By Jackie McBrearty
On a cold november morning in 1996 when Sicknote and Bayleaf, characters from ITV’s Londons burning were appearing on GMTV discussing firework safety. The tv screen, to me, appeared as a big blur, but in my innocence I figured it was only 6am so it would take a while for things to sort itself out. Things didn’t improve however, a matter of hours later i was sitting on a hospital toilet crying begging a nurse to tell me i wasn’t going blind. My world was falling apart. I was sixteen years old, I was afraid and no one could reassure me that it would all be ok.
The doctors in Sligo rushed around and kept mentioning detached retina and then optic nerve tumours. These words didn’t help with the emotional rollercoaster I was on. I told the doctor that: not a hope in hell was I staying in Sligo Hospital but of course i was directed to a private room and I stood looking out a window that I couldn’t see. Some woman came into the room and stated the bloody obvious: on why was i staring out that window when I couldn’t see, and I really had the urge to aim a chair at her head. Through all this i had a supportive family and they treated me no different it was just the rest of the world who no longer seen me as me, i was Jacqueline a gobby brat who hated low fat milk and loved deep fried mince and onion pies, but now i was Jacqueline who should have been sent away at five to that special blind school, this came from relations and family friends. These same relations that made me decide that being blind was an easier journey than one of emotional torture and fear.
I had a detached Retina in my right eye: my bad eye had a perfectly flat retina but no glimmer of light could pass that dam pupil. The post surgery was actual torture: it involved laying face down with no head movement, i did learn to eat in this position so i guess not all that bad. However traveling five hours in a car minus a seat belt was not something I wanted to repeat. however, i did this twice. Added to this, On the second operation, my mums blood pressure fell and it was unreadable on the machines.
it was at this very point i decided i needed to let that right eye go: let that retina release itself seems it didn’t want to stick. As around this time I was told by relations and family friends: now thankfully Ex relations and family friends; that do your realise your mum is going to die and its all your fault, your mum is sick because of you and when she dies you will be the cause.
Those comments hurt and a wee part of my soul died but I also knew I needed to prove to those people that Jacqueline was on her way back and hell hath no fury.
I never really noticed my eye sight going after i stopped treatment but I felt myself becoming stronger and stronger with each passing week. I knew I needed to leave home and get some sort of training and freedom.
so in 1997 I became Jackie: still gobbie and now drank low fat milk and still loved deep fried mince and onion pies. I had left home: nothing about this time was easy as I was living in shared accommodation and these people basically recked my head and the food was mank but i did learn chocolate and crisps plus a can of coke was a perfectly acceptable dinner.. I started out doing a basic computer course and telephony and then did my leaving certificate. I finally moved into my own wee bedsit and I grew up.
My life has changed from that frightened sixteen year old. I’m now a college graduate with a 2.1 degree in social care. Technology has make life easier and plus I now have my second furry friend at my side. I support people with using iPhones and iPads and I’m happy and focused in things. I find it sad though that the people who tried to bring me down no longer even acknowledge my existence. However, i know i’m better off without toxic people like that in my life.
I’m Jackie and I’m happy with the cards I’ve been dealt with in life and I will never regret that decision to: let that retina go. I am who I am today because of that decision.