The past few days have been a study of personal endurance in the face of overwhelming odds. For the many kind people who have followed my blog, and managed to grasp the gist of my struggle, those amazing souls have cheered me on and given me hope.
I really do not want to re-hash past history, but a very quick — I promise! — summary. I had my cornea transplant on January 13. All seemed to be going well — and possibly is still on course — but on last Thursday, I had my second post-op appointment which was rather depressing, alarming, and disappointing. While my vision has improved a tad, with more improvement possible, I was told that the pressure in my “bad” eye had sky-rocketed to 40.
Not good. The most likely cause for the increase in pressure is that the shunt in my eye has become blocked by scar tissue, and if that is the case, the only remedy is yet another surgery to implant a new shunt. The medical complications are worrisome enough, but for me, the daunting part is the transportation to and from the hospital. And to date, I have had to depend upon the help of my social worker. He has not been helping me because it’s required by his job description, but because he is a kind human being who cares. Yet I know it is a burden, and I cannot guarantee how long he will be able to help without too much sacrifice to his own career and well-being. Yet another surgery will mean even more post-operative appointments. A series of seemingly endless 2-hour round trip drives to Baltimore.
In preparation for the cornea transplant, I had a good 3 weeks of not smoking cigarettes under my belt. One of my older posts is about how I started smoking later in life, something that appalls me and shames me. I had carefully arranged to have enough food in the house for myself and my dogs. I had done my laundry and put clean sheets on my bed, and done everything humanly possible to make certain that I could care for myself after the surgery, when I would be restricted on lifting and bending, and even “straining on the toilet.” Yes, TMI, I know, but there’s a lot that can make a cornea transplant go wrong. I was determined to make it all go right this time.
But then the bad news at the last appointment set me back. I had exhausted most of my food supply. Bed sheets needed to be laundered again, and more work to be done. But how could I accomplish that with another possible emergency surgery looming?
This is how bad things were, prior to my cornea transplant:
As can be seen, the situation was pretty dire. But despite the depressing news at my last ophthalmology appointment, I was determined that I would carry on with the 3 solid weeks of being smoke-free, and had even gotten an estimate for my “smoking room” to be cleaned and rehabilitated. (The guy came with his measuring tape, took notes, and I’m still awaiting his actual estimate.)
The despair was rather profound. This afternoon, I perused my email. Here is Greenbelt, we have a local Yahoo list-serve run by a fellow I won’t mention. The way he runs the list-serve has been to the consternation of many residents. Despite being openly gay, he curiously espoused a conservative ideology, seems to enjoy race-baiting, and constantly stirs up fears of rising crime in our neighborhood. Meanwhile, he has the list-serve set up such that there is much divisiveness and tends to selectively allow what opposing viewpoints get posted.
This afternoon’s volley was a link to a Washington Post article:
George Will: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders has mountains to climb
Folks who follow politics will know that George Will is a staunch conservative, and that Bernie Sanders is an impeccable independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats and who is considering a bid for the forthcoming presidential election. Bernie may be up there in years, but as to what he stands for, I cannot think of a finer candidate. The article by George Will is full of baloney.
Naturally, we all have our political proclivities, usually grounded in our early experiences and the world views we hold dear. I don’t want to do a political analysis of the article, but I could if I had the patience. “Sanders says his idea of socialism exists in Europe’s social democracies, which he considers hugely successful.” This one line is what makes me see red, not in terms of poor eyesight, but in terms of understanding the larger forces at work in today’s political landscape. The social democracies of Europe are not perfect. But having lived in England, which is not the best of the best, I know first hand that the gist is — for the more fortunate to provide a safety net for the less fortunate. In my view, the most compassionate way of governing. The opposite view, a “survival of the fittest” mentality means that those who truly need help fall between the cracks. People do not get the health care they need. Will (and conservatives) seem to prefer the paradigm where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and corporations are “people” who don’t pay their fair share of taxes, while everyone else descends into poverty. “Trickle-down” economics never trickles down. I really could rant on and on. The Scandinavian social democracies, in particular, are often cited for their high level of happiness — because it’s the general welfare of the populace that matters, and not the almighty dollar. So reading the piece by George Will did not help my frame of mind.
Thankfully, the Washington Post article had a link to this:
Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind
Much of my blog is about psychopaths by dint of my experience over the past 5 years. The above-referenced article is an antidote to psychopathy run rampant on a large scale — raising kids to be kind and compassionate. If you are a parent, it would behoove you to read the article in its entirety. The enlarged-upon suggestions are:
The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:
1. Make caring for others a priority
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude
3. Expand your child’s circle of concern
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor
5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings
I am reminded of the old movie Elephant Man starring Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt and Anne Bancroft. The movie is based on the true life of John (Joseph) Merrick who lived from 1862 to 1890 and suffered from Protheus Syndrome. Full stop, it was one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. Merrick had a terrible condition that caused him to look like a hideous monster, but beneath the deformities that afflicted his body, he was a kind and gentle soul. His story of survival is a testament to human perseverance in the face of incredible odds, due in part to the kindness he received — kindness that is sorely lacking in this tired old world.
Then, I found another YouTube clip that pairs nicely with the second Washington Post article I referenced above:
As for me, the craving for nicotine overcame me this time. Too many hours alone with too many obstacles ahead of me. As I made my way to the convenience store that sells cigarettes, I was walking beneath the pedestrian underpass as a silver-haired woman walked toward me. As she approached me, she called out my name, and grasped my hands. “Terry, it’s B… We missed you at church today and we prayed for you. How are you doing?” With embarrassment, knowing where I was heading, I gave a quick update on current ordeal. That simple act of kindness, coming a little too late to forestall my backslide, convinces me that I will somehow struggle on.
I’ll have my urgent appointment in Baltimore tomorrow and find out if an emergency surgery for a shunt replacement is necessary to lower my eye pressure. God is looking after me, even when I feel all alone in the world. There is simply no way to express the depth of gratitude for the people who have been kind to me when I needed it — including me therapist who has gone above and beyond in getting me back and forth to Baltimore, and to my friend, L, who calls me daily to check on me when I’ve been distracted and grumpy and dispirited (we may disagree on politics, but she has a heart of gold).
Writing a post to remind people of the importance of kindness and compassion is the best I can do at the moment, in the way of “paying it forward.” Honestly, these simple acts of kindness are the way to make the world a better place.
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