually now categorized as clinically blind rather than the lesser designation of legally blind.

As a reminder clinically blind refers to a state of total inability to see or detect light.

My retinologist pointed out that now she is questioning the value of giving injections to help my vision.  I knew that this was coming, it has been on my mind for many months now. It just came as a shock that my retinologist was thinking the same way.

I|n the past she has been much more hopeful of treatments, so I take this as a sign she is seeing the condition of my left eye never improving. My right eye I only have partial periferral vision so am still legally blind in that eye. Massive doses of laser treatment in the right eye in 2001-2 has destroyed the macular but it has in part saved the sight on that side. I am able to use some of the periferral vision to look around me but can see little detail.

As the plan now stands my retinologist is stopping monthly injections of Avastin or Lucentis. The condition of my vision will still require monitoring though and  so we could begin with another treatment should one become available.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Almost Midway Through the Year

2013 is really flying. Here we are a blink of the  eye ago and it was Christmas.

After today, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, days will grow shorter and nights longer in the slow down towards winter.

Now I live in California, I miss the very short nights of this time of year that I knew in England. In those latitudes I could look to the North and see a thin bright line of light on the horizon at this time of year. I was looking into the far distant land of the Midnight Sun. I miss that, though I don't miss as much the darkness at 9am in the morning or four in the afternoon of mid winter though.

Summer is here and is but a short respite before Fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Don't blink. We may miss the rest of the year too.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Keep in Touch. It can be VERY Important

Over the last six months I have been applying for a Guide Dog. The progress of the last few months that we had made came to a thundering halt at the end of last week.

I had gone through the preliminary interviews and home visit, see my earlier blogs.

All looked set to go ahead until last Thursday, an important document from my mobility instructor had either gone missing or got misplaced. All this really meant was, to me, my application was stalled .

Luckily however my wife was able to get in touch with my mobility instructor while I was out at work and a copy of the required document is even as I wirte, possibly flying through the airwaves to the Guide Dogs office. This completes the application and hopefully all documents are now in place in order to move the application onwards.

All this goes to show the importance of keeping records of people whom you meet and work with you as a blind person.

Being able to contact my mobility instructor directly is much better than having to go through the ranks of the bureaucracy that makes up State Rehabilitation here in California. Ranks of people who only add to time and to the risk that your message will get lost in the meat grinder of information that is government.

Keep all contact addresses of anyone that you may meet along the way. Keep in touch and keep open the lines of communication. Occassions like this missing paper are common and it is much easier to deal with directly than via a myriad of strangers putting in their two cents worth.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Are the Blind More Relaxed About Their Disability?

Almost daily we can read in newspapers or hear on the news about various efforts to cure blindness. As a community the blind seem to have little to say on the matter.  I wonder then are the blind generally more at ease with scientific attempts to cure blindness?

Several years ago, when I lived in England the deaf community took up in force to fight plans to allow children to undergo cochlea implants to help them hear. Many in the deaf community used very emotive language to express their distaste at what they said was a hearing world plan to destroy their lives and calling the plans a "genocide against deafness."

I for one never understood their desire to save their deafness. Both for themselves and children. Hearing parents of deaf children were pilloried for seeking the cochlea implants for their children. It all got a little hysterical in the end.

Now with news of stem cell success and silicon chip implants into blind peoples eyes, we hear little protest from the blind community. Does this mean we silently seek to see the end to our disability and our way of life or does it just mean we are more sensible than hysterical deaf people?

For me. I hope one day that I might obtain a treatment that will let me see again. It will be a long way off if it happens but it may happen someday.

I do hate the disability of blindness. I wish I knew who people were by sight, rather than hoping that they speak so I can recognize a voice.

I hate that I can't read a book without the aid of a machine.

I hate that I cannot drive across town, let alone across the country. Though will new car technology let me get back behind the wheel of a car? Blind. I doubt that.

It is nice that I get a blue card to park anywhere there is disabled parking, but still I'd rather have those few extra yards walk if I had my sight.

Ok I get priority  boarding at the airport, but again priority boarding is not much compensation for sight.

If some in the blind community did say I was a traitor to my disabled bretheren, I'd have to agree if it meant I could have sight. Give me sight over blindness any day.

In the meantime I am blind. I will be blind for some time maybe twenty years until my seventieth birthday.  Blindness is teaching me many lessons. The first aappreciate what you have while you have it.
From that I glean yes the blind are just more relaxed about blindness.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blind Ref

I suppose we all know a variation of "Referee! Are you blind?" It seems to be the universal cry when the wrong team score a goal or your favorite player is sent sprawling to the ground in a clash of boots.

Well Will Smith takes the cry to the extreme in this comic screen trailer skit. "Blind Ref"

I laughed at it. Is an actor playing a blind ref funny? Is it funny to see a man unable to see high five a clothes locker? For me and my warped sense of humor, yes it is. I have talked to empty air after a person has walked away. I have thought objects were people and I have gone to shake hands with a clothes rack. So been there done that and laughed at Will Smith doing the same.

Hope you like this spoof trailer too.

Click the clip to view from

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lost My Path

Yesterday I had to go to my primary care doctor.

His office is about a quarter of a mile from my front door. The short walk is mostly along an old railroad bed over open fields.

Last month when I walked that very same path, it was clearly visible to me. Part of the walk went through old stalks of standing sunflowers from last summer and then rough grass and tumbleweed lay alongside a clear path of gravel and sand.

Yesterday I got to the edge of the field and all was the same pale grey.

I could not see any contrast between the path and the field whatsoever. Every sunflower stalk and tumbleweed had gone.

It was if a giant mower had cleared and trimmed the field down to the bare earth.

In stead of taking me ten minute to cross the field it took nearer twenty minutes. I lost the path several times and wandered about alarmingly. Eventually I made it to the other side but I was exhausted by the sheer hard work of trying to find the route.

Coming back was equally as tough.

It is surprising even in a seemingly chaotic and wild space such as that field probably appeared to a sighted person. There were clues which I as a blind man could use. The now neat and tidy field for the sighted person became a place of nightmare and confusion for me.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Work: That Terrible Four Letter Word. or a Blessing

I was talking with someone a few days ago. A friend visiting from overseas and we got around to talking about work.

He was surprised that I get so much done. Work part-time, blog, design things to sell, knit and am preparing to learn how to work with a guide dog.

His reaction was that is a lot of work. My suggestion was that it is merely fun and no work at all.

But Didn't I see how much time I  am wasting? With all that work? Wasting? I don't really waste time in my mind. I do something most parts of my waking life. OK I admit a lot of it may not be important. In fact most of it has no importance at all. But neither is it work. I enjoy it all, since no one pays me for most of it, there is no profitable reason to do it.

On the other hand, putting the question back to him, I asked what would he do in my position.

"I cannot even imagine. I need my eyes so much. Maybe I could do nothing at all."

His answer sobered us both up. I do what I can because I can. He sees what I do as work, but on the other side of the coin if I could see. I would do exactly the same things that I do now, with the exception of the guide dog preparation, well maybe there I could volunteer to train a guide dog puppy.

For him work is a four letter word. For me it is a blessing that I can do something.