How to adapt to life with one eye?
July 7, 2019 2:20 PM   Subscribe

On Thursday, a loved one suffered a serious eye injury. Post-operation, it is most likely that they will never see out of it again, and it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be able to keep the eyeball. What tips do you have for the adjustment?

We have already switched sides on the bed, when walking together, and memesharing, so I’m on their good side.

It is their non-dominant-side eye.

I’m also open to any thoughts on how I can be a supportive partner during this time.
posted by Grandysaur to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here's one woman's detailed account of losing an eye to a glitter injury, including surgeries and adapting to having a glass eye. There are 12 parts, covering Feb 2015 - April 2016. The first 9 parts describe her experiences while they were still trying to save her eye. Part 10 and onwards cover the eye removal, and the process of getting and living with a glass eye. Part 12 has an upbeat ending. Fair warning, many of the pictures are not for the squeamish, especially in the earlier posts (close up photos of infection, that sort of thing).
posted by Secret Sparrow at 3:05 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I work with athletes, all of them have impairments, some of them acquired.

Those who acquire their impairments, while being unique individuals, have common elements in their story: mourning a loss, resenting pity, and varying degrees of guilty feelings regarding the first two.

There's nothing you're going to be able to do to make this better; you can only stay out of the way and do no harm. And there's so much to your loved one beyond a change in their physical appearance or ability. Ask anyone who's broken a leg, been pregnant, undergone chemo, needed crutches or any of the other common reasons people have temporary visible markers of their physical condition.

There's a whole group of extra layers and assumptions when the underlying condition is permanent, congenital or progressive. We are all people - not nite sized stories for other people to tell themselves. You can embody a safe space where the injury, loss and impairment is a small thread in a rich tapestry. And it's still a work in progress. DOn't worry about the thread overly much.

It sounds like you've observed a lot of the little activities of daily living things and that will help. A couple more:
  • depth perception isn't just about pouring the milk on the table but also finding-your-way-in-space so avoid leaving things on the edge of the counter is good but so is having a look for inconvenient counter corners.
  • traumatic acute injuries can mask chronic issues as they soak up all the attention. Being an interested outside observer can be helpful if they need to assemble notes in a healthcare setting
  • Humour is good, but it's generally better if it's "their" humour. I don't know the two of you; ymmv
Best of luck. I won't bother with platitudes in the vein of it-could-have-been-worse or think-of-the-Halloween-costume-ideas because honestly who needs that crap. If it's hard that's ok, hard is hard and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. If it isn't so hard then that's great. Either way it sounds like you're an engaged partner and that's what (I believe) we'd all want - a partner.
posted by mce at 3:10 PM on July 7 [20 favorites]

I'm effectively blind in one eye. The big question is, what does this person do? I sit in an office all day, so for me there's almost no impact. If I played a ball sport or drove a vehicle or wrestled people, it'd be a very different story.

In the short term, the key is to do everything more slowly and carefully, taking the time to look at things from multiple angles or touch things to confirm the distances between them. I often run my hand along the wall as I walk, or touch the corner of a table as I go around it.

Longer-term, he'll recover some of his depth perception by emphasizing the bits that aren't derived from stereoscopic vision. I can guess how far things are by their apparent size, by how they've desaturated and blurred with distance, by what occults what. Occulting is when a thing passes in front of another and obscures part of it.

There's unfortunately no replacement for the peripheral vision. He'll just have to get used to looking around more. You can help to some extent by announcing yourself when you approach from his blind side. When working next to someone, I rather prefer they just nudge me when they need me to move, but I know some people don't like to be touched unexpectedly.

Does he drive a car? In the U.S., most states will not license a driver who cannot see out of both eyes. I'd strongly recommend against driving even if his local jurisdiction will permit it. The people I know who do drive despite being blind on one side have some residual vision, enough to detect objects the size of an automobile.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 5:21 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]

You may or may not already be familiar with Ring Theory. I think it would be very useful to consider this when navigating current and future emotions with your partner.
posted by acidnova at 5:34 PM on July 7

In the spirit of offering encouragement, my father lived most of his life with one eye. Leaving aside the entertainment value of getting him to remove his glass eye in front of our friends, he functioned well enough that you would not have known he only saw out of one eye. He did anything he needed to that we associate with depth perception very well. He could back a travel trailer into a campground space without once mis-perceiving the spatial relationships. I can barely back my car out of a longish driveway. He was never in an auto accident.

It will take your loved one time to adjust, naturally. I recommend you take your cues about being supportive from their actions. It never occurred to me growing up that my father's situation was particularly unusual.
posted by Altomentis at 10:08 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma 7 years ago, and the treatment has left me with about 40% vision in the treated eye. The OM community is full of people who've had the eye removed and others who have no vision left at all. I'm lucky that I've still got some vision, which really helps with depth perception, but I do have wandering blind spots. The remaining eye is my nondominant eye as well.

A bunch of things: 1) ANY fraction of vision on the damaged side will make a HUGE difference to spatial awareness and depth of field. It will take a long time -- typically about 6 months -- for everything to settle and adjust: the vision is at its worst now, even though it may fade further, because the brain is trying to figure out how to process the information from the blind eye. I'm sure you've both been told that the brain is what sees, or what processes the information from the eyes. Right now, your partner's brain is freaking the hell out. It will figure out how to balance the information from the two eyes into a coherent image. An eye patch often helps with eyestrain, if there's any residual vision.

2) Your partner will be clumsy and awkward: losing an eye means that you're only getting 1/2 the light and 1/2 the information, visually, so everything is darker and kind of distorted. Go slow and don't fuss if you struggle; replace 40 watt bulbs with 100 watt bulbs; be patient.

3) I drive just fine: most of the truly one-eyed people I know do too, although we all avoid driving at night and in low-visibility situations like storms or fog. I keep fit-over sunglasses or yellow glare glasses in the car, which help immensely with glare and dazzle. Most one-eyed people can drive as long as you move your head enough to have some perception on the blind side: the field of perception widens considerably beyond the hood of the car. I don't bike in traffic, though, as I really can't see things close to me -- I walk into people *all the time*.

4) Several people have found the book A Singular View very useful: it's old and dated but it has a bunch of helpful hints and suggestions. Brady was a pilot who continued to fly after the loss of his eye.
posted by jrochest at 2:34 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]

The statement that most states will not license drivers who cannot see out of both eyes is (perhaps unintentionally) misleading. If vision in the other eye is normal or correctible, then you can get a license. I scanned through this list of state vision requirements and didn't find anything forbidding all one-eyed drivers from driving.

My husband has been blind since birth in one eye. I can't tell about the process of adjusting, but I can tell you about life with someone who has monocular vision.

Get ready for lots of pirate jokes. Seriously, that's the most tedious part.

He's a slightly more cautious driver than the average. I tend to notice that the car ahead is stopped more quickly than he does, but even when I am not in the car with him, he's never rear-ended someone. If I need to point something out in the car--his right is his blind side--then I have to verbally say where it is because he can't see my pointing finger without turning his head 90 degrees. He adores backup cameras in his car, and his most recent car has as many beeping things as possible to tell him where other cars on the road are. He's never needed them--the only accidents he's been in were caused by other drivers--but they make him feel less stressed. When I am driving, he forgets that his watch face and phone screen can reflect the sun into my eyes because it's not an issue when he's driving.

He gets angry at screwdrivers, because it's harder to get them lined up with the slots in screws. He finds it harder to catch things when I throw them at him (not that I throw things at him on a daily basis or anything!). If I walk on his blind side, he tends to bump into me. He finds it harder to pour things out of one container into another without accidentally slopping them over the side, and tends to overcompensate in the wrong direction.

He says that his difficulty in threading a needle is because of his monocular vision, even when I keep telling him that to thread a needle I CLOSE one eye. (I think his difficulty may be because he has a very slight hand tremor.)

When I mentioned to him that I occasionally hold a hand over one eye and walk around the house to get an idea of what it's like, he told me he appreciated that. He arranges his office at home and at work so that the door is on his good side because he hates people walking up and surprising him.

His good eye is rather photophobic, but I don't know if that's just him or if that's a function of only having one working eye.

He wears a prosthetic and tends to worry that it's pointing in a weird direction, but for the most part it usually isn't. The best time when it got pointed in the wrong direction was when a salesman dropped by our house unexpectedly and my husband answered the door. Between his refusal to shake hands with the guy and the eye rolled up pointing at the sky, the salesguy was obviously weirded out and left quickly.

He's developed plenty of coping strategies through the years, which will be the transition period for you two. When driving, he keeps an eye on objects the cars in front of him are passing (driveways, markings on the road, etc) as a way to judge distances, he's learned to do much the same when reaching for objects. If I'm approaching him on his blind side, I try to make a noise or something so I don't surprise him, much as if I were approaching him from behind.

It should probably reassure you that I can't actually think of anything else that obviously affects him and that these are all minor in the grand scheme of things.
posted by telophase at 9:03 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]

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