I (Jody) was halfway through a long and stressful eye appointment at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. After a slow and inept exam by a resident, I was waiting for the glaucomologist.
It was then that I realized what I had been humming all day: Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my life. I had to smile to myself: how appropriate! And how gracious of God to remind me that He was with me.
I was diagnosed with glaucoma in December 2005. Researchers don’t understand how glaucoma causes optic nerve damage, but elevated intraocular pressure is somehow involved. High pressure is a warning sign and lowering pressure slows the vision loss. When your eye exam includes the “puff of air” pressure check, you are being screened for glaucoma.
But some people, like me, have pressure which tests “normal” but is evidently too high for that person. Because glaucoma’s progress is slow and subtle and our brains fill in small gaps in our vision, these people usually don’t realize they have glaucoma until their vision loss is severe enough to be noticed.
Currently, I take three prescription eye drops seven times daily to lower my intraocular pressure. I will never regain my lost vision, but this regimen seems to be slowing further vision loss, and I’m very thankful.
When my opthalmologist in Eugene heard that I was moving to Ecuador, he was concerned about my medical care there. He referred me to the leading glaucoma specialist in Oregon, asking his opinion on my having a “last resort” eye surgery before I left.
Thankfully, the specialist felt that my vision was stable enough to wait on that surgery. He did give me the name of a glaucomologist in Quito, an internationally-known doctor of whom even my eye doctor in Eugene had heard!
Hanging Up My Keys
At the end of the exam in Portland, I asked the glaucomologist, “I haven’t driven at night for four years or so. Do you think I should stop driving altogether?” He said, “Well, you’re still legal–you don’t have to stop. But if it were me, I’d stop. It isn’t worth the risk of hurting someone else.”
I struggled with this for about two weeks, thinking and praying. Then, about a month ago, I had two close calls within 15 minutes. First, I didn’t see a car pulling out of a parking space, and then I didn’t see a pedestrian crossing in front of me.
I knew it was time to stop: I couldn’t ask for clearer guidance from God than two close calls with no injuries. The adjustment has been difficult, with lots of emotions: fear, anger, frustration, jealousy. It’s a grieving process, much like when I was first diagnosed. God will get me through it.
What about the Future?
The big answer is that my future is in God’s hands. My glaucoma did not catch Him by surprise: it is part of His plan and He will use it for good.
I’m thankful that we had already decided to be carless in Ecuador, so I wasn’t going to be driving anyway. I’m also thankful that I can still do the clerical work I enjoy. I use a large monitor and need a good light for any papers I’m typing from, but I manage very well.
Glaucoma progresses very slowly and I hope it is many years before I can’t do clerical work. If and when that time comes, God will have other things I can do to share Jesus’ love wherever we are living.
And I probably will still find myself humming Be Thou My Vision at unexpected times!