Waiting for my appointment with the technician who was to create my prosthetic, I watched a small boy, aged about two who was sitting playing at his father’s feet. His older brother, perhaps four years of age, sat beside his father. After they went in, the receptionist told me that the little boy had already had one eye removed due to cancer, and was in that day to allow the therapist to photograph his remaining eye as the eye was about to be removed due to another cancer. They wanted to ensure that his second prosthetic eye as a match to his natural eye colour as well.
Two years old and he was about to go blind. How would he remember colours, trees or his father’s face? The receptionist was close to tears as she continued to explain that the boys’ mother had deserted the family, and so the father was raising his sons alone.
At this time I had no guarantee that the exact same thing wouldn’t happen to me. My condition was so rare that they couldn’t say that I was clear from other complications for some years to come.
Over the years I have often wondered what happened to that small boy. Has he had a happy life? Has he had a life at all? Whenever I have felt sorry for myself and my less than perfect vision, the image of that small boy playing with his toy cars on the waiting room floor reminds me that I have much to be grateful for.
The process for creating a prosthetic eye is much the same process as they use to create a denture impression. The technician mixes a rubber cement mixture that is packed into the eye socket to set. A small dop stick is inserted and I had to sit quietly for a few minutes with the stick protruding from between my eyelids until the mould set, and it was removed from the eye socket.
I can’t say that it hurts, but it is not the most pleasant sensation. The first time, my eye socket was still a little tender, but I have to admit that it wasn’t the worst experience so far. I think I was more nervous because I didn’t know what was going to happen next, and I was so tired of being poked and prodded.
The technician then got paint and brushes and started to build up a green iris to match my remaining eye. He told me I had a very unusual green eye, but somehow it didn’t feel like a compliment.
As I mentioned much earlier in this tale, I had always been very vain about my eyes. I have very long dark eyelashes, and I frequently received compliments on my beautiful eyes. Now I felt as though God was punishing me for my vanity. I learnt the lesson not to be so vain and proud in what perhaps may have been a cruel way, but now I feel that it has made me a better person .
Humans are by nature curious creatures and in the weeks I sported my eye patch I had to tolerate many stares. I guess it was a little out of the ordinary to see a young woman sporting an eye patch, but I have never been able to understand why complete strangers think that they have the right to comment on anyone’s appearance.
Mr FD and I could not venture out anywhere without someone staring, and nine times out of ten making a comment. Poor Mr FD got accused of punching me on a regular basis usually by men. I routinely replied that I had an eye operation and gave no further details It wasn’t as though I looked grotesque. I was just a young woman with an eye patch. It wasn’t even a black eye patch, though a work colleague and I joked about creating a black eye patch and buying a parrot for my shoulder; it was a very discreet skin coloured patch, and as I had fairly long hair it wasn’t exactly a neon sign on my face. I can’t help but feel empathy and sorrow for people who have major physical deformities, because people can be so cruel. You can see them stare and then turn to their companions and say something, or they make their thoughtless comments as though it is any of their business.
Mr FD was my support at this time. He never worried about my appearance, and he took the jibs, and he made me feel normal. Perhaps if he hadn’t been there I may not have handled things so well. It would have only been natural for an eighteen year old woman to feel that her attractiveness and desirability had been sorely diminished, but his comment was “I met a girl with two pretty eyes, and now I have a girl with one pretty eye.” But then again, I was Flamingo Dancer and I was comfortable in my own skin. I liked me and having one less eye was not going to make a difference to that!
In fact, the change in my appearance and the possibility of an uncertain future – would the same thing happen to the other eye was not known – worried him so little that one day when he was working on his final year project (he is an agronomist) in the college glasshouse, and I was sitting on an upturned bucket in the doorway, eye patch and all, he calmly dropped a marriage proposal into the conversation.
Life was changing in so many ways and in such a short time.