by Amanda Jones
a bloody Mary
It was a shock.
A new baby, the one she had always wanted, yet she was thrust into grief. Her eyesight wouldn’t allow her to see her little girl properly. It was cruel.
It was a struggle.
Blackness and blurriness mixed with flashes and dots.
Before becoming pregnant she had just started her own career of commission work with her fine artwork. Pain had ensured she could not travel far on her moped and she had tried working in an engineering firm as secretary. She had taught herself to type on an old typewriter which now sat upstairs near baby. Then she had successfully applied for a job in the ‘path lab’, bought a Mini and enjoyed driving.
Now, she found herself unable to work yet alone drive; those few months before pregnancy were to be her only time. The pain was ever-present and she could not see. Soon after returning home from those long months in hospital she collapsed after being told she was ‘lazy’ and a ‘hypochondriac’ as she struggled to feed, sleep, do the housework and cook. All mothers had to endure baby. She was rushed in by ambulance and they helped to stabilise her diabetes. Here she learned that she had severe bleeding on her retinas called ‘diabetic retinopathy’ and was referred quickly to London to the Moorfields Eye Hospital, the best in the country.
Was it so because this was ‘visible’ unlike her pain?
Over the years thousands and thousands of laser shots were fired into her eyes. Often her little girl accompanied her with a relative. She relied on her child to guide her through the London Underground as she could not see, with her vision made worse from dilated pupils and laser beams.
Then, her girl stayed home, going to school on the days she went to London. She had to find a phone box with coins used, then later a phone-card to tell her she was on her way back by train. Once she had a near miss at the famous King’s Cross escalator fire and it was the time of the IRA bomb scares.
How her girl did worry, all through her childhood and beyond.
When her girl was eight, she was admitted to Moorfields for a vitrectomy. It was the last resort. Laser treatment had stabilised her left eye leaving a small patch of vision in the bottom right of it. Her right eye refused to stop bleeding. So, they replaced the jelly in this eye with an oily substance, making her blind in it but succeeding in stopping the haemorrhage.
She thought about the tears from her child as she came to see her in hospital and then later when she returned home with a patch over her eye.
How to survive?
Time and time again her girl said she should get help. So, together they called Social Services. Now, it was 1989 and her baby was ten years old. With the social worker they completed the Disability Living Allowance forms and were supported. She got a white stick, signed up to the Large Print talking newspaper, had access to the Large Print books from the library and she was able to have a large magnifying glass. For the first time since 1978 she found freedom and independence. She had some money of her own and things started to change.
And throughout all of this time she taught her little girl everything. She sewed, knitted and crafted by touch, making hundreds of soft toys for Moorfields to sell in their hospital shop and her girl joined in. They carted four or five black sacks full every year on the train.
Unfortunately diabetes wasn’t finished with just her eyes.
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