That day my bag held my cane and my array of contact lenses and solutions. I was being seen at the Watford clinic where Dr Larkin visited once a week.
As usual, and attendant called me to check my vision. However, when he asked if these were my distance glasses for driving I responded that I don’t drive and when he asked me if I use them to watch TV, I said I can’t really see the TV with them. And when he asked me to read the letters with my right eye, much to my shock I said, “I can’t see any letters.”
Gathering that I was confused and distraught that I could see no letters, the attendant asked me what was wrong.
“I don't understand. This (my right eye) is my good eye.”
The attendant then stood in front of me and asked if I could see the card he was holding. No. He kept walking towards me until he was about 2 feet in front of me at which time I still only saw what looked like a dark, squiggly shadow on his white medical coat.
The left eye provided a distorted version of the large E at the top of the chart - several blurred Es, warped and stacked haphazardly multiple numerous times on top of each other.
I waited nervously for Dr Larkin, expecting that we would discuss my contact lenses options in depth.
When I was called into the small section where Dr Larkin sat, I could not even clearly see his face. I would not be able to recognise him if I saw him again. But I will always remember what he said.
After he took about 30 seconds to look into each eye, he pulled the machine away and said bluntly, “Your eyes are both diseased and your corneas are too thin for lenses to even stay on them. That’s why they’re popping out. I recommend that you have a cornea transplant in both eyes.”
I was stunned. What? I thought we were going to talk about contact lenses.
I started blinking like it would make my brain work better and I desperately wanted to see Dr Larkin’s facial expression. He seemed to realise then that I was a bit stunned and softened his manner slightly.
“Look,” he said. “You’re right eye is now your ‘bad’ eye. It's 1/60 (greater than 20/1000) now. And your left eye is about the same, a little better about 6/60 (20/200). I see from your file that you’ve had difficulty with contact lenses, which doesn't surprise me. So, you can continue trying lenses, but you’ll be right back here next year. Or we can do a transplant which would make wearing contact lenses more tolerable.”
I hadn't known my visual acuity for a long time, but I knew what the numbers meant. Now I had numbers for the world I'd been living in for the last year.
1/60 (R) - near-blindness 6/60 (L) - severe visual impairment
It was like having an address you'd lost, only to find out that you live in a horrible section of town. You're happy to know where home is, but sad that it's not a nice place.
“Wh – when would it be done?” I stuttered.
Perhaps around the end of August. Okay?
But my mind was whirling. All I could think about was that someone would die and leave me this gift.