“All those accidents I’d had over the years- smashing my forehead into lamposts, bashing my shins into coffee tables, face-planting when I tripped over fire hydrants- they weren’t because I was an airhead who didn’t pay attention. They were because I had one-third the field of vision that everyone else had…”
Nicole had just finished her Sophomore year in college when she went to an eye exam with a specialist recommended to her by her ophthalmologist. After a series of random questions and an ERG (basically contacts with electrodes) Nicole is diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease where the photo-receptor cells in the retnia are dying. She was optimistically given about a decade of usable vision before she’d become completely blind.
“It’s an unsettling sensation to witness your past getting a major rewrite. It was like Dr. Hall had run a “find and replace” search on the document of my life; for every instance of “‘clumsy,” replace with “blind.”
There is a lot of deep denial in the beginning: a trip to Italy instead of a summer internship, an impulsive move to Los Angeles to audition for pilot season and blaming her vision impaired mistakes of ditziness or even drunkenness to avoid telling anyone.
Nicole eventually settles down, gets married and has children where her struggles with parenthood go beyond just new mom jitters. After a humiliating experience at a friend’s birthday party she finally accepts that she is legally blind and in need of assistance. She shares her experiences with a vocational therapist and mobility instructor, Esperanza, as she learns to function within the world as a blind woman- including the use of a cane.
It’s a sad situation but Nicole is self-deprecating and sharing her story, even the parts that make her looks stubborn or immature, will help people in a similar situation. I’m very grateful to be in possession of 20/20 vision.