Artistry Resurrected after Sight Loss

Imagine this…

  • You passed your driving test, first time, aged 17 years and 4 months.
  • You’ve been driving for 44 years.
  • You’ve run your own business for 21 years and it’s necessitated you driving the length and breadth of the UK, clocking up over 20,000 miles a year.
  • You’ve driven all over the world, including a few trips from the UK to Switzerland and back.
  • You live in a very rural location with no facilities nearby.
  • You love driving.

And then you receive the following letter in the mail:

This is the letter sent to me by the UK government’s Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency, received on 18 June, 2022 (the day AFTER they cancelled my license).

From the tone of it, you’d think I’d done something wrong that’s resulted in my precious driving license being revoked… but I haven’t.

The letter lacks any compassion (which would cost nothing).  There’s no “sorry to advise you” nor any recognition of how devastating it is to receive such news.  It’s a horrible letter, both in tone and content.

Horse in pastels
Horse in pastels

Around 20 years ago during a routine visit to an optician, my eye fluid pressures were found to be on the high side so I was referred to Eastbourne District General Hospital’s Eye Clinic.  There it was confirmed that I’ve inherited a condition that afflicted my paternal Grandmother and both her sons – my Uncle and my Father.

I was prescribed drops to put in my eyes morning and evening and booked in for a follow-up appointment in six months.

Honestly, I didn’t think much of it.  My Dad had been using drops for a while but there was no sign of any deterioration in his eyesight.  And there was a bonus… after a couple of months using the drops I found I had gained luscious, long eyelashes as a result of the preservatives in them.  People would actually comment on the length of my lashes.  I was happy, and the twice-yearly trips to the eye hospital were only a minor inconvenience.

Glaucoma’s a funny old disease.  It’s called ‘the thief of sight’ because it sneaks up on you, even while you know you have it.  Sight loss is so gradual that you barely notice it happening.  It’s a silent and insidious enemy that you carry around inside.

What happens (as I understand it in layman’s terms) is that the pressure of fluid within the eye elongates the shape of the eyeball that then squeezes the optical nerve to the brain.  As a result of this squeezing, threads of the optical nerve die off, taking small patches of eyesight away with them bit-by-bit.  Once gone, they’ll never come back.

Leopard in coloured pencil

So the standard treatment is to try and reduce the eye pressure and this is initially done by the use of drops.  Later when the drops aren’t effective, you get tiny holes drilled, by laser, into your eyeball to allow the fluid to drain.  Still later, if the sight loss continues, you’ll have a trabeculectomy – basically, a sort of ‘trap door’ cut into the top of the eyeball – to give the fluid another route from which to drain.

Fast-forward and I’ve had all this but the sight loss is continuing.  The NHS websites states: “Glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it’s not diagnosed and treated early.”  What they don’t say is that even with such treatment, it can lead to loss of vision.

And it’s not just the vision.  Driving represents freedom.  Oh I know there’ll be some people reading this who might have never driven and so wouldn’t miss it, and I also take nothing away from the amazing people who were born blind and cope admirably, but when something you’ve had is taken away you feel it more acutely than if you’d never had it in the first place.

Corgi in coloured pencils

Of course, friends rally round with offers to drive me places and I’m very grateful.  But as well meaning as they are, I know most would soon get fed up if I were to call them at 7pm on a Friday night when they were just settling down after work so I could pop down town for fish & chips.  It’s little things like that that I now can’t do on the spur of the moment or without feeling I’m a burden on somebody.

Hub says we’ll manage and we just have to adapt to a new lifestyle and he’s right, of course.  And I have a couple of exceptionally good friends who go out of their way to drive me (isn’t that right, Ann & Roberto?).  But it doesn’t stop me getting angry and frustrated.

And it’s not just the driving.  I’ve always been a very visual person

Unlike when I was first diagnosed, I now see what’s in my future – a time when I won’t be able to do any of these things.  My Dad is now almost completely blind.  He’s 86.  Sadly, my Consultant has always considered me young to be at such an advanced stage so I’m beating my Dad at his own game, albeit for a prize I’d rather not have.

People don’t always realize the true nature of Glaucoma.  They talk about me regaining my licenseand suggest that there must be some treatment that can bring my sight back because “they can do wonders these days.”  They’re used to seeing adverts offering vision-correcting surgery in a lunch hour and hearing about older people having routine cataract ops under local anaesthetic, returning home the same day with sight restored.

No such treatment exists for Glaucoma.  It’s reported in the Review of Ophthalmology that scientists at Harvard Medical School are working on something called ‘epigenetic reprogramming.’  The thinking behind it seems to make sense since they’re focusing on the faulty genes that get passed on in this hereditary disease.

For some time, I’ve wanted a dog but Hub tells me he’s not up for “walking around with a little bag of pooh.”  I suggested we get a BIG dog and then he can walk around with a BIG bag of pooh!

Anyway, if things continue apace, I might yet be in line for that dog.  Every cloud…

German Shephers in coloured pencil
German Shepherd in coloured pencils

Meanwhile, since my enforced home confinement I’ve resurrected a love of art creation.  In our downstairs cloakroom we have a couple of drawings I did when I was 17.  I used to draw regularly but that hobby got shelved as “real life” took over.

I’ve begun working in watercolour, pastels, coloured pencil, charcoal and, my first love, graphite.  As I love animals, I started with them and now accept commissions.  I’m also revisiting graphite and human portraits.  And it’s fun to add in the odd quirky experiment – like the fried egg.

Fried egg in pastels
Fried egg in pastels

I’ll continue enjoying this for as long as I can.  If you’d like to see my work take a look at my website and let me know if you’d like to commission a piece, as long as I can still do it.

Spaniel in pastels
Spaniel in pastels

 

Who knows, perhaps the limited body of works will make them valuable one day.

www.mariadaviesblighart.co.uk

NHS Glaucoma information:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/glaucoma/

Review of Ophthalmology Article:  https://www.reviewofophthalmology.com/article/study-supports-reversal-of-vision-loss-from-glaucoma

Guide dogs for the blind:  https://www.guidedogs.org.uk

Author

  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *