My name is Megan Jo Osterhout. I have a legal, impairing disability. However, most people in my life would never guess I am anything but average. I am blind in my right eye.
My story begins as a healthy baby. My parents already had a child, my sister. The doctors went through the normal vision/hearing/physical check that all babies go through.
I checked out as a healthy baby.
By this time my parents were "seasoned" as they say. On the third night my dad got up with me. He had changed my diaper, made a bottle and was attempting to rock me back to sleep. He had a dim lamp on in my room and I was wide awake, staring at him. My dad recalls this as one of the first times I was really awake and alert.
That's when he noticed a silver dot on my right eye. He got up, turned on the light and searched for what he assumed was something in my eye keeping me awake. To his surprise he was unable to locate the dot. He turned the room light off, leaving just the lamp on and resumed rocking me to sleep. As soon as he laid me down he could see the dot again, so he turned the light back on and searched again, but couldn't find the dot.
The next morning he told my mom about the previous nights experience. They both looked for the dot and were unable to find it. The fourth night my mom and dad both got up with me. The dot was back and slightly bigger than the day before.
The next morning my parents took me to see our family doctor. He looked at my eyes and told my parents,"This is a common thing I see with newborns. My diagnosis is over reacting parents." As you can imagine my parents were extremely upset with his joke of a response. They left and immediately drove 30 minutes to a nearby town to see another doctor. That doctor told them the same thing, that they were over reacting and I was fine.
That night my parents stayed up to see the mysterious dot. Without surprise it was there, and again noticeably bigger. In addition, there were two smaller dots next to the now larger dot. The next day my parents packed up our old car and drove to The Idaho state capital, Boise, to see an optical surgeon at St. Luke's hospital.
I was about a week old at the time of the appointment. My mom describes this as one of her worst memories. She said the doctor and nurses asked them to forcibly hold me down the entire time. The doctor examined my eye. Within moments he told my parents I had three cataracts on my right eye and would need surgery within the next few days to remove them.
I had my first surgery at about 2 weeks old. The cataracts were almost dead center in my eye. They were able to successfully remove them. However, the surgery caused extreme damage to my rapidly growing eye. He told my parents I would be visually impaired but should be able to see slightly. My parents took me home and described me as a whole new baby who cried constantly, especially in rooms with lights on.
At about 8 months old I had to have a second surgery. The first surgery had caused a large amount of scar tissue that would need to be continuously removed as I got older. I received four more surgeries to remove scar tissue over the next 6 years.
During those years I constantly wore sun glasses. In fact my family started calling me Hollywood from my glasses being on 100% of the time. I loved wearing my gasses, it made it so my eyes didn't hurt.
All of the damage from multiple surgeries left my right eye unable to adjust to the sun or lights. My eye is physically always dilated 100%.
To give you an idea of what that's like... You know when you go to get an eye exam, and they put those yellow stinging eye drops in your eye to open it up to see inside your retina? And then they give you those nifty black glasses to wear to protect your eyes after? That is what it is like to have a fully dilated eye ALL THE TIME. My eye was and still is extremely sensitive to any sort of bright light. That was why I enjoyed wearing my glasses all the time, it was more comfortable for me.
That is, until I started first grade. I can remember being so excited to ride the bus with my sister. I waited in line at a bright 7 A.M. with her. I had my big dark glasses on and was so excited to ride the bus. I chose to sit by myself in the front seat. The first few stops were great!
And then one of my worst memories happened. Three boys got on the bus, they were rambunctious and obnoxious. They were older than me, probably 5th or 6th grade. One of them pointed and laughed at me saying, "Look at the four eyes with glasses like a granny! She must be in the front seat because she's blind as a bat!" All the boys pointed and laughed. I stated to cry, my sister stood up for me, which unfortunately only made it worse because then I was "being a blind baby".
I was devastated. Were my glasses not cool? What does "four - eyes" even mean? I cried at school and my mom came to get me. I didn't even make it through my first day.
Needless to say I didn't ride the bus very often, because it was a place of fear. I had bullies at the age of 6. I could not see out of my right eye, I hated school and I hated riding the bus. Regardless of where I was I had I wear my glasses to avoid pain in my eye.
That summer came and it was time again for another surgery to take away more scar tissue. The doctor decided to put in a man-made synthetic lens. It was supposed to help my vision dramatically. I woke up from surgery and tried looking at different charts and colors, I was unable to see any of them. The surgery had failed, but they would leave the lens in even though it did nothing to improve my vision.
Over the next few years I made friends and had occasional bullies but learned to cope with their comments. That is until an adult bullied me, my second grade teacher, Mrs."K.".
Mrs K. would always tell me that it was extremely ignorant to wear my glasses in the class room. She would take them away from me.
This would cause me to cry for two reasons:
1. Pain from the light
2. My peers staring at me as I cried. Mrs. K would tell me to "suck it up".
I'd go home and tell my parents, they would ask the teacher and she would deny it every time. My dad sat down and told me:
"If this is true, I give you permission to tell Mrs. K, No!!! Keep your glasses on at all cost. If she sends you to the principals office they will call me."
So the very next day, I did exactly that. Which resulted in Mrs. K. chasing me around the class room trying to take away my glasses from me. She eventually got them and in a moment, SNAP! She broke them in half. Hard to believe right? I was crying hysterically at this point. She made me sit in front of an open window with the sun shining in at me. Luckily a teacher down the hall came to see why they could hear a crying child. My parents were called, and Mrs. K was fired.
Throughout the next few years I did what all kids do, I just wore glasses doing it. Whenever I said,"I can't do that because of my eye", my Dad and Mom would say, " Everyday you wake up, you take the "dis" out of your disability and prove the world wrong, you can do anything you put your mind to". And that's what I did.
I did not let my eye slow me down at all.
Because I see out of only one eye, I have zero depth perception. I can't tell how far things are away from me, and catching/throwing objects can be hard. Not impossible, but hard.
My Dad and Mom would practice with me nightly catching bean bags or playing basketball. I became very athletic and loved sports.
During this time I had many eye appointments. Each time my doctor would get more and more concerned about the ocular hypertension (when the pressure in your eyes - your intraocular pressure (IOP) - is higher than normal) in my eye. Left untreated, high eye pressure can cause Glaucoma and permanent vision loss.
That is exactly what happened. I was diagnosed with extreme ocular hypertension. Due to all the previous surgeries my eye was no longer able to release pressure on it's own as an average eye would. This resulted in a diagnosis of chronic Glaucoma.
I had multiple surgeries over the next few years to try to correct some of the Glaucoma, and all surgeries failed. My treatment was to take eye drops twice daily to force my eye to release the pressure. I took these eye drops from middle school through high school.
High school was great for me. My parents raised me as if I did not have a disability, which was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I was a successful student and maintained a 3.6 gpa.
I played soccer, basketball, and track.
In soccer I was the goalie. Yes, the goalie. The person with zero depth perception was the goalie. In my high-school career I only missed 9 balls all four years.
In basketball I played a post, and loved every minute of it. I started majority of games and played constantly.
I chose to not tell my basketball coach I was blind in one eye. I did this because I did not, and still do not want any accommodations.
My senior year, a coach from another team asked me if I had poor vision in my right eye. They had been watching film on me and noticed I turned my head to the far right, centering my left eye in the middle of my view.
When this coach asked me about my eye, my coach was standing by me. He answered for me by saying, "Of course she doesn't, did you see how she plays? A blind person couldn't play like that, how dare you insult her like that." I then came clean to my coach about my vision. He almost fell over! I had kept it from him for years! Like I said, that's how I wanted it.
I am nothing more than average, and I like keeping it that way.
In track I threw shot put and discus and enjoyed it more than anything. I even went to state a few times!
Toward the end of my senior year I stared getting really bad head aches. Almost like migraines. My eye would throb. Glasses didn't help, eye drops didn't help. Nothing helped. We went back to the doctor. He said they needed to preform a laser surgery that was brand new to the optical world.The only problem was, this surgery had only been done a hand full of times. I decided to wait and waited 4 years.
I went to the doctor my last year of college fed up with too much pressure. The doctor told me the Glaucoma had caused severe, non correctable, damage to my optical nerve. I currently only have an 8th of my optic nerve left. I will most likely loose my eye due to blood flow in the future.
We decided to do the surgery, and it was a 60/40 percent chance it would work. If it worked, the pressure would be much lower. If the surgery failed, my eye could have lost all pressure, essentially shriveling up like a raisin and would have had to have been taken out.
Luckily, the surgery was extremely successful. I no longer take eye drops, or any medication for glaucoma. I occasionally have pressure spikes but usually have an average pressure level in my eye. I am a very successful individual, and my eye has never slowed me down.
My advice to anyone battling anything is this:
"Each day you get up, erase the "dis" out of your disability. The world is at your fingertips. If you let your ability become disabled, you will never reach your full potential."
Today's guest poster is Megan Jo Osterhout. She is an amazing example of someone who has never let anything get in her way to success. Her life long dreams have always included cooking and she graduated from culinary school and now owns MoeDutch Catering. If you would like to connect with her you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: Glaucoma, Stories