For the past while, I’ve been wrestling with the decision: Do I get a dog guide or not?
As a result of surviving violent child abuse (Shaken Baby Syndrome) at the hands of my almost adoptive parents, I was placed into foster care. My foster mom noticed and was concerned that I held items unusually close to my face when looking at them. She took me to a specialist, who diagnosed me as having Optic Atrophy, which is a damaged optic nerve. The optic nerve is the connection between the eye and the brain. Since mine is damaged, my brain is constantly working to translate what I’m seeing, and filling in information that I’m not.
All my life I’ve worked to find inconspicuous ways to fit into society’s version of normal. Until now, my toughest struggle was with school. I learned early, to rely on my memory – even so, I fell behind and ended up repeating two grades. Graduation was a HUGE accomplishment for me 😊
Over the years since school, I’ve met and married an amazing man, had a family, co-founded a not-for-profit organization, and am active in my church and community. Having a tenacious personality and surrounding myself with loving supportive people have definitely been key factors in my success, and God is the reason I’ve survived and thrived. Most babies die or are left severely physically and mentally disabled as a result of being shaken as hard as I was.
People often ask what I can see, so I’ll explain it the best I can. 20/20 is perfect vision, but if the higher the bottom number, the worse the vision. My right eye is 20/800, which makes it pretty useless to me, but it keeps my face looking symmetrical, so I let it stay 😊. My left eye is 20/400, which means that what you see 400 feet away, I can only see at 20 feet. As far as I can tell, things aren’t blurry at a distance, but I can’t tell, because my brain fills in what I can’t see.
Now that I’m a mother, the safety of my children is far more important than my pride – insert dog guide decision. I feel like I could (for the most part) get along fine on my own, but simple things like crossing the street and taking an evening stroll become things that make me very nervous once my children are involved, especially since the double stroller goes out into the street before me. Is that car parked or beginning to move? Is that guy holding a weapon or a cell phone? I also rely on drivers obeying traffic laws, which they often don’t. Is that driver waiting for me to cross because he sees my ID cane? If so, will the driver in the next lane stop as well or speed past and hit my child in the stroller? Life gets especially scary when I’m out with my kids, and that’s the main reason I believe I should apply for a dog guide.