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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I called him from the pay phone. Ignoring the handful of people waiting at the nearby bus stop I sobbed into the phone.

The midwife said the baby is breech. I have a week until my next appointment to try to flip the baby on my own. If not we have to go to the hospital where they will try to move the baby and that will hurt and it might not happen. And then if that doesn't work I will have to have a C-section.

The words poured out through my gasps and tears. All I could think about was how the birth I wanted was suddenly on the verge of disappearing. Poof. Gone.

He was quiet for a moment. I thought he was processing all I had said. But something felt wrong.

How was the doctor? I asked.

Instead of joining me at the midwife's, an appointment he rarely missed, the husband had had a medical appointment of his own. After weeks of waiting he had been to see a retinal specialist. We were both hoping for answers to the question about what was happening to his eye.

One day a blurry spot had appeared. Not in the middle of his eye, not huge, but close enough to the centre and big enough that the husband's vision was affected. He had gone that day to see our family doctor. She told him to go immediately to the Emergency, worried that his retina was detaching.

It didn't. Nothing happened right away. An ophthalmologist at the hospital looked at it. An appointment with a specialist was made. We waited.

Standing in the phone booth on a hot July day, my feet swollen, my eight-month pregnant belly huge and my face streaked with tears I listened to the husband tell me that he had macular degeneration. He was thirty-three.

The doctor really didn't go into details. He was told that they would monitor his eye. That he should call if there were changes to his other eye. He was told he would need a series of shots to try to improve or slow the damage. The doctor neglected to mention that the injections would be in the eye itself until he advanced on the husband with a large needle.

All of a sudden the baby being breech was less important. Even as I tried naturopathy and Chinese medicine to encourage the stubborn baby to flip, my real concern was that the husband wouldn’t see this child. I began to worry that his sight would disappear instantly. That he would wake up tomorrow and it would be gone. That one more blurry spot would be the end of the eye.

We've since learnt that it doesn't happen like that. His eye continues to deteriorate, as does the second eye that has also been diagnosed with macular degeneration, but the decline in his vision is gradual. The shots will help for a while and so the doctor will decide that he can stop treatment. Then months later the husband will begin to swear while he eats his lunch at the kitchen table on a Saturday afternoon and even though I ask, part of me already knows what is wrong. An appointment is made with the doctor and treatment starts again.

Bit by bit his eye sight weakens. But advances in drugs and treatment continue and maybe something can be done before he loses his sight completely. Five years later and he still isn't blind. He saw the girl be born. And her brother. That is something.

That is something I thought as I pushed the double stroller home over snow banks on a cold Tuesday afternoon. The girl had just been for her first eye exam. She is often skittish in new situations and with new people, but I was more nervous than her. With the boy on my lap I sat tensely while she read out the numbers projected on the wall across the room. Only when I started to hear the very goods from the optometrist did I begin to exhale.

She has twenty-twenty vision the doctor said. I grinned. There is no sign of myopia (high myopia can contribute to macular degeneration) she told me. I could have cried with joy.

I didn't. I bundled the kids back into their snowsuits while they licked at the caramels pilfered from the candy dish in the eyeglass store. I managed to get us out the door and started towards home. As I walked I felt giddy with relief. I was sure I would never care as much about her doing well on a test as I did with this one. 


  1. What a heartbreaking, but at the same time, joyous post. I'm praying for your husband, that something more be found to help.

  2. Thank you for the honest, wonderful post. I wish I could be so eloquent when I pour it all out.

  3. I can only imagine how relieved you must have felt.
    (great post!)

  4. I'm giddy with relief for you too

  5. I'm so glad to hear that your daughter's vision is good.

    And I'm sorry to hear about your husband. I didn't know this.

  6. My MIL has been dealing with macular degeneration for years and it's absolutely one of the hardest things to see progress. And I hear you about your kids eyesight, except that our pediatric ophthalmologist said that Cait has strabismus so we get to go every 6 months for drops and poking. It was hard to come to terms with, especially when I considered that she would likely be teased for her crossed eye when she entered school. At first it was all I could see, but over the last year and a half it's been much easier to miss when you first glance at her.

  7. I am praying there will be a cure for your husband. Wonderful news about your children though. (Hugs) Laura

  8. Thanks for sharing this Brie. I'm relieved for you too.

    It is my new year's resolution to go get my eyes checked too, I've been procrastinating far too long and I know I need glasses.

  9. Wow, I can't imagine the relief that you are feeling. I am so glad that she did well as well.

    I hope that there is still some good news in DH's future.

  10. What a relief. My husband's grandmother was recently part of a trial at the Eye Institute for macular degeneration that involved light therapy and those eye needles. After 6 months she went from barely being able to see the numbers on the microwave to crocheting and reading again. It's been steady for the past year or so.