December 27, 2012

Sightlessness These Days

Not so long ago, it was not at all unusual to see blind people strolling along the streets tap-tapping away with their white sticks, being guided by a dog, usually a Labrador, but I have not seen anyone like that in Britain for years, as far as I remember.That has to be a good thing; it has to mean that we are beginning to cure or at least improve most forms of blindness.

My aunty had cataracts for years when I was a child in the Sixties - it was simply one of those things in life. Some people got them when they were getting on and others did not.

My brother's mother-in-law had cataracts in the late Nineties and she was enrolled on a two year waiting list to have them removed, but at least she had a reason to hope and they were going to be got rid of free of charge.

I do not know of anyone else that has eye problems except myself. I could not get my specs clean one day and then a friend said he saw a white spot in one of my eyes. He drove me to the hospital and the optician stated that I had 'premature senile cataracts'.

Well, I live in Thailand now and he did not use those exact words. He said that the cataracts were because I was prematurely senile.

I asked him if that was what he really meant; he looked it up in a book and we both had a hearty laugh about it, although he never actually corrected himself.

My condition turned out to be a little bit more serious than only cataracts, but when I went from the local hospital to a major hospital in Pattaya, the doctor saw me within 30 minutes and asked me if I wanted the cataracts removed.

I said that I did and she was prepared to do the operation there and then. I got it postponed for 24 hours, but she would have sorted my eye out that day in a 30 minute operation, which does not require anaesthetic. I think that that was wonderful.

We have come a long way from routinely seeing blind people on the street and putting up with cataracts during a two-year waiting list to immediate removal of cataracts by laser surgery in 40-50 years.

At least we have in the Developed World and in the East too, if you have the money. There are still millions of individuals in Asia and especially in Africa suffering blindness and partial blindness for the sake of an simple 30 minute operation.

Two weeks after my surgical treatment, my other eye started to cloud over. It was as if it had been holding on with its last scrap of strength until I got his mate sorted out.

I had that one treated last year and when I was allowed to take off my patch and look around me with two decent eyes again for the first time in a decade, I could not believe that I had forgotten how bright the world really is and that I had not noticed how dingy my world had become.

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