Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Thank you to http://www.lighthouse.org/ for granting my use of your picture.

This illustration, provided by lighthouse.org, is an example of what someone sees when they have right homonymous hemianopia.  I have left homonymous hemianopia.  This picture is very close to the view from my world as I look out onto a busy street.  As a result of my stroke, the left half of my sight is always completely black.  I have no ability to see the left half of the visual fields from either my right or left eye.  I am lucky the remaining eyesight, straight forward and to the right, have remained normal.

Another way to explain homonymous hemianopia is by using the example of an analog clock.  When I look straight at its center, I will see the 2 from the twelve on top.  The 1 from that twelve is completely black as are 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.  I am able to clearly see the other 1, the 2, 3, 4, 5 and part of the 6.  If I look directly at someone’s nose, I can see their nose and the left half of their face.  If I look at their left ear, the face will disappear into darkness.  Please understand my missing eyesight is not what causes prosopagnosia.  Rather, that stems from a different area in the brain.  Even if I regained my ability to have a complete, unhampered view of the world, I would not be able to remember a face again.

Having complete or homonymous hemianopia is different from losing sight from one eye in that the sight remaining from the good eye still allows for some peripheral capability.  The unaffected eye will normally have the complete ability to see side views to assist with deficits created by the affected eye.   Lacking peripheral sight on one side from both eyes can be extremely challenging.

So how does this lack of sight alter my daily living?  I walk into walls now I do not notice.  I have found it more difficult to determine if someone is talking to me because it is more challenging to see where their eyes are directed.  Shaving my legs becomes more difficult when half of the leg disappears. Vacuuming is an unending chore: I think I have cleaned the entire room only to turn my head and realize there was a large section I did not see therefore clean.  Cooking is also negatively affected.  This is most noticed when I am using a knife.  When my left hand holds a vegetable, my right hand will cut.  While looking at my right hand and where the knife is coming down, I will not be able to see my left fingers.  It becomes dangerously easy to cut myself.  Also, there is a major decrease in depth perception especially as night falls.  Reading has also taken on unexpected challenges.  When reading articles in magazines, I often am confused following the story.  I easily miss the columns on the left.

Yes, when missing eyesight, a whole new array of challenges present themselves.  Learning to compensate was one of the great gifts created when the majority of my eyesight was missing when I awoke after experiencing my stroke.  At first, most of my world was black.  It was a very gradual process to regain the sight which I now have.  When possibilities of what I could regain was first discussed with my physicians, we did not know what would be recovered.  I had doubts I would ever see better.  Essentially I could have been blind for the rest of my life and never have seen my daughters’ faces again.  By the time I could see fifty percent from each eye, I was extremely relieved.  I went from waking up to a dark room to being able to notice small details in faces and photos.  I had the ability to get around without any added assistance.  With the sight I now have, I was able to reclaim an independent life.

I hope you have noticed nowhere in this post is the word vision used when explaining what I have lost.  There is a definite difference between how these two words can be defined.  Initially, I lost a lot of my eyesight.  Currently, I still have a substantial portion of my eyesight missing.  I would love to no longer walk into walls or hit my head on open cabinet doors.  A large amount of my sight is gone and will probably, realistically, never return.  Yet, I have not lost my vision.  If anything, at the time my sight disappeared, my vision for life became even clearer.  I carry hope and happiness daily in every aspect of my life.  I have a vision to share this hope with everyone I can get my message to as I speak of being a young stroke patient, living with epilepsy and prosopagnosia.  I no longer have sight, but I am filled with a tremendously powerful vision!

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Comments on: "A View of My World" (16)

  1. Justin said:

    Fantastic blog Tara! A neurology clinic should literally print this page out and hand it to the thousands of stroke patients with hemianopias to prepare them for what is to come.

    • Justin,

      This is one of the greatest compliments I could have received coming from someone I greatly respect!

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to this post. It was very much appreciated!

      Tara

  2. Such a clear explanation of the condition, Tara. But also such a clear explanation of the difference between eyesight (the mechanics) and vision (the mind, soul, spirit). Your vision is indeed unimpaired.

    • Judith,

      I am glad you gained so much from this post. I worked on it for quite awhile. So often people try to gasp what I see. This is my formal answer I have written for them. You have a strong vision also. That is one reason I so greatly enjoy exchanging thoughts with you. I hope you are having a great week!

      Tara

  3. I apologize to Tara and the faithful followers of Finding Strength to Stand Again. For the past three months, I have fallen back into dealing with the implantation of an MRI compatible pacemaker, balance and attention problems, return of mild aphasia and some minor seizures, and early onset Parkinson’s. Knowning I wanted to read and go through many important messages I received over the past three months, I saved all messages and have been going through them carefully this week. I finally came to this one. It reminded me of a number of the stories in Dr. Oliver Sacks’ poignant yet funny book “The Man Who Mistook His WIfe for a Hat.” There was one story in particular about a women who would only eat the food on one side of her plate, and how she and her caregivers solved the problem.

    I am getting more accustomed to the pacemaker. I was able to walk the eight blocks to the ice cream shop in out little town. The cardiologist’s office said the pacemaker is working perfectly. They even dialed it down a little to slow down my heart just a bit.

    The difference that Tara points out between sight and vision is very significant. Reading many articles and commentaries about higher education recently, I find it amazing that extremely intelligent persons find it easier to see the faults and problems in others than themselves. I guess that shouldn’t amaze me. Afterall we are all people. When we look in a mirror we don’t see all of us. We only see what we want to see.There are lots of holes and black spots.

    • I am so happy you stopped by and took time to write! I have been worried about you. You may not be out beating the biking or basketball records -yet-, but I am glad to know you are out and about walking around.

      I also enjoy the books written by Dr. Oliver Sacks. I hope that you are able to enjoy more ice cream as your weather warms up!

      Thank so much for updating us. It is always a joy to see your comments appear on my posts!

      Tara

  4. […] longer answers: In the recent post A View of My World, I showed a picture of the way I see the world with left homonymous hemianopia.  I do have a lot […]

  5. […] stroke can alter someone’s lifestyle.  I used to have fun splashing in puddles.  I used to have all of my eyesight.  I used to have more “normal” abilities than I have now.  Yet, I am amazed at things the […]

  6. […] loss of sight?  Can the optic nerve reconnect from the damage that was done and provide complete eyesight ever again?  If so, will I be able to know my own children’s faces at that time?  Was […]

  7. […] had an increased patience and truly understood how to help them grow.  I lost some of my eyesight resulting in homonymous hemianopia. This grew a new passion to help kids use their eyesight to read and experience adventures.  […]

  8. […] far as not letting things slow me down, this post was a great example.  I have homonymous hemianopia.  Half of my world will always be completely black.  I cannot identify anyone by looking at their […]

  9. […] reading my post A View of My World , the editor of Stroke Connection Magazine, Jon Caswell, wrote me the following message: “I read […]

  10. […] I have hemianopia and can no longer see anything using my left peripheral  from both eyes.  Click here to see a picture I showed on a previous post which demonstrates how a street looks now when I walk […]

  11. What an inspiration you are!

  12. thank you for this…I have left hemianopia and have the hardest time describing it to folks who constantly ask which eye can I not see out of. I finally put black tape over the left half of both lenses of a pair of sunglasses and this begins to replicate the experience.

    • I am glad this post helped. I know what you mean about the glasses. I used to try that too, but people would just shift their eyes! I can only imagine how hard it is for our families and friends to truly understand.

      I am curious, have you experienced left neglect?

      Thanks for taking the time to write me. It means a lot to know you’re out there.

      Tara

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