Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘vision’

Most Brutal of Teachers



Insurance said I recovered as much as I could within a few months of my stroke, but I knew I could do more. I knew I would have to work hard, but my recovery was going to be worth every ounce of effort I put into it. It was necessary to improve beyond what I had suddenly been reduced to. Even with all of my hope, I never had the expectation that I would be back to 100% of where I was before my cerebral vascular accident (CVA). Did I want it back? Desperately! But, I also had to accept reality.


The reality, from the viewpoint on my hospital bed, was that I would never get everything back. Although, being a young stroke victim did offer a unique path to becoming a stroke survivor. I still am not graceful when I make a feeble attempt to jog, but at least I walk. My eyesight is completely missing on the left peripheral. Yet, through this I’ve come to realize a vision for a positive future has nothing to do with what your eyes see; rather, it is what your heart, mind, and soul can create for a reality.


I completely agree with C.S. Lewis. I learned. My God did I ever learn. I am extremely grateful I had this brutal teacher of life offer me these experiences. Growing up with epilepsy, I never would have thought I could have seizures which would nearly end my life. I never would have been able to comprehend the idea of brain surgery. I never understood what a stroke was. Why should’ve I? No one young faces things like these. (At least, that was the innocence I used to maintain.) I faced brutal teachers.


Yet, these battles have created an inner strength I never could have imagined. Within these unfortunate experiences, I have learned so much about our brains and bodies. I truly believe it is not only a need but also a gift to help share these life lessons and teach others who are in the midst of facing the brutal teachings life is throwing their way. I have learned. Now it is my hope, desire, and –might I even say- responsibility to help others through this unpredictable journey known as life.

Sunday Sunshine #2

Recently, I had a piece published in Stroke Connection magazine.  The article began conversations of how various people viewed the difference between sight and vision.  This moving story was forwarded to me.  I was anxious to share it with you:

Two Men & the Hospital Window

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation, and on and on.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man couldn’t hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed…..

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.

He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.  She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

Author Unknown

Epilogue: Sometimes your heart will see more than your eyes do.  Share the beauty of your vision.  Offer hope.  Encourage others in your life.

Missing Eyesight Offers Vision

After reading my post A View of My World , the editor of Stroke Connection Magazine, Jon Caswell, wrote me the following message: “I read your article and I have a question. At the end you distinguish between vision and eyesight and I didn’t understand the distinction. Can you clarify that for me?”

After the Storm

I appreciate questions for clarification and would like to share my answer with everyone:

Thank you for taking the time to ask your question.  In my post-stroke world, I feel there is a significant difference between the words “vision” and “eyesight”.

Eyesight is a common word meaning what we are able to view/see.  This definition portrays a noun.  My usage of the word “vision” is a verb.  In this regard, it is derived from an old French word meaning being seen within an imagination.  I was attempting to find a better way yet to describe it but decided to head to the trusty dictionary.  Here is what Merriam-Webster offered:  “2 a: the act or power of imagination b (1): mode of seeing or conceiving (2): unusual discernment or foresight <a person of vision>”

You see, I lost a lot of my eyesight.  I woke up in a hospital bed and only saw darkness.  I lost the ability to see anything in my room.  Immediately, I became upset when nurses and well-meaning friends would show concern and pain for the “vision” I lost.  I do not know why, but even from that early stage of recovery I knew there was a powerful difference between eyesight and vision.  I still had vision.  To me, vision held hope.  I could not see the walkers physical therapy assistants wheeled in my direction, but I could see the opportunity to get stronger and walk again someday.  I held a vision.  I could not see the aides I was trying to make smile, but I could hear the hope in their voices when they responded to my jokes.  I had a vision I would come back and train them to foresee and better meet the needs of their patients.

I did eventually have enough eyesight to see that walker.  I saw it be put away into a closet when I was strong enough to never need it again.  I did have eyesight to look the aides in the eye and see the hope they were developing.  I went back months later upon an invitation to train them about my experiences.  I did not have the eyesight originally, but I still had vision which lit my path.  With the vision I held, I was able to continue to hope and evolve my dreams into a new reality.

Prosopagnosia and Sight Loss: Visions and Dreams

Two questions always asked when I am speaking to people about my limitations are: “When you have lost so much vision, how hard is it for you to cope?”  The other: “Since you have lost most of your visual memory and ability to recognize faces, do you still have dreams?”

Now, I am fully aware what is being asked, “Does it bother you, you can’t see as well as you used to” and “what fills your mind at night”.  I know these are their questions, but I hope the real meaning is never misunderstood by people I am trying to educate and inspire.  My answers in short: Yes I would like to see more.  Yes, I still have thoughts that fill my sleep but not images.

The 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 of sight missing, but vision is not always a definition of what you see in front of you.  I have goals for my future.  I have a plan designed to guide me towards achieving great things.  I am not lacking vision.

Dreams are not always the images and pictures your imagination creates.  Sometimes a dream is what you hope for in the future.  I do have hope.  Regarding the night dreams people are referring to when asking this question, my imagination still fills my sleep with stories at night.  With prosopagnosia, these dreams are limited but still very realistic.  I no longer see pictures of people running.  I no longer see the cliff I am stepping off, but I still wake with a falling sensation.  Yet, I still have dreams that leave me uneasy in the morning or can cause tears to come in the night.  Like my waking hours no images fill my mind.  With closed eyes, I experience only darkness.  My dreams are remembered in a mind that no longer sees pictures.

Have you ever read a really good book?  This book was so good you could not turn the pages fast enough.  This book had you full of anticipation, and you refused to put it down until you finished the last page.  Have you ever read a book that caused tears to stream down your face?  This book may have left you stressed and saddened for the rest of the day.  These are similar to my dreams at night.  I do not see images, but I understand the occurrence through words I think and sounds I hear.

How does someone without much visual memory and prosopagnosia dream vividly at night?  Here is an example of a nightmare that haunted me: I remember singing with my two children in the car.  (I could hear the wind blowing fast and felt movement.  My daughters were asking if we were going to be there soon.)  I screamed as the shattering glass sliced my skin open. (I could hear the screeching of brakes quickly followed by the sounds of metal scratching.  I knew there was pain.  The song my children sang was replaced by haunting screams and sounds of horror and pain.)  The ambulance came and first took away my children leaving me behind. (I heard the sirens.  Someone was telling me to stay calm.  My girls’ voices were becoming fainter as they cried out “Mommy” and said they did not want to have to go without me.)  I woke after that.  I had no memory of seeing anything.  Regardless, I did not need images to get me out of bed and go check on my children.  I did not need pictures to feel the pain and fear that lingered throughout the day.  As an avid reader, I have always known the words can be just as powerful if not more as watching pictures pass across a screen.

I do not need sight to have a vision.  I have enough words, memories and hope to always have dreams.  Yes, prosopagnosia and hemianopia have certainly altered the way I see and feel, but I always believe I have gained more and understand more now.  This outweighs all I have ever lost.  I love the vision and dreams that promise an exciting future.

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