The Next Hurdle

Today I had to pay the eye hospital another visit. This time around was a lot more stressful in the sense that I had to rely on the public for their kindness, patience and assistance.

I was given eye drops on the spot so a test could be undertaken. This meant my eyesight would be temporarily blurry albeit for a good few hours only. I tried not to go into panic mode as my thoughts returned to the journey home, by foot, train and bus. How would I manage all that? One pondered.

Unfortunately, patients’ names are called out at this particular hospital so I could not help but daydream, gazing at the floor, unable to focus on anyone around me. I found myself trying to listen perhaps to compensate for the temporary sight loss. Each time a name was called, I paused to see if it sounded similar to mine until one name when I thought, “Ooh, was that my name? It could have been but perhaps not because the receptionist hadn’t come to alert me.” Doubts crept in as intuition told me that was my name so I looked up to appease my nerves and saw the nurse who had earlier, done the eye drops, approaching me and with her hand, waved for me to come. I explained to her that I could not focus on anyone’s lips. She understood. The doctor DID call my name. (Go me!)

While my hearing aids enable me to hear so much more – not being able to focus, I could not really hear as well which proves to me just how much we hear with our eyes – it became clearer to me just how unfair playing the deaf card can be. I never used to question why deaf people thought they were entitled to pay only half of their TV license fees, like those with blindness do. “It’s only fair,” they would state… ‘Tis not fair at all for blindness alone causes one to be so much more dependent, stressed and isolated than deafness can. Our eyesight is extremely precious, hearing less so. However, when it is combined?

When those who happen to be deaf, try their luck in taking advantage of any privileges that is usually taken for granted, they run the risk of offending those so much more entitled. For sure, there are those who rely on solely sign language and for some it can be a matter of life or death but for most, not really, because they can at least understand the nation’s language, be it written or spoken.

The eye doctor, who made every effort possible to speak extremely clearly, put me at ease very quickly. I could see enough to gauge, and what to do next all the while making mental notes of how it felt being unable to see, so clearly, for your information.

For example, I noticed how much more comfortable it felt to look down, it put less pressure on my eyes and relatively, my headache – no or less visible noise for my eyes to try to focus on. I also wondered if I was standing and holding myself, gazing to the side as a blind person usually do.

Eventually, I was free to go except the prospect of the journey home filled me with utter dread.

How was I going to cross the roads safely? How was I going to know which destination on the train it would be or which line the train was? Alternatively, which stop it was? How this and that, I could not answer.

hurdles

The first hurdle was taking a few tentative steps outside but I had to be brave and just go for it. I expected to see a green man at a crossing to indicate when it was safe to cross but it was not a man, just a green blob.

I had no choice but to retrace my steps home – from memory with an abundance of patience.

The next hurdle was checking I had the right (train) platform home. I decided I could only follow the colour of the tube lines I needed and then when I needed direction as to take which platform, I took consciously longer to look at the shape of the words, indicating its destination. Did the size and outline of their word match the word I had, in my mind? If it did not, it had to be the wrong platform. I had to triple check with myself before I had the confidence that I was going in the right direction.

The next hurdle was to be sure of the next train’s destination, or was it to be a train meant for elsewhere? Under so much stress, I reminded myself to look at the word once again; did the size and outline match? Yes it did – quick double check, yes off I jumped onto the tube. How would I know when it was my stop? This was not my usual or local train so from memory I recalled the stops on my way there, counting on my fingers – putting each finger down for each stop. When the time came to change lines, I underwent the same motions not once but twice more. On the last tube change, I could start to relax being in familiar territory.

The next hurdle was in catching the bus home. The people traffic by then had worn me out; having been on tenterhooks the whole journey, hoping people would be mindful and patient with someone who may have looked extremely lost.

As I stood at the bus stop, leaning against it, I could see in the distance a bus but it was stationary. At least it is coming, or so I thought. I realised I was still waiting… The bus had not yet arrived yet it was still there, in the distance. Perhaps something serious had happened. Still, I was kept waiting. What could the matter be? I then wondered if… the bus was actually a bus or a town house. Of course, that explained it!

Finally, a bus turned up except no one could get on it. By this time, I put my instinct into people power and followed them to the next bus behind. I was completely exhausted, mentally.

There were several text messages for me, on my mobile; I tried to remain calm, not being able to read them to understand if my kids urgently needed me. I had to ignore the texts… of which, my daughter read for me once I got home and responded to.

Of course as with last time, I later indulged in some sensuous chocolates but that is no longer important as I know there will be many more trips to endure to and from the eye hospital yet I do not mind because I anticipate that with each insightful experience, one will become wiser for it.

My respect is well and truly reserved for those who genuinely need attention, not those who want attention.

Let us move on from campaigning for additional deaf rights, more deaf awareness when we should be supporting those campaigning for more deafblind rights and awareness since it would benefit every single one of us.  If it were not for any of the colour designated posts, i.e. green man, different colour tube lines, I would not have managed to get home – independently. Who then, deserves our consideration and assistance, the most?

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

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