One day, while watching TV, I became increasingly frustrated that the TV was “fuzzy”. Then, I slowly realized that everything was lost in the fuzz and I saw double, ghost images of everything.
I did what most people do in that situation. I rubbed my eyes vigorously, but the images didn’t change.
Yet, the dreadful reality of my situation still did not occur to me.
Not just then.
Later that day it did though.
Later, when I went to do some shopping for the kids. That’s when it happened. When I looked at the price tag and I realised that I couldn't see it.
That's when I realised that I had a BIG problem.
I discussed it with my husband (now ex-husband) and we agreed to get my eyes checked when he returned from his upcoming trip. But while he was away I became more concerned. I felt desperate because I could barely make out the traffic lights.
How was this possible?
How could I see one moment and then have things just “drop away”?
Of course, that's not what had happened.
In reality, I had probably not seen clearly since I was a child. What happened that day with the TV was the final tipping point – when my brain finally registered the gravity of the visual impairment.
The gravity of it – not being able to see – crept up and gnawed at me.
So, while my husband was away, I made the decision to go for an eye exam.
Scared, I slowly drove to a neighbourhood Eye Care Centre with my eldest, Mohammad, just 6 years old, calling out the colour of the traffic lights because I could barely see them.
At the Eye Care Centre, the optometrist examined my eyes, then looked anxiously from me to my children.
“Please tell me you didn’t drive here,” he said nervously.
Why had I driven there?
But before I could stutter a response, he said, “Well, you’re taking a taxi home."
He never actually told me what my visual acuity was on the Snellen Chart and I was so confused, I didn’t ask. He did tell me that I could no longer drive because I had a disease called Keratoconus and that I would have to be fitted with hard contact lenses to even get close to 6/6 (20/20) vision. Worst case scenario, he said I would have to have a cornea transplant, but he reassured me that the condition typically stabilised as patients got older, so that would probably never happen to me.
"I had never heard of Keratoconus before and I became more scared as he explained things like “bilateral, progressive eye disease”, “thinning of the corneas” and “cannot be corrected with glasses”. "
But even as I sat there, I resolved to be strong with the hope that I would eventually be fitted with contact lenses.
I mean, everyone had contact lenses, so how hard could it be?
The optometrists insisted that rigid contact lenses were my best option because glasses and soft contacts would not correct my vision. He told me that without them, I would not be able to live a normal life.
The next few years were very difficult with numerous attempts by optometrists in the US to fit me with rigid contact lenses, but all attempts were unsuccessful. They could not get the spherical contacts to sit properly on my cone-shaped corneas. As soon as I blinked, the minuscule lenses flipped precariously from my eyes.
My life was changing.
Unable to drive, I felt incredibly dependent on my husband and even on my small children for things like reading signs.