At 20, I placed my lips on the brim of a cup of the world’s freshly brewed opportunities. As I made a home of a cozy, rustic little bookstore at The Yard, I discovered my own passion for writing. I had been gobbling books of all kinds and began writing book reviews for The Star Newspaper. Those reviews expanded to all sorts of writing and activities. I now had a voice, an audience, a team that I used to make my small, meaningful contribution to society. I know it’s meaningful because authors come to thank me personally, some even managing to find my private number (no idea how!). I see children’s eyes light up when attending book clubs at the bookstore while they share their own, pure ideas excitedly. Once I ran into a parent at the mall who asked me to give her son a call because he thoroughly missed me. And if that wasn’t heartwarming enough, I knew that I was making my mother proud when a stranger told me to congratulate my parents on raising a wonderful young lady, with a beautiful mind. A beautiful mind! All because she read a book review and came to have a conversation with me.
Maybe I needed a shock for me to realize how much these little things mean to me, or at least that’s how I’ve chosen to look at things anyway. One late September day, I felt a strange sensation in my left eye. It was a pain in the front and a strange pull in the back of my eyeball. Of course, the first thing I thought was: too much time on the computer. Between reading and writing for The Star, and long anthropology essays for school, I thought I’d probably strained it a little. An overworked body needs some rest and a little break. I got a break alright!
A week later I had completely lost vision in my left eye. It was literally blank. That entire time I didn’t read, I didn’t write… I couldn’t even go to dance class. I went to an ophthalmologist when I first realized there was a blur in my vision and he treated me for an eye infection. The pain went away, but my vision got worse. He quickly did all sorts of tests and scans, my eye was fine, but something was going on beyond what could be seen on the surface. The day before I did the final scan, he told me it could be a problem with one of two things, my retina, or my optic nerve. Both were things that neither he nor anybody else on the island could help me with. If it was my retina, it meant surgery. I was overwhelmed with emotion in the waiting area while my father was on his way to pick me up. People were coming in to find glasses to help correct their simply blurred vision, and I sat there only able to see through my right eye, with no idea what was wrong with my left or if it would ever be fixed.
A million questions and fears etched themselves in the niches of my mind that night. Was life as I knew it over? How could I work with one eye? I could really strain that one. Did this mean no more writing? Did it mean I could no longer read as much as I wanted to? Everything that I felt I was good at, I needed to be able to see for it to be possible. Would I need to wear an eye patch? I could already see my left pupil in a different position to my right and everyone who called or texted to ask how I was doing seemed more terrified than me. Even the doctor had seemed worried.
The morning I went to do the scan and it revealed that my left optic nerve was swollen three times the size of the right one. The ophthalmologist informed me that he could not diagnose me and I would have to visit a neurologist as soon as possible. My nearest options were Martinique, Barbados or Trinidad. Little Ste. Lucie was unable to help me at all. All motherly figures in my life sprung into action. I got multiple possible diagnoses from optic neuritis (which the ophthalmologist suggested), to toxocara, to vitamin deficiency because I don’t eat enough carrots. As well as prescriptions like new diets, and an eye patch, I was told not look at any screens or read books. My older sister arranged my accommodation and transportation ahead of my arrival to Trinidad two days later, and my mother lovingly suggested reading to me like she did ever so much when I was little. She chose an enchanting book called “The Little Princess”.
By then my entire church was praying for me; my family, my friends, their families and complete strangers. Myself? The more worrying the news got the harder I prayed. There was nothing else I could do but exercise pure faith and hope that my vision would be restored. Many times I wanted to cry; I thought maybe if I did my eye would somehow get better. My diagnosis was seating somewhere in oblivion and I didn’t imagine how many more eye drops, tests and scans I would have to do. I went to Trinidad and when I finally met a neurologist he diagnosed me with optic neuritis. This is inflammation of the optic nerve, which interferes with the brain’s ability to read images. The good news was it would heal on its own but very slowly (yay!), the not so good news was that 30 percent of the time optic neuritis is triggered by causes such as multiple sclerosis or untreated infections. Also, sometimes vision does not come back entirely.
I am now home after doing multiple MRI’s and other tests in Trinidad where they were available. Now the wait is for results. Everyone around me believes I’m entirely fine, and that my sight will come back fully, which is a much more pleasant feeling than the uncomfortable concerned stares I received at first. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team at work or church, or better friends or another family.