- News stories
- Events calendar
- NCBI News Magazine
- NCBI News Autumn 2010
- NCBI News Autumn 2011
- AFB Celebrates 90th Year
- Children's Independent Living Skills Workshop
- Fundraising News
- Historical Perspective on Cures
- In Conversation With
- Key Fundraising Events and Activities
- NCBI's South East Region's trip to Carlingford
- New App Paves the way for VIPs
- Newbridge First with New NCBI Retail Brand
- News in Brief
- Sight Lines - Strength in Partnership
- Six Nations Braille Chess Tournament 2011
- Tablet lets vision impaired build a picture
- Tablet lets vision impaired build a picture
- Update from Irish Blind Sports
- We're from Wexford but we're no slobs
- Would you chose to restore your sight?
- NCBI News Autumn 2012
- NCBI News Spring 2011
- NCBI News Spring 2012
- NCBI News Spring 2013
- NCBI News Summer 2010
- NCBI News Summer 2012
- NCBI News Winter 2010
- NCBI News Winter 2011
- Public Policy and Campaigns
- Home >
- News >
- NCBI News Magazine >
- NCBI News Autumn 2011 >
- Would you chose to restore your sight?
You are here
NCBI News asked two blind readers, Joe Bollard and Kerie Doyle to share their views on living with sight loss and to tell us whether they would chose to have their sight restored, if the option were available to them. Frank Callery follows their views with some historical background on ‘cures’ for blindness in Ireland.
Joe Bollard: Yes!
Being blind is a pain in the backside (so, I’ve got my anatomy askew, but you know what I mean). Let’s start from waking up in the morning: stretch, yawn, put out your hand for your slippers, or in this case, slipper, there were two beside each other when I went to bed last night, grope around, no slipper, extend grope, under bed, still no slipper. If I could see I could focus on the stupid slipper and get it right away. Why do my slippers go walk-about in the night?
The shower is on and everything is hunky-dory until I drop the soap. So now it’s grope time again, feeling around for the soap. If I could see I’d spot it right away. Instead I slide my foot around to try to locate the soap, a ballet dancer would be proud of my twirl! I still can’t find the soap so I give up. Now I can’t remember where I left the towel, it should be on the rail, but of course it’s not. Dripping water all over the place searching for said towel, I realise it’s not going to be my day. I eventually find the towel, on the floor, soaking wet. If I could see I would have spotted the towel right away.
I decided to go shopping with Dillon, my guide dog. I know there won’t be too many problems as far as he is concerned. I have to get a new set of headphones for my mp3 player as I stood on the last pair when they fell off my lap onto the floor. If I could see I wouldn’t have stamped on them. So I go into the shop, where there is music blasting out of the speakers and I can’t hear where I’m going. I find the counter and wonder if there is anyone behind it. I smile stupidly and say, “hello”. No answer, there must be no one there. I say “hello” again, a little louder this time but I must be the only person around. Eventually I shout “hello” but still nothing. If I could see I’d know if there was anyone behind the counter. In desperation I lean as far over the counter as possible and sniff, yes, sniff! I get the faint aroma of perfume, or is it aftershave? “I’d like to purchase a set of headphones please,” I shout (due to the loud music) and eventually it speaks. “What kind?” Why did the girl not say something earlier? I eventually find a set of headphones and hand over my money. The till rings and she says, “here’s your change”. I hold out my hand … nothing. Eventually she says “it’s on the counter in front of you”. Cue more groping, and at last I find the money, and head for the door.
I think I’ll go for a cup of coffee and I find the coffee dock no problem as I know the geography of the place quite well. I realise my usual table is occupied when I put my hand on the table and reach out for the chair and accidentally hit someone across the face, they were sitting in the chair I usually sit in, it’s usually vacant at this time of the day, sincere apologies, and move on, I apologise and one of the staff guides me to an empty table, order my usual latte.
I relax with my coffee and start to think about this blind thing. I can tell you that if there was an overall cure for every type of blindness I’d be first in the queue. I know this narrative sounds like something out of Some Mothers do ‘ave ‘em and smacks of Michael Crawford. How many times do I find myself saying “If I could see”? We get lots of assistance and encouragement, daily living skills, mobility training, etc. But nobody prepares you for the “slipper thief”, the “absconding soap”, or the public toilet experience. I could write a complete novel on experiences in public toilets for blind people. Why can’t they put toilet roll holders in the same place?
If I ruled the world (as the song says), every person in this world would have to be blind for one whole day. There would be a lot of changes made to assist blind people with ordinary everyday things. I haven’t even mentioned travelling, eating out, getting a haircut, going to the theatre, football game, and church. So I’ll say it one more time “if I could see” my day would have a lot less hassle.
Kerie Doyle: No!
As you’ve probably read the arguments for the yes side first, (not that this is some kind of political debate) you’re probably wondering who is this mad crazy person who wouldn’t get their sight back even if they had the chance. Why wouldn’t I want it? How could I not want all those things? To drive a car, actually be able to see the clothes I pick out in the morning, being able to literally “watch” TV and not spill sugar every time I make a cup of coffee? Well allow me to try to explain.
I was born three months early on 10th March 1987 on the beautiful sunny island of Majorca, Spain. As I was premature I had to be given life-saving oxygen, which was done under the watchful eye of my aunt, my mum’s sister, who was fluent in Spanish. I can’t imagine what this must have been like for my mum, all alone in a country, unable to speak the language and not understanding what the doctors were saying. After a while, due to the oxygen, both of my retinas detached, and I was diagnosed with the eye condition ROP, or detached retinopathy of prematurity. I lost my sight at 8-months-old due to this condition, although needless to say I don’t remember having sight at all. I then lost my eyes, at the age of 10 and now have two prosthetic ones, which I’m told look very realistic, but this wasn’t without its share of problems either. I have had numerous surgical procedures over the years, but thankfully, that’s all done with now.
My childhood was normal. I was one of those very lucky children whose parents didn’t know how to treat me any different. There were bikes, scooters, skates and even roller blades at one point! I played on swings and slides at school, played chasing with friends, rolled down hills, climbed up and down ladders in play houses, and even had a bike in an aunt’s house which I was told was red. On the serious side of things at school, I of course learned to read and write in Braille. I thought it was great to be able to have my own secret code, and I still love Braille to this day.
I attended a school for blind girls until the age of 14, when my parents made the decision to send me to mainstream school. Mainstream school was a wake up call, and it taught me that not everyone is nice all the time, my blindness was taken advantage of sometimes but it taught me that I would have to put up with people’s lack of understanding of blindness and maybe even educate them a bit.
When I left school I came to NCBI’s training centre, where I undertook the rehabilitation course. I was sick of depending on family and friends to get around and my mobility came on in leaps and bounds. That was one of the best decisions of my life. I am starting a college course very soon and I’m really looking forward to that.
My experiences up to this point have been the same as anyone else you might talk to. If I had sight I would have had the same experiences but they wouldn’t have been as unique,and I like unique! I’m also still learning how to do things every day and the thought of having to learn how to do everything a different way doesn’t appeal to me at all.
When I meet a person for the first time, I form an impression based on what I hear, as in the tone or intonation of a voice, and of course how they behave towards me. I do not base my opinion on what they look like, and I don’t care if someone has no fashion sense. When I hear a song, I listen to the instruments and the artist’s voice and don’t particularly care what that person looks like. I feel I can truly appreciate music and I feel that if I could see I wouldn’t have a music library that is as eclectic as I do. I enjoy having a little bit of quirkiness that says I’m a little bit different and I like to think I’m a little quirky myself. I wouldn’t like to see because though blindness isn’t what I am, it’s what makes me, me. I definitely want to keep on having fun and interesting experiences like the ones I’ve written about here and for that reason I wouldn’t get my sight back, even if I had the chance.