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"Blind My Eye": A Commentary

By Tom Dodge

Dallas, TX – April Fool's Day was the day the light went out in my right eye. I did not make a list of all my foolish acts, conceits, and stock purchases that may have precipitated the sudden loss of my vision. But if I did, at the top would be my foolish act of throwing a discus in my driveway last November. A school kid had thrown it into my yard, and I tried to hurl it back in the way I could easily have done if I had been 21 instead of, well, much older.

As I spun around, the balancing level in my ear, out of practice in this sort of foolishness for these 40 years, was taken completely off guard and failed to do its job. On my second spin, I seemed to go airborne, then crash onto the concrete, the back of my head taking all of the force of the impact. It was like one of those boxers, when they are hit so hard they are unconscious before they even start to fall, and their head bounces off the canvas.

During the nanosecond before the impact, I assumed I would be killed and wondered whether my insurance had a "foolish acts" exclusion. When I wasn't dead, or even unconscious, I thought there must be some mistake. No one could tolerate such an impact without at least some kind of injury. But headaches and elevated blood pressure followed, and my health care personage scheduled me for an MRI. This is a sarcophagus with jackhammers. It showed no abnormalities.

Then, spiraling clumps of what looked like hair appeared in my right eye. Also, there was a pink curtain obscuring my vision spattered by trillions of tiny brown dots. I called an eye specialist. His receptionists both told me it was just "floaters," a normal function of aging. I asked for an examination by the doctor anyway. He verified these experts' diagnosis, except he told me to call him immediately if I started losing vision in any quadrant of my eye. Strangely, I forgot this vital warning.

Three days later I woke with an ominous black curtain ascending from the left quadrant of that eye. By seven that evening it had covered nine-tenths of my vision. I was sitting at a banquet beside Cheryl Chapman, the books editor of The Dallas Morning News. I said to her, "I hate to tell you this, but I may miss my deadline. I can't see out of my right eye." I added the part about the black curtain.

She got up immediately, took me to the lobby, and called an eye surgeon she knew, Dr. Rajiv Anand. He said to meet him the next morning at nine at the hospital, and not to eat after midnight. It was a detached retina. It was a result of the fall, the surgeon said.

Now, two months after surgery, the light has come back on in that eye. But instead of being far-sighted in that eye, I am near-sighted.

That's good. I have always concentrated too heavily on things down the line while tending to ignore the pressing details right in front of me, such as the warning that I might lose vision in one quadrant. Now, while I can still keep one eye out for the various follies waiting down the line, I can take better notice of the stumbling blocks at my feet and other important matters at hand.

Tom Dodge is a writer from Midlothian, Texas.