A Month Without Sight

When I was around 10 years old, I had an acute problem with my eyesight. The problem was so bad, but too novel for the medical doctor I was seeing back then, he had no idea what to do. So he suggested to my father that I should be blind for about a month. The intention was that I would not be using my eyes, thus, they would get a chance to rest, and perhaps heal on their own. The risk was that I might stay blind forever. So it was 50/50 percent chance. The procedure was relatively easy: the doctor would use a special kind of eye-drop, and Poof! Sight was gone. It got my father thinking, then they all decided to do it when the summer came (no school, no need for me to use eyes). Note here, I had no say in this decision because I was 10 years old.

Dr. AppointmentAs a child, I was dreaded. But it was not so much about the probability of going blind forever. It was the idea of doing nothing during summer. Yes, the priority of a child was somewhat different from an adult, I guess.

Life without sight

Since I couldn’t see anymore, I started to rely on my other senses. Thinking back now, it was a very different experience.

Missing out the fun?

I was a big book reader. I loved watching TV. Then there was my beloved dog. But all I could do was to sit there and listen. I remembered hearing people chatting. I remembered feeling the stack of books and comics piling up waiting for me. I remembered the sound from the TV during my favorite shows. And I remembered my fluffy super cute dog wanting me to play with him. The first few days was depressing. But do you know what the best thing about being a child? You adapt fairly quickly to the situation. I still could touch my dog. I understood what was going on based on the conversations. The context wasn’t to see anymore. It was to hear. I didn’t miss any of my favorite shows. I still knew which characters were doing what and where.

I still had to go to summer school although I got special treatment. I didn’t have to do homework. I just had to be in class. But it wasn’t that much fun.

Talking to friends

Not all of my friends knew I had to go through the treatment. So during playtime, they would just come and talk. They asked me why I suddenly started to write dinosaur-size letters when copying down notes in class. Perhaps they wondered, too, why I didn’t have to do my homework. As a child, I didn’t know how to explain my situation. All I could say was, “because I couldn’t see.” And they would tell me, “go get new prescription” for my glassess. Easy.

However, the hard part was to recognize people from their voices. Not every kid is going to talk to you and announces his/her name before the conversation. On the bright side, they are kids. They don’t get offensive if they wave at you, and you don’t wave back. They just come running to you and ask why you are not replying.

Then there was problem with eating. Although I was not a big food lover back then, eating still was hard.

I couldn't see food

That was how I saw things during the treatment. Perhaps when I said “blind,” you imagined “darkness.” Not in my case. I still could see everything, but nothing. It was just a big blur. It was like you are short-sighted, and wear heavily prescribed eyeglasses. Then someone knocks off your eyeglasses. That is the closest thing I could think of for you to imagine.

Back to eating. Although relying on my other senses was good enough to get me pass through things, I think it would be a lot harder if I couldn’t speak. Since I couldn’t see my food clearly, I didn’t know what was in front of me. I sniffed things out to understand what it was. I was a very picky vegetable eater back then, and somehow, my parents thought this was a perfect time to trick me into eating the healthy ones I hated to eat. So, it went like this: if I would like eating that, they would pick it, put in my bowl. Then I would ask what that was, and they would explain.

Dad explaining food

Seems simple. But it wasn’t. When I sniffed it, it smelled differently from what they told me. And sometimes it tasted good, and sometimes, I knew I was tricked.

When the time was almost up, I started to get clearer vision of things. When I could see things absolutely clear, we went back to the doctor for evaluation. I was in the 50% chance of gaining back the sight. I was lucky. Although my eyes problem didn’t go away completely, the experience did teach me a thing or two. Yet, I didn’t even realize what it taught me until later on.

One of the problem that still persists is colors. I don’t see them the way a majority of people see them.

dr frustration

I can tell you that I see the difference in shadings, but back when my doctor re-evaluated the treatment, oh man, he was frustrated. I just collapsed any shade into the closest color I thought it was. Perhaps, as a kid, it was explainable. I didn’t have enough vocabulary to explain to the doctor the difference. Perhaps, with time, I would learn to describe the colors better. Nah, that was their conclusion. I really couldn’t see the colors the way you see. I describe them to you as I see them. I am not color-blind. I just see them in a shade or two different from you. But, now, I have learnt to adjust my answer to fit with what you see. However, when there is a new color that I have not registered in my brain yet, you will think I am silly for saying a different color name.

I have always been thinking back about this experience. It shows me that the world around me is built for a majority. There is a minority of people that couldn’t see, hear, or speak (besides other “disadvantages”). I used to think I was weird, but then I have learnt to consider myself as “different” (in a good way). I get to go through life a little bit different from you. However, thinking of all the others that are “different” permanently throughout their life, I don’t know if I could say the same. At least I could ask when I couldn’t see. At least I could hear when things were super blurry. Some don’t.

Lets me try something with you. I will show you a picture of my favorite dish. I will describe it to you. Then you tell me in the comment below if you want to try it, all based on my short description. I will do it my parents’ style.

This is what you see:

blur bunmam

The description:

food description

Translation (in case you need it): “It tastes like fish. You know. Like fish-sauce. Little salty. But sweet. The soup is very tasty. There is shrimp. Squid. BBQ pork chop. Fat vermicelli. You can eat with cilantro, salad, sprout, and a few other vegetables. You want spicy, but chillies in there.”

Tell me now if you want to taste this?

Wonder what it looks like when you gain your sight back?

Bun mam


The photos are hand-drawn using Sharpie pens, the app Paper by fiftythree, Procreate, and Aviary. Pictures are taken with Iphone.


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