Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vision- Sit Back, Relax, Enjoy The Art Show

Sit Back
6" x 8"
watercolor and acrylic

The swirling clouds and faces that I had been seeing in front of me after the injection in my eye, disappeared. Darkness returned, but the center lightened.
Gradually, a lovely purple, irregular shaped, somewhat like a fried egg, appeared. The center was yellow, like an egg yolk, but with more of a tendency toward a lemon yellow or pale chartreuse, surrounded by two different purples-a cobalt violet on the outside, and a red violet toward the middle . Darker purple lines crossed over the rounded shape.

After the injection in my eye, this truly was becoming something like an abstract art show!

"Sit Back" was painted on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper with Winsor Newton watercolors. The background was painted with black acrylic. Signature is white acrylic.

Relax

6" x 8"

watercolor and acrylic

The chartreuse yolk-like center of the first design changed into a darker value of chartreuse. Something that resembled tiny little grapes, formed in the center. The part of the egg shape that would be white, changed into a deep, bright red.

The background was still black with the shape standing out against it.

"Relax" was painted using Winsor Newton watercolors with black acrylic for the background, on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper. The signature is white acrylic.


You Might As Well Enjoy

The Abstract Art Show

6" x 8"

watercolors and acrylic

The black background remained ,but the shape changed. The center chartreuse shape moved to the right side of the shape, became a bit elongated and curved with a backward C on the left side. The color changed to a dull, moss green. The "white" of the egg changed into a more oval, but still irregular shape, and continued to be a deep, bright red.

The green area is similar to one of the floaters in my left eye. But, the floater is slim, more like a string, or a shape seen under a microscope. Big enough to be annoying, or to use to play basketball with when I need to entertain myself and can't draw or read, such as when I am in a meeting . One lady complimented me by telling me that my eyes just danced while I was sitting in the choir at church when I was younger. I just thanked her. Actually, I was drawing with my eyes, outlining stained glass windows, posts, pews, the floor, the pulpit, and even the hymnal. I couldn't very well take a pencil with me to draw on the bulletin while the preacher talked, while I was in the choir in front of everyone. Of course, my mother was right there, playing the organ. And other family members were in the congregation. I would have been in trouble if I had been drawing while I was supposed to be listening. I tended to drift off with my drawing in class, at meetings, even pep rallies, and still do.

"Enjoy The Abstract Art Show" was painted on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper. The black background is acrylic while the center is painted with Winsor Newton watercolors. the signature is white acrylic.

I thought I would send all 3 of these small watercolor and acrylic abstract paintings today. They seem to go together, and the titles fit together. They are a bit different. This type of painting comes fairly easily to me while my biggest challenges seem to come in trying to achieve realism. One artist whose blog I have been receiving lately, is Martha Marshall. Her blog is titled "An Artist's Journal". She specializes in abstract art. Another artist who has very interesting work along these lines is Mary Ciani Saslow. I have a link to her website in my Artists and Authors section. And, last night, I enjoyed the PBS program featuring Mark Rothko. I thought they would show more on the Rothko Chapel in Houston, but, what they did show was interesting. It's always good to enjoy the work of artists, but, also to learn what they were like, what they thought, and what happened in their lives. Names and dates often do not stay with me, but stories and pictures do.

I feel sure that I could do those huge paintings, the size that Rothko did, except for the lack of materials and space. Working small is hard for me. As is writing short!

I didn't have to make up the paintings I've been showing in this series. Instead, they are things that I saw or experienced. Hope you are enjoying them and are passing these on to others who might be interested.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Vision-Male Brown Eyes

Male Brown Eyes
Looking At me
8" x 12"
watercolors

The pink swirling clouds that seemed to fill the room after the injection in my eye began to fade to an area of soft light. The female green eye that was revealed in the center of the pink clouds, now changed to two brown male eyes with a little more of the face showing. The skin became more beige or cream colored, where it had previously been the skin tones of someone with red hair. More of a realistic, light flesh tone, now. The entire area showing both eyes, eyebrows, and a bit of the nose, cheeks, and forehead, were directly in front of me. There was a slight tinge of orange on the eyeballs, in the corners and around the lids. Light reflected in the large pupils.

I pushed my head back against the headrest. It was uncomfortable to have this face so close in front of me. But was it really even there?

"Who are you? Why are you here?"

No answers. He just stared at me. He was unfomfortably real.

I was sure, logically, that no one else was in the room with me. But, still, this face was right in front of me. It had changed form from a sideview man with blue eyes and red hair to that man's eye, turning to look at me. Then it had changed to a female green eye, and now it was a male with brown eyes, and both his eyes were staring at me.

I still waited alone, for someone to tell me everything was alright and I could go home.

All I could do was to enjoy the art show, and hope it would soon be interrupted and come to an end. It was keeping me entertained while I waited. Maybe there was someone here with me, to keep me from being being so nervous about the shop, someone to keep me from being bored since I couldn't entertain myself with drawing or even looking at a magazine. Perhaps he was trying to send me some sort of message. Perhaps he was not there at all and was just medicine from the shot floating around in my eye. He seemed too real to be just bubbles of liquid floating around inside my eye.

"Male Brown Eyes" was painted on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper with Winsor Newton watercolors. Again, the yellows show up in the scan above, more than they do in the original painting.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vision-Female Green Eye

Female Green Eye
Looking At Me
8" x 11"
watercolors

"Who are you?" I still wondered who and what that blue eye was, surrounded by pink and purple clouds, filling the room in front of me. He just stared at me. I didn't know if there was a whole person in the room with me, hidden among the clouds, or if this was some sort of projection, or was it merely medicine spreading out in my eye after the injection I just had.

"Is this typical after getting a shot in the eye? Is is just in my mind, or am I actually seeing something? " For those who like mystery stories, this was certainly something strange. I didn't like mysteries, or scarey things, for that matter, so I wanted to know without having to try to figure out what was going on.

I was waiting in the examining chair after my first injection in the eye by the retina specialist. I was supposed to sit for a while, then they would return to check the pressure in my eye. If everything was okay, I could go home. But, as I waited, I was experiencing what I began calling an abstract art show. First bubbles appeared on a dark, foggy background. That was replaced with darkness in the room with colorful, rectangular confetti that rained down in front of me. As it lightened, pink swirling clouds softened in the center to reveal a man's eye that looked away, then slowly turned to stare at me. I knew, realistically, that I was alone in the room. So, why was I seeing what appeared to be someone in the room with me? I wasn't thinking of anyone, and I didn't recognize him. I didn't feel that it was someone I knew or was thinking of in this rather stressful time.

As the pink clouds continued in front of me, I tried to look closer to see if I recognized the man in front of me. The image didn't move, but it seemed to change into a green eye, and one that looked more feminine. In fact, as I thought about it, and tried to examine the face, this eye looked familiar, too.

"Can this be my own eye I am seeing?" I was astonished to think that maybe now I was seeing my own eye, as if it were in front of me. How could that be? There was no mirror. Whoever it was, this eye was definitely more feminine. The iris was green and there was a reflection in the pupil. The eyeball wasn't bright white, but had a yellow tint to it with a slight bit of red around the lid and the corners. The eyebrow had a little lift to it and there was a bit of puffines below the eye. The lashes were a bit longer than in the male eye.

"What next?" I wondered. "Isn't this about over? Surely the doctor is going to come back soon.

"Female Green Eye: Looking At Me" was done on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper using Winsor Newton watercolors.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vision-Male Blue Eye Looking at Me

Male Blue Eye Looking At Me 9" x 12" watercolors
The pink and purple clouds continued to swirl and fold over after the injection for Wet Macular Degenertation in my left eye. I was still alone in the examining chair, waiting for the doctor, who was a retina specialist, or his nurse, to return and tell me if everything was okay and then send me home. They had told me that they were going to let me sit a while, then would return to check the pressure in my eye. If everything was okay, I could go home then. My daughter had left to pick up her sons after school and would return. This was taking longer than she had planned. We thought that there would be a quick shot in the eye, then I would be sent home, if my eye didn't deflate, fall out, or if I fainted or something we couldn't even imagine.
I had gone from seeing bubbles in a dark fog, to confetti raining down in the dark, and a pink swirl of clouds with part of a man's face appearing in the center. He couldn't be there, I knew, but I was seeing him. And who was it that I was seeing? I struggled to try to remember who it could be.
My fear of the shot was fading a little, and, now, I wondered if this person in the room with me was something to be afraid of. Was I dead or dying and someone was here to take me away? Was it someone to comfort me? Is this someone I know or knew? Or could this be something evil to fear? Could this even be Jesus, not looking like the pictures in the Bible or in church, but more like an average person today? Was I about to have a religious experience?
As the clouds continued to float in the room, the face slowly lifted his gaze and began to turn until he was facing me. He looked straight at me, staring, unblinking, steady.
"Who are you? What do you want? Are you really here? Do I know you?" I whispered.
No answer.
"You aren't really here." I thought it might vanish if I confronted whatever it was. But, it remained. Just an eye, and the surrounding area, staring at me. He had the coloring of someone with red hair and his eye was a bit red as if from lack of sleep or drinking-maybe irritated from allergies, or even crying. There was no pupil that I could see, but a light reflected in his blue eye. I thought it was from the large light that the doctor had used above my chair. But, wasn't that light turned off when everyone left? His eyebrow was lifted a little. Was he questioning? Examining? Friendly? Disgusted? Accusing? Sad? Evil?
I was a little frightened, but I didn't move. I just looked back, then tried looking away. He was still there, a little further than where the doctor had stood in front of me.
"Tell me who you are!" I demanded. "Why are you looking at me?"
No answer. He just looked at me with that blue eye.
I felt that I may have seen that eye before, but where? And who did it belong to? I wished that the doctor or nurse would come back so this whatever-it-was would either go away, or this thing would have to show its whole self to all of us. I hoped for an explanation.
Was I dying, having a hallucination or a reaction to the medicine, going crazy? Perhaps this was someone who appeared to comfort me, to take care of me, or maybe it was something entirely different-something evil and frightening. Angel or devil. Or some kind person from the past.
I didn't dare to move too much, but I sat, holding onto the chair arms and wiping the water that ran from my eye to my cheek with the small tissues I had been given.
Thinking of the other things I had seen, beginning with the bubbles, I felt that I should just try to relax, sit back, and enjoy the art show that I was passing in front of me. A special show, just for me.
I was still a little hot, at times, but thought that it would be good to take a deep breath, avoid fainting, and enjoy the parade of different kinds of pictures that were coming before me. My own private art show. One that, perhaps, no one else was given access to see. I had seen things that seemed abstract, and, now, this part of a face that I was seeing was almost classical and realistic, somewhat like the beautiful ancient Roman and Greek sculptures, the paintings and sculpture of Michaelangelo, and others who were able to portray the human figure so realistically.
The skin in this face seemed to be touched with a little gold and the clouds were pink, with the exciting Cobalt Violet where the clouds rolled over.
While I sincerely admire realism, what comes from within me is more expressionistic. Instead of fearing this eye I was seeing, maybe I should just admire and appreciate its classical qualities.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder who I was seeing and why.
"Male Blue Eye Looking At Me" was done on Strathmore 140 pound watercolor paper using Winsor and Newton watercolors. The pale purple color is Cobalt Violet. I used touches of thinned white acrylic on the edges of the clouds. In some places, in order to lighten or lift color, I simply blotted with tissue while the color was still wet.
The above doesn't show the true colors of the painting, completely. In the scan shown above, the yellow is strong and the eye appears to be more green than blue. In the actual painting, the yellow area around the eye is more flesh colored and the eye is definitely blue.
(At least it looks that way, to me. One of the problems with AMD is that people have problems distinguishing colors such as dark blue from black. I always thought that was part of aging and that most people have it after a certain age. I've had that trouble with my clothes, especially, for quite a few years. If I take them into sunlight, I can tell which socks are blue and which ones are black, but in normal light that is hard to differentiate. Since I learned that I had AMD, I find that I also have trouble sometimes with colors like light beige and lavender. It could be the cataracts as well as the AMD, not to mention that little muscle in the eye that becomes slow to focus as we age, and was the cause for me having to get reading glasses and bifocals about 20 years ago. Now, I'm reading things, except for very small print, without glasses. At least I can when I am close to what I am reading and there isn't too much waving, distortion, blurring, bright lights, or that annoying purple spot that sometimes appears in the middle of what I am trying to see.)
Most of the time, when I scan a painting, if it is small enough, I just put the original on my scanner. For larger things, I either scan them in parts or scan photos. On my computer, the colors are more true. I've noticed that when I add them to the blog, occasionally, the colors are a bit different. I will try to note a difference when I post.
It would be interesting to find out if others have had similar experiences when they had injections in the eye. Could it have been the medicine, as the doctor had said about the bubbles? Or perhaps this was something akin to the out of body experience I had when I had surgery a few years earlier. I wasn't anesthetized during this event, though. I did have eye numbing medicine put in several times. Other people had told me that they would probably give me something to calm me down and relax me before they started, but that didn't happen for me. I told them I was scared and the doctor only answered that this was normal, and went on about what he was doing. He seemed to be an excellent doctor, and highly prepared and skilled.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Vision-Male Blue Eye Looking Left


Male Blue Eye Looking Left
in a pink cloud
8" x 12" watercolors
The injection in my eye was over. The doctor, nurse, technicians, all had left to go about other duties. I was alone in the examining chair, seeing only darkness and a rain of confetti.
"Where was that coming from? " I wondered. I knew, realistically, that there was no confetti falling in that room.
Just as I thought about leaning forward to see if the confetti would move, the dark fog began to lighten, starting to my left. The dark was soon replaced by pink and soft purple clouds rolling around.
"Maybe this is about to clear up!" I felt a little relieved that the darkness was going away. Still I was hot and anxious, and my stomach hurt a little. I guessed it was just from my fear.
The pink clouds began to clear a bit in the center and a man's face appeared. The image started out to be unclear with colors not so distinct. I couldn't decide on the coloring in his hair and skin as I tried to think of who this might be in the room with me.
"Who are you?" I wanted to ask. But, I didn't think there was a whole person there-only a part of a face, the rest was hidden in the cloud.
"Do I know you?" I struggled to recognize the silent, staring face. He just kept looking off to the left, straight in front of him. I thought that he looked serious. If I could have seen that part of his face, his lips would be tight and his jaw set. Was he angry with me? About to fuss at me? Was he just grouchy, whoever he might be? I knew he wasn't happy and smiling.
"Are you Louis's dad?" I asked. But, I caught myself, wondering why on earth the neighbor who lived behind us would be here in the room with me. I thought his hair and eyes might be brown, thinking he might be Mexican like the family who lived behind us. But, It can't be. I haven't even seen them in a few years.
The clouds continued to swirl and the center opened a little more allowing more of the face to show. I could see that the man had blue eyes and red hair. He still never looked at me, just floated there, staring straight ahead of him. I got the feeling that he was disgusted with me, or at being there.
"Why are you here?" I knew that it couldn't be real, and didn't ask out loud. But, what was it?
There was no answer. The clouds continued to swirl, and he continued to look off to the left. I didn't know if I should be frightened, or what. There was no one to ask.
"Male Blue Eye" was done with Winsor Newton watercolors on Strathmore 140 pound watercolor paper. While some people may not find some of my paintings nice to look at, they do show what I experienced.
I hope you will look at the Authors and Artists, and Interesting Sites that I have added to my page. Enjoy. And share with others who you think might be interested.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vision-Confetti In The Dark

Confetti In The Dark 9" x 12" Acrylic on Paper

The dark fog changed to total darkness after the injection in my eye. I sat alone, unable to see anything, in the examining room. I held tight to the arms of the leather covered chair.

From the top right side of my vision, tiny bits of colored rectangles began raining down. It was as if there was confetti being sprinkled down on a parade. The particles became heavier and heavier. Soon, bits of silver and gold sparkled among the confetti.

A bit of light struck parts of the rain of confetti. "This reminds me of a big parade at night. Maybe in New York," I told myself.

This was getting a little more interesting than it was frightening. There was a nagging worry about what might be happening to me. And, there was no one there to ask. I hadn't been told to expect these things . Just told to sit and wait. It was still hot, followed by a feeling of cold, and my stomach hurt a little. "Just nerves," I thought. But, if I were having a reaction or side effects, no one would know until they came in to check on me later.

After all, this treatment had only been approved a few months ago. While it held much hope, according to all I had read, I felt sure that there were unknowns. At $2,000 a shot, it should be really good. Still, I had to believe what I had been told, and hope that it would truly improve my vision and save it from getting worse.

I wondered whyI was seeing all this confetti falling. Why was it so dark when I had just seen bubbles in a light spot. "It's the medicine," the doctor had told me about the bubbles before he left. Okay, the medicine might be going in my eye as bubbles, and I guessed they might be just changing shape into colorful squares.

"What next?" I wondered, hoping that this would soon be over. Afraid that, when it was over, everything would stay black. Was this the start of my Journey Into Darkness?

Enjoy looking at the links I have added in my Authors and Artists, and Links sections.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vision-Ooo, Bubbles!


Ooo, Bubbles!
It's the Medicine
8.5" x 12" watercolors
The shot was over. I had not fainted, or died. And, it didn't hurt. In fact, I didn't feel it. The most discomfort was in having the doctor's hand and face coming toward me. I had been told that I would probably feel a little pressure, like someone pushing on my eye. But, the doctor was kind, fast, and skilled so the injection was over before I knew it had happened. And he was able to hide the needle so that I didn't see it.
"We'll just let you sit here a little while, then come back and check the pressure in your eye before you go home, " the doctor was working at the counter.
I dabbed at the tear running down my face with a tissue I had been given earlier.
"If the doctor hits a blood vessel when he gives the shot, you may have a really red eye for a few days. But that's normal, nothing to worry about. " The techincian advised me. "We'll give you some drops for your eye that you must use as directed. If you keep them in the fridge, and use them cold, that will be soothing to your eye. Cold wash cloths will help too, if it should bother you. Some people say that it feels like something, like a grain of sand, in your eye for a few days. That's normal. Call us if you have a lot of pain, or if your eye gets extremely red. Otherwise, just go about what you would normally do."
"We have a lot of patients with the same thing. It's becoming very common as the population ages. You're lucky that they have come out with this new treament. And, you're lucky that you have the wet form, and it isn't bleeding yet. There is treatment for the wet form, but not for the dry form, " he had told me earlier. "I would say that about 75% of our patients have AMD."
I remembered that the doctor had told me that I would not lose all my vision. I would not go completely blind, but I would lose my center vision. This new treatment promised, for some, that vision would be improved, in some cases, and the destruction of center vision stopped.
It had already gone further than I needed to lose my vision. I was having trouble reading signs, watching tv, writing, connecting lines in my art work, and lights sometimes bothered me. Sometimes, the computer monitor seemed too bright, while the tv seemed to be too dark or distorted.
As the doctor walked to the door after finishing whatever he was doing at the counter, my vision was changing. It was getting dark and foggy, with a light in front of me. I think they dimmed the lights in the room, where I was supposed to be waiting. It may have been just what was happening to me.
"Oooooo! Bubbles!" I blurted out as the doctor stood at the doorway. I felt a little giddy, playful, as I said it, but quickly thought that sounded so childish. Why did I do that! It was how I felt. Very surprised! And I let it out instead of controlling my urge as I would normally do.
In the middle of the lighted area in front of me, bubbles appeared and floated around. Bubbles of light or liquid, touched with silver light.
What on earth was happening! I knew those things were not there, so why was I seeing them.
I could see the shoulder of the doctor's white smock and part of his jaw in the darkened doorway.
"It's the medicine," he said softly, as he walked away.
I was getting hot, my stomach hurt a little, my chest felt tight, my heart was pounding. I wished I was not in that room by myself in case I was about to faint. Then I felt a little cold. Clammy, I guessed, since I had been hot and cold.
What would happen next? Hopefully, my vision would go back to normal and I could just go home quickly.
"Relax," I told myself. It didn't help much.
I thought that, maybe I could make the bubbles bounce and move around, the same way I did the floaters in my eye when I discovered them. When I was in a boring meeting, trying to stay awake, or trying to entertain myself when I couldn't draw or write, I would "play ball" with the biggest floater in my eye. I would bounce it from one side of the "court" (my eye) to the other, learned to dribble it, weave, throw, and things I remembered from high school basketball. Or, I could pretend it was a tennis ball and play a game with the floater-bounce it right over the imaginary net in the middle of my eye.
(That reminded me of our imaginative Modern Dance teacher in college who, one day, pretended to draw, or pull, an imaginary curtain across the room. All those who were on time to class were told to stand on one side of the curtain. Since we were there, we knew what she meant. But, the poor latecomers, who were told to stand on the "correct side of the curtain" when they came in after the bell rang, just stood dumbfounded, not knowing what to do. Everyone thought the poor woman had completely lost her mind! There was no curtain there, just the hardwood floor in the center of what had once been a swimming pool. )
These bubbles wouldn't cooperate, though. They just went where they happened to float. Sometimes they divided, covered parts of others, moved apart, but, once they appeared, they just seemed to cluster together, shimmer, and float.
I hoped that this would go away soon. It was a bit frightening because I couldn't see anything else, except this dark fog, the light area, and the bubbles. It was a bit annoying, too, especially since I couldn't even play with the bubbles while I sat there with no one to talk to.
At least, it didn't hurt. The side of my face with the eye that had just been injected just felt a little bit big or heavier than the other side. But, that was very slight.
There are quite a few websites with information on Macular Degeneration and similar vision problems. And a few artists who also have, or did have during their lifetimes, AMD. Georgia O'Keefe was one famous artist who developed AMD. Monet was another. They were able to adjust and continue to develp their art the rest of their lives.
At this point, I was more concerned about what was happening to me right now, and what was about to happen as a result of the shot I had just had in my eyeball. And, what about all the other shots that I was scheduled to have. Well, if it would help, I would just have to steel myself. I didn't think I could manage without good vision.
Be sure and look at the links I have added in my Authors and Artists , and my Links sections. I think you will enjoy their work, and the information provided in their websites.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vision-Injection

Shot In The Eye 7.5" x 12" watercolors

Drops had been put in my eyes several times, to dilate, then numb. Technicians or aides had talked to me, examined my eyes, taken blood pressure, had me sign papers. I sat in the room, alone, my fear of needles was building.
When I was first told that treatment for wet macular degeneration would consist of getting a shot in my eye, I tried to find out everything I could. My sister, who had had a serious eye injury from a tennis ball, told me a little of her experience. I had read e-mails from a couple of people on different lists who had mentioned their eye problems and having to have shots in their eyes. I contacted them, and their experiences made me feel a bit more confident that I could face this, too.
Will I faint? Will I die? Will all the air or juice run out of my eyeball? Will I be blind afterward in that eye? How much will it hurt?! It was getting hard to breathe as I sat in the chair-waiting.
The doctor entered the room, quickly, followed by a nurse. I suppose she was a nurse. It's hard to tell an RN from an LVN or an aide, technician, or office worker. The uniforms and caps that I learned to recognize are no longer used or are important, it seems. I know they were probably uncomfortable, but, it was a symbol of achievement and recognition. Now, everyday is "casual day".
The doctor took something from the cabinet and walked over to me. "Just going to numb this a little more." He jabbed his hand, quickly, several times, at my eye, while holding the lids open with the other hand. Then turned back toward the cabinets.
"I'm scared to death, you know," I told him. I gripped the arms of the chair with both hands. My chest felt like it would burst. It was hot, and cold. My throat was tight, my jaws clenched.
"I know. That's normal." The doctor turned back toward me, and this time, he faced me.
"I don't like needles. Sometimes I faint." I explained.
He leaned toward me, his hand in my face. I didn't think that he had anything in his hand. Maybe he was just checking to see if it was numb.
His hand came closer to my eye.
I could see his lips, his nose, his chin, his cheek, and a bit of his neck above his white doctor's jacket. His neck seemed to fade into the surrounding darkness. I could see light whiskers underneath the skin above his lips and around his jawline. His hand was close to my eye, but I couldn't see anything like a needle in it. I could see my eyelids all around and red all around that, as if I were able to see from inside my eye.
Suddenly, he stood up, walked back to the counter, wrote something and walked to the door.
"All done!" he announced.
What?! I hadn't felt a thing! But, I was still in an anxious mood. I wished I had someone there to hold my hand. I always wanted my mother to protect me, but, in her later years, she didn't always come anymore-especially if she had to go upstairs. The only one I had left was a young grandson who was still affectionate enough to share hugs and kisses. Today, though, he was in school. I wouldn't want him to have to see me get a shot in my eye, anyway. So, I just had to be a "big girl" and hang onto those chair arms. And tell myself that I had to do this to save my sight.
"Shot" was done in Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper. The colors in the original are much brighter and richer than in the scan that I have posted. The reds and greens offer a great deal of contrast and the reds and purples of the backgrounds are much richer.
Getting a shot may not be such a pleasant subject. But it is a part of my story-my experience in dealing with wet macular degeneration.


Monday, July 23, 2007

VISION-FALSE HOPE

"FALSE HOPE" Good News! watercolors 8 " x 11 "
Good news! The retina specialist's office told me that my insurance company would cover injections for Wet Macular Degeneration 100%. Whatever they wouldn't pay, there were foundations to help out.
All I had to do was to decide which treatment I wanted. There seemed to be no question but that the newly approved Lucentis would be the only choice. Laser would leave a hole in your vision. The older medication was a bit cheaper, but it wasn't as promising as the new medicine. The only other choice was no treatment, and certain loss of center vision. The new treatment was supposed to stop bleeding or deterioration, or even improve vision some.
I couldn't get past worrying about the thought of an injection in the eye. As my daughter said, "That's gross!" I did not like shots anywhere, and having to be awake, to see a needle coming at my eye, just seemed like something I couldn't handle. I would have to blink, wouldn't I. Or maybe even faint, as I was prone to do.
I couldn't even get to the point of thinking about finances. All I could think of was that needle.
I had read the literature I was given, studied what I could find online, and told myself that this was something that I had to do. I couldn't lose my sight, if I could possibly help it.
"You are not going to get any shot in your eye!" My daughter kept telling me.
I just didn't answer her, and I went about my business, resolved that I must do this, somehow.
I went into the retina specialist's office for my appointment. I had to laugh as the sign was still there. "Do not enter if you are sick." I wondered if they only kept that sign in the window during flu season, or if there was a lot of illness going around. People would probably not be there, if they were totally well.
I tried to surpress my fear by thinking of other things. Maybe I should draw. A sure sign that they would call me in.
Everyone was extremely nice. A techician did another eye check, talked to me, put drops in my eyes. Everything seemed set and I was to get injections in my eye every 4 weeks, and I was to come in to be checked in between times. More papers to sign, and then I was taken to another room. Another technician came in. More drops in the eye.
My fear was about to get the best of me. I was shaking inside-probably outside too.
"Nothing to be scared of," I told myself. "Drops don't hurt." I thought of my aunt who was now in the nursing home. She didn't want anything to touch around her eyes, and she had managed to get through cataract surgery on both eyes, a few years ago. That was much worse than this.
They left me alone to sit while the drops had time to work. I couldn't help but wonder what happened when a needle went in the eye.
I remembered our little Spitz dog, "Sugar", that we had in the 80s. A pickup , driven by some mean boys, went up in the yard before school one morning, and hit him, on purpose. They laughed as they drove off. They almost hit my great-aunt as she worked in her yard.
The dog had scrapes on him, but, the worse part was that his eye was hanging out, like a soft boiled egg attached to a string. I grabbed the eye with a towel, got in the car with my daughter, and drove to the next town, while holding that eye in the towel. The vet did have to remove the eye and sewed the opening together. Although I was holding the eye, I never could get up the nerve to look at it, to see if it deflated-if all the air or juice ran out of it! Poor little dog always walked with his head sideways and close to the ground after that. But, he was still ready to run off and investigate things. He ran past my feet, out of the house one morning, and we never saw him again.
I encouraged myself by trying to think of other things, and explaining that this is something that I must do. Losing my vison was not an option to consider. I was lucky that promising treatment was now available, and it had not been, even a few months ago. I was here to start saving my sight.
I felt like I was smiling- that something positive was happening. That everyone was here to help me. All would be okay. Inside, I was starting to tremble. My daughter had left me to pick up my grandson from school. No one to talk to in this little room. Just me, my thoughts, and my fear of needles.
"False Hope" was painted on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper using Winsor Newton watercolors.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Vision-Night Fears

Night Fears
I Can't Breathe!
watercolor 7.5" x 11.5"

I read the brochures that the doctor had given me on Wet Macular Degeneration. I searched for information online. And, I used the little Amsler Grid, the chart of squares with a dot in the center, to check my vision daily, as directed.

It was all unreal. "What can I do to make this go away? It is all a dream, isn't it? What am I supposed to do now? What is going to happen to me? I can't go through this. This isn't happening. Does it hurt? Where am I going to get the money?" Thoughts raced through my mind. And, I read all I could find about this disease, illness, disability, condition, whatever it is.

"You are not getting any shot in your eye!" My daughter lectured. "That's gross!"

I didn't respond. I didn't think it would ever get to the point of having to do that. I was still trying to cope with being probed to get an IV in for the dye used in the test in the doctor's office.

Shots and needles are not my thing. I have been known to faint, even when they bring out a needle, or just probe for a vein-over and over. I even fainted when I got my ears pierced by a doctor. I have veins, but they roll, and I only have a couple of good places that they can hit-sometimes. It takes a lot of good luck and a special person to hit one of my veins. I've been told that they hope I am never in anything like a car wreck! And, I've had as many as 6 people at one time, probing my legs, feet, arms, hands, in the hospital trying to get an IV in. They gave up. And, yet, some people have that magic touch and hit it without any problems. The last time I was in the hospital for stomach pains, they were going to give me an IV that had something in it for pain. The elderly nurse couldn't hit a vein. So, she called in someone from Intensive Care. He tried once, then gave up and said he was going to put the needle in my head!

"Oh no you're not!" I exclaimed. "I'm not that sick!" I was ready to run out of the hospital.

"Oh yes you are, or you wouldn't be here," the big male nurse from ICU said.

"Honey, you can refuse any treatment," the nurse advised.

"I refuse!" I said as I sat up in bed.

The male nurse left, and I was left alone with my stomach pains. "Can't you do something else?" I asked the nurse.

"That's all we have orders for." The nurse seemed to ignore me, since I didn't accept the treatment. Pains came and went all night while the IV stand with medicine remained in the corner. Fortunately, they brought in an elderly woman, who didn't speak English, with a crowd of her family. She was in the other bed in the room. I couldn't sleep for the pain, but, at least, they were a distraction, and occasionally, the visitors would talk to me, mainly to ask about hospital routine.

When morning came, a doctor came by, and, without checking me, just told me that they would send me home. No tests to see what was wrong or anything. The docotor who sent me to the hospital had kept me in the clinic all day, and, when they closed, he sent me to the hospital. He said I had a lot of air in my stomach, but didn't know why I had the severe pains. The pains eased but it took a long time for them to go away. What a nice Valentine's Day that was!

Anyway, shots and needles, stitches and that sort of thing are things that often make me faint. And I wanted to be a nurse! I think it went back to times, during WWII, when I was young. Younger doctors went off to war, and older doctors came out of retirement to take care of the town, temporarily. I had sinus trouble quite often and one of the treatments for that was a pencillan shot. Or, we could drive 30 miles to the ENT doctor and have a sinus treatment of various kinds. If we got sick, my mother would take us to one of the town doctors, or call them to the house as doctors made housecalls in those days. If we could make it upstairs, over the bank, we went to the doctor in town. If we couldn't get up the stairs, he would come to the house. One of the elderly doctors in town who was taking care of us had overstuffed leather furniture in his office, much like in the old western movies. It was hard as a rock, to sit on, but looked like it would be soft. I dreaded going to his office, though. He would bring out a long, thick needle from the sterilizer, fill it with penicillan, which was the new wonder drug, then, and walk across the room. My mother would have to hold me down, threaten, and the doctor coaxed, fussed, and anything he could think of to get that needle into me. Well, the needle was bad enough, but these were old, bent, and I could swear they were a little rusty. I was terrified of those shots, and usually ended up with having to have smelling salts or spirits of ammonia to revive me. I would faint away at the sight of a needle. And, I still don't like them. Although, I did want to be a nurse!

A dentist helped me get over that, long enough to think about going to nursing school. Then, it all came back. Later, when my son was killed, I thought,"nothing could hurt me as bad as that train hurt my little boy." I was brave again, but it all came back as time passed.

After the diagnosis of Wet Macular Degeneration, I spent a lot of time online trying to find out more, looking for experiences of others, and pictures, most of the time online. I found a few things such as paintings by people with AMD, in an exhibit from a few years back, and a few stories of people who had AMD. Most seemed to be research of a treatment that had just been approved, or treatments that had been approved for a while and the sites were a bit out of date. Laser treatments seemed to be an option, but they left a "hole" in the vision where the beam burned as it sealed leaking blood vessels. An older treatment involved shots in the affected eye or eyes. But the new treatment was more promising. It, too, involved injections in the eye.

My job was to decide which treatment I wanted. The new treatment sounded most promising. And, there didn't seem to be any question, according to the material I could find, but that it would be the thing that would stop any more vision loss. I couldn't see any point in trying the older treatment, if it wasn't going to work as well, or if it was going to leave a blind spot, as it sounded like laser treatment would do.

I needed my eyes. I was sure of that. Now that I had time, my art and my writing, with some genealogy, some reading, a little cooking, and time with my youngest grandson, and a lot of tv watching, filled my days. Bad knees made me decide that driving wasn't a good thing for me, anymore. And I didn't want to go through surgery. Fear of needles, stitches, and all that again.

I tried to relax and tell myself that there was treatment available, all I had to do was tell them which one I wanted, and show up when told. They said that my insurance would pay for it, and, if I needed help, there was help through a foundation. And, they had made contacts, so all was ready, awaiting my decision.

But, I just didn't know about shots in my eyes. If they poked a hole in my eye, wouldn't all the water run out and it would deflate like a balloon? Wouldn't it hurt? Wouldn't I blink and they couldn't hit my eye? Wouldn't I faint and they couldn't hit it? I had heard people talking about having to be awake while things were done to their eyes. I didn't think I could manage that. I surely didn't want to be aware of anything. But, still, if it could be fixed....I surely didn't want to lose my vision.

In the dark, at night, alone, with lights from the tv bouncing around the room, I sat up straight in my bed, gasping for breath. My eyes were wide with fear. Tears ran down my face. I braced myself on the bed. "I can't breathe!"

"This is so dumb! You're a big girl,now." I lectured myself. "There are so many things worse than this. You are such a baby! It's just part of getting old. Just think about Poor old Pearl, and others, who went totally blind because she needed cataract surgery. They said you won't go totally blind with this, it's just the center part that you will lose. Maybe, with shots, you won't lose much more than this little distortion." It took a while before I could make myself relax and go back to sleep. That was just one night of many when I would sit up straight in bed, trying to get my breath. I might as well stay up and do something, I had learned a long time ago. I always was more energetic at night, and thought that, instead of wearing myself out, tossing and turning, trying to force myself to sleep like a normal person, I might as well get up and write, draw, paint, clean, do laundry until I was exhausted and had to sleep. Usually that was when the sun came up. And that didn't work too well when I had to go to work or had children to take care of. Still, if I were painting or doing sculpture, I might work all the way through the night and several days as well, until I was finished and I lost my mood or idea.

I got my nerve up, made the call for an appointment. and told them that I thought that the new treatment would be best. I was told that my insurance would pay for it, and all was set. Now, all I had to worry about was the fear of having a needle stuck in my eye.

I talked to my sister about her experiences with a tennis ball injury to her eye, some years back. But, then, she was tough, independent, and not a "scardey-cat", like me. And I met others who were getting shots in their eyes and had been diagnosed with AMD, wet or dry, or other eye problems. I knew I wasn't the only one going through this. I felt that I needed support from someone and I didn't have it at times when I thought I really needed it, like at night, when I was alone, or when uncertainty and fear struck. Still, taking care of this was something I needed to do. What would I do if I couldn't draw, read, work on my genealogy, see faces, watch tv, or even cook? I wasn't driving due to my knees, but thought that would return once my knees were replaced. But, what if I wanted to drive, my knees were fixed, but my vision was messed up! I was in a quandry. But, there didn't seem to be a choice. Just which treatment I wanted, all of which seemed frightening to me.

"You are not getting a shot in your eye!" My daughter insisted. I just said nothing, and resolved that this was something I had to do. I knew that she would not want to be tied down, taking care of me for every little thing if I lost my vision. And, what would I do with myself if I couldn't see? I read about some artists who had AMD in the past, and realized that some of their style was due to the fact that their vision was distorted. Probably, no matter what happened, I would create, somehow.

One bad thing was having to wait until there was an available appointment. I was careful to tell myself that going to the doctor and taking care of this was a good thing-something that I must do as a grown person. It probably wouldn't be as bad as I was feeling that it could be. A lot of other people were going through this and I was lucky that there was a new, more effective treatment available now. I tried to stay busy. Staying positive and determined was not so easy.

At night, in my room, the lights from my tv danced, and, sometimes, it was hard to breathe or to sleep. I was doing a good thing, I reassured myself, and everything would be alright. I didn't want to have to think about it, but I couldn't shake the constant questions and fears that I had.

"Night Fears" was done with Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Getting the Diagnosis

Getting The Diagnosis
What Are You Saying!
watercolor 8" x 12"

The room, with its dim fluorescent lights, seemed to be filled with a soft fog which swirled around the doctor. The shoulder of his white coat stood out, as did the side of his face. Lights reflected in his glasses.
Of course, I wasn't seeing too well, after having my eyes dilated, dye injected into my veins, and extremely bright lights flashed into my eyes. I was about to relax, thinking that the worst part of the visit must be over. My daughter came in to sit in a chair in front of me as the doctor looked over his papers.
I held onto the arms of the elevated examining chair.
The doctor assured me that my vision was good enough to pass the eye exam for renewing my drivers license. He handed me some brochures.
"You are going to lose your vision," he announced.
"What? What is he saying? This can't be happening!" I thought. I felt like my mouth was hanging open, all the way down to my feet, and my eyes were wide open, trying to comprehend. I tried to listen intelligently, but the words were not all coming to me.
"The good news is that there is a new treatment that has just been approved." I wondered how often the doctor made this same speech. He had the words memorized well. I just couldn't catch all of them. Maybe he would "replay" it for me.
"It involves an injection in the eye every four weeks." I could see my daughter grimmace and I caught my breath. He continued without a pause, "The bad news is that each injection is $2,000. And, you will have to come in to have it checked to see how it is doing, in between. Any questions?"
"Shot in the eye!" My daughter gasped.
"$2,000.oo a shot!" I gasped.
"We''ll have to think about that!" My daughter exclaimed. "What if she doesn't get the shots?"
"She will not go totally blind, but she will lose all of her center vision. She won't be able to drive, read, write, watch tv, sew, cook, and a lot of other things. The kind of AMD that she has comes on fast and progresses rapidly."
I couldn't scrape my mouth up off the floor to speak very well. I struggled to act brave, reasonably intelligent, and responsible.
"I'm just a retired teacher. I don't have that kind of money," I explained.
"I understand. But there are foundations that can help. You just need to decide what kind of treatment you want. Go home, read your books, and let us know," he said.
"You are not getting shots in your eye! That's gross!" My daughter said as we left, all the way home in the car, and continued through the next days.
"Lose my vision? What will I do? I can't lose my vision! A needle in my eye! That is worse than gross!" I tried to read the material, and went online to do some research on Wet Macular Degeneration. Everything else was blocked as I tried to grasp what was happening.
My mouth did start to function properly again, but I was still overwhelmed and shocked.
I had always had 20/20 vision.
In 8th grade, I wanted to look as smart as other students who were getting glasses in our school. I convinced a great-aunt to take me to the eye doctor. I could see the chart just fine, but I purposely told the doctor that I was seeing something else, or acted as if it wasn't clear. After all, if I were to get glasses, I was sure that the teachers would give me better grades if I looked smarter! What a shock when the doctor, at the end of the exam, announced that I had 20/20 vision and didn't need glasses! I was so disappointed. I was sure the doctor must have detected every fib. I finally got reading glasses to read grade books and attendance sheets almost 40 years later.
When I was about in 5th grade, there was a radio program from Dallas where people could write in questions and someone would look up answers, then answer them on the radio. I wrote in to ask the meaning of my name. The person read the answer saying that the name was Italian and meant "blind". I remembered this as I searched for information on AMD. Maybe that was predestination.
I also thought of a great-aunt who had gone blind due to cataracts, before many people were getting cataract surgery. I'm sure that they didn't operate because she was a widow with little money. That was so sad, to think how people, even in the hospital and nursing home, would steal her things, with her sitting right there. And worse to think that it could have been prevented with cataract surgery.
Still, I didn't want to consider a needle in my eye, or someone cutting on my eye.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Doctor's Office


Doctor's Office 8.5" x 11" ink
When I was a child, I loved comic books, along with the movies. And, every Sunday, as kids, we spread the funny papers on the floor to read while the grownups visited, cooked, or took a nap. The funny papers were part of life, just like movies, radio programs, and magazines. There was a time when the newspapers didn't come out, so our president, FDR, read the funny papers over the radio. I don't recall that I heard the broadcast, though.
I also had a need to express myself with pictures and stories from a very early age. We didn't have art classes in school then. There were a couple of artists in town, and one who was an art teacher in a city, during the school year. But one was busy with her own creations, and the other took care of her elderly mother in the summer. I didn't know there was any such thing as art lessons or classes. Still, I would use notebook paper, pocket note pads that stores gave out to customers, or whatever I could find, and try to draw, as children will do. I didn't know that my mother had taken art classes when she was in school, and had done beautiful drawings. Later, she brought out oil paint and became serious about painting. But, when I was small, she was busy with things like washday on Monday, when they had to scrub clothes in the sink on a rubboard in the kitchen, then take them outside to a washpot over a fire, then hang them on a clothesline to dry. Tuesday was ironing day. Wednesday was housecleaning day. And on the week went until Saturday when she practiced the organ, and Sunday when she played the organ for church, then we had family dinners. In between, she had piano lessons to give, and two little girls and a husband to care for. So, I wasn't aware of her doing any art work until I was about junior high school age. I probably wouldn't have listened, if she had offered suggestions. I had to just find out things for myself.
One of my early attempts at art just almost stopped my whole career. My mother had Olan Mills portraits taken of my sister and me to give for Christmas presents. She had one color picture done, the rest were black and white to give to the relatives. That was all she could afford, she explained.
Unfortunatley, she showed me the pictures and I was so disappointed that the pictures were not all in color. I thought that would be terrible to give the inferior pictures as presents. My mother put the pictures in one of her hiding places-the hall linen closet. Well, while she was busy with things in the kitchen one day, I just couldn't stand it any longer. I got out her lipstick and some crayons and gave those pictures some hair color, lipstick, cheek color, and eye color. I was fixing those portraits! Now they would be colorful and good enough to give as presents! I think I only finished one when I heard her leaving the kitchen. I quickly returned the pictures to the closet and went into another room.
My mother took the portraits from the closet, ready to wrap them for presents. I was standing beside her, waiting to see how pleased she would be when she saw how I had fixed the picture and sure she would ask me to fix the rest of them.
I was horrified when my mother gripped the pictures and stood there in the hall, screaming, with tears rolling down her face. She didn't say a word. She didn't even spank me with the hairbrush. She just kept screaming! I didn't know why. Those pictures now had some color!
I took my art "underground" after that. I took my crayolas to decorate under the kitchen sink, and crawled inside the kitchen cabinets to decorate under that sink. When we had dinners at my great-aunt's house, I would take kids under the table to play while the grownups visited after dinner. Hidden by the tablecloth, we could tell secrets and practice writing and drawing. I taught the younger ones to do their ABCs on the underside of the table. Years later, my great-aunt couldn't figure out where those childish crayon markings came from under her good dining room table.
Inspired by radio programs and movies, or just having a need to draw, or maybe it was because my mind drifted and I wanted to be somewhere else rather than in school, I would start out diligently doing my school work. But, soon, I started drawing on my paper. I thought I had always hidden my creations by drawing on one piece of paper, and covering it with what I was supposed to be working on. When the teacher came by, I would slide the drawing underneath and pretend to be struggling with the answers. I guess they really knew what I was doing.
When I wanted to draw something and didn't know how, like an eye or nose from the side, a foot or hand, I would go to the Sunday funny papers for help. I would see how the artist drew that certain thing in strips like "Blondie", "Prince Valiant", or "Steve Canyon". Then I would try to remember and practice it when I returned to my drawing.
At one time, I learned how to draw one leg on people, but I didn't know how to draw the other leg. So, I had all these people with one leg, for a couple of years, until I figured out how to add the other leg. A few years ago, I found a compostition book that was mine when I was in school, with some of my little stories and characters I had drawn. I was inspired to draw one after a movie or two about pirates. I had a story called "The Pirate and the Beautiful Lady". Well, at least, I had the characters drawn and worked out. I had all these people, all with only one leg-including the "beautiful lady"!
As a result of the way I learned to draw, I seem to revert back to my cartoon style, when I am just thinking of something. No matter how many classes and workshops I have taken, and how I can actually do something a bit more polished, that cartoon style will still come out at times.
At one time, I did a weekly cartoon strip for my hometown newspaper, based on daily life there. So many people have gone, though, that life would seem to be different and those cartoons seem more like history now.
The cartoon above is about my visit to the specialist I was sent to after being told I had to go there right away. I was sure that all I needed was glasses.
I was apprehnesive enough, having the weekend to worry about what they might do to me. My daughter drove me to the appointment and waited in the waiting room for me.
I stopped at the door, startled by a sign that said, "If you're sick, don't come in." It added, "Go home and call for another appointment."
Well, I had to think a bit about that one. I understand that it was a different kind of doctor's office, not one where you would normally go if you had something like a sore throat. It just sounded rude, to me, though. What else is a doctor for, but to treat the sick? If you weren't sick, you wouldn't be there, unless you just need a check up or paperwork filled out.
There was another sign at the check in desk, that said they wanted payment before you saw the doctor. I thought that was odd, too. How could you even know how much it was going to be before you saw the doctor! I got even more scared, thinking that it must be so bad that people wouldn't be able to pay after they saw the doctor.
I filled out the new patient forms, gave the receptionist my drivers license and teacher retirement insurance card to copy. I sat down, and waited. The receptionist told me that my insurance would pay for it, so I just had to pay the copay. I was prepared to pay the $132.50 that the other doctor said an eye exam would cost. I was almost shaking and tried to relax by starting to draw. That always brings the nurses out to get me!
I was taken to a little room where more questions were asked and I was given a routine exam with the "machine", eye chart, and drops to dilate and check the pressure in my eyes.
I told them about having the inside of my eyes sunburned while I was working at a track meet years before, and the "migrane" I had in my eyes a couple of years before while I was teaching. That didn't seem to be important.
Then, I was taken to another room for more eye check ups, then to another room for an angiogram and several eye scans. This was not easy since I am one of those people that technicians, nurses, and doctors have a hard time hitting a vein. I usually faint after they probe for a while. I congratulated this techician for being able to get a vein with 3 tries! I tried to relax and not faint.
Lights flashed and I saw things inside my eyes that were really strange. Floaters, that I knew I had, and it was as if I could actually see inside my eye. Blood vessels and all.
The doctor came in with something that looked like a clipboard, but it had a computer screen. He showed me the scans and told me that I had some "pretty fair" cataracts, and wet macular degeneration. He handed me some booklets to read. By then, I could barely see.
In my cartoon, above, "Doctor's Office", I have shown the front of a doctor's office. Dr. Arex (as in rx for prescripitons) is ficticious, of course, as are the other characters. Nurses don't wear uniforms like that anymore, but, how else would we recognize a nurse unless she had a uniform. According to the sign, the doctor only wants to see you if you really don't need a doctor, for anything serious, especially, and if you have plenty of money with you to pay right away. No waiting around for things like insurance payments. A hand reaches out, hidden from view of the patients, expecting cash to be put in the palm before anyone can proceed further. The nurse has a little sympathy for the patients, but the hand doesn't even acknowledge them. The hand believes that all old people have plenty of money hidden away, so she isn't concerned about them-just as long as they pay in full.
Two patients approach the door, not knowing that they needed to bring money, or that they needed to be well, before approaching this doctor's office. They have been injured. He is cut and bleeding, and her eye is hanging out. They hesitate as they read the signs. But can they really wait? Will the doctor see them, even if they are sick, and didn't bring a lot of cash with them? Can they make it to a hospital emergency room, which will cost even more?
And, speaking of the doctor, where is he? He isn't involved in the decision as to whether or not he can or will take care of these patients. He is sheltered, protected by the "hand" up front, from whatever might walk through the front door. He will only see patients who are approved.
And what are those who are not approved supposed to do? That isn't his problem, or "the hand's" problem, or even the company's problem.
It wasn't all that long ago that it cost $5 or $10 to see a doctor. Most people didn't have insurance. It was possible for people to pay for most treatments. Church groups, relatives, the bank, or communities helped pay for expenses when someone in town needed more medical care than they had money for. Doctors would come to the patient's home. They were not only the doctor, but were civic leaders, trusted friends, and respected community leaders. Some did let their power go to their head. Some had rude people working for them as receptionists or nurses. Some doctors were gruff, or were selective in who they saw. But, there was care for almost everyone. People could work with the doctors and make sure that the whole family was cared for.
Now, if people don't have insurance, plus cash, and a lot of it, it seems that more and more people are just out of luck.
My primary doctor had told me that I would have to take certain medications the rest of my life, and that I needed to have tests done, and surgery on my knees. I explained to her that her company would expect to be paid. She hugged me, told me that things would work out for me, she would pray for me, and I should be sure to go to church, as she walked away. I was stunned, knowing that there was nothing I could do. I just tried to smile.
"Doctor's Office" was drawn with ink on cardstock.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Grid

The Grid 5.5" x 7.5" watercolor

It was time. I thought I would go in a bit early, before my drivers license would expire on my birthday, and get my eyes checked. I knew that going in, as the notice stated, would require an eye test. I guessed that my age would require this, after years of just renewing by mail. And, I was sure that, with the funny things that had been going on with my eyes, I would need some glasses.
I had given up on going back to the doctors where I had been going for years. I lost my good insurance when I retired. Knee replacement surgery was in the works, but I had to drop that idea. I couldn't afford to pay two insurance companies premiums, teacher retirement plus Medicare, plus pay deductables, copays, and whatever insurance wouldn't pay. Teacher retirment insurance was all I could manage, and I really needed that money for other things. When I retired, I was told that I was not eligible for Social Security since they had changed the way they do things. Low paying jobs, when I was younger, didn't pay enough to give me the quarters I needed. During the time of those jobs, I was told that I would be so glad when I retired, that I had struggled with my little paychecks so that I would have that money when I got older. I just threw that money away, and I sure could have used it at the time! I would never see a dime of it.
Texas teachers don't get Social Security, but have a separate retirement plan. If someone has worked other jobs, or if they are eligible for their spouses Social Security, then they will have both checks on retirement. I'm not sure about all the details of it, since it wouldn't apply to me.
I was told that I would have to apply for an individual policy with the clinic where we had our group insurance when I retired. I did, and after years of being with them, they turned me down. They said they didn't have to explain why. Which I thought was kind of a hateful attitude. I had my certain doctors to use and had not found any others who I trusted in town. But, I found that if I had Medicare, plus teacher retirment insurance, I could continue to see my doctors. That worked for a while until I could no longer afford to buy medicine or pay the copays and deductables. And, Medicare went up, so I couldn't afford that either.
I cut out going to the doctor, prescription medicine, along with Medicare, the newspaper, drinking water, my car, getting my hair fixed, clothes, shoes-anything that I could possibly cut, in order to get along on my reduced income after retirement.
I called the office of the Opthamologist who I had gone to before we got the good insurance with a clinic. I asked about the cost of an eye exam, and made an appointment. Then, I borrowed the $132.50 to pay for it.
The appointment was a week away, but, then they called and changed the date to the following week.
I went into the doctor's office, armed with my cash to pay for the visit, and worrying that glasses would be an added expense. I took an old pair of glasses, thinking I could use the old frames, at least. I couldn't see a thing through the old glasses and they weren't in style anymore.
My daughter took me since I knew that I would have my eyes dilated.
Paperwork was filled out, and I put my teacher retirement insurance down, just in case they wanted an insurance company. I told the receptionist that I intended to pay for it. She said, "Let's try your insurance first. We'll bill you, if they don't pay."
Whew. That was a relief. Maybe I could use the money to pay for glasses, and the insurance might pay, but I doubted that. I didn't remember seeing that they would pay for eye exams or glasses. But, then, I didn't know a lot about insurance. I only knew that they would probably try not to pay for anything they could. I could worry about the bill after Christmas.
The eye doctor was very nice and I explained why I was there. I wanted my eyes checked before I went to take an eye test for my drivers license, and thought I might need glasses to drive.
The last time I had my eyes checked, I had trouble reading the chart. That doctor said I had the beginnings of cataracts, and to just blink my eyes until it cleared up. I would blink and blink, but it didn't clear up, until later. He said it was too soon to do anything about the cataracts. But, that had been about 3 years ago.
This time, however, I blinked, and I could read most of the chart with one eye, not as much with the other.
The doctor told me that the cataracts still were in the early stages. He left the examining room and returned with a black card with white squares on it. He told me to stare at the dot in the center, with each eye.
Well, that was strange. There was a purple spot in the center, and the lines waved around it.
He left and then returned to the room to dilate my eyes. I looked into the machines and he looked into my eyes. Then he let me sit for a while.
"I guess he must be planning on going out of town or thinking about what he is going to do this weekend, since it is Friday, I thought."
"Well, the good news is that your eyes are good enough to pass the driving test. The bad news is that you have Macular Degeneration in one eye." He handed me a phamplet. I couldn't really read it, though, since my eyes were dilated.
He escorted me to a chair in the hall where I enjoyed looking at the frosted pink light fixtures on the wall. This office was much more tastefully decorated than the previous office I had been to years before. I complimented him on the nice furnishings and the fascinating, soft lights.
"I want you to see a Retina Specialist this afternoon," he announced. "I didn't see any signs of bleeding inside, yet, but, if blood gets in there, it is permanent and they won't be able to fix it."
"My eye was bleeding?" I wondered.
"These things come on suddenly, but there is treatment and they can save your vision, if you get in right away." He led me to the receptionist, took the telephone, and called to make the appointment himself."
He gave me some wrap around plastic dark glasses, but I was just numb and stunned. "Bleeding in my eye! Save my vision! But, don't I just need some glasses? See another doctor this afternoon? What do they do to you?" I didn't even think that I may not have enough money to see another doctor. I decided that I still had the money so I guess I would use that for the second doctor instead of glasses. After all, the doctor had said that my eyes were good enough to pass the eye test, and that's what I had gone for.
The Retina Specialist was out of town that day, according to his receptionist, via phone. So the first receptionist asked information while the other receptionist asked questions. She gave my teacher retirement insurance information. They could take me Monday at noon. The first doctor said that will be alright. I guessed that I wouldn't bleed to death or go blind by then, if he said it was okay. But, that gave me the weekend to worry.
Would they hurt? Would I be able to get my license? I read the phamplet that the doctor gave me. There was a little chart on the back, which I was told to use daily, mark it, and compare it to see if there were any changes in my vision. I thought that I liked the black one in the doctor's office best!
I stared at the dot in the center, with each eye, and with the left eye, there was the purple spot, and the curved lines around it. I used a pencil, lightly, to trace around the edges where the distortion was.
This chart is called an Amsler Grid. There are examples online. I'm still using the little chart on the phamplet. There is a note on the bottom that says to call your doctor right away if you notice any changes.
One reason I started the blog was to share my experiences, as well as memories, with others. I couldn't exactly describe what I was seeing, but I thought that I could show it through a painting or a drawing. I searched on the internet and couldn't find much information about what people with Macular Degeneration were seeing and experiencing. And I didn't see anything about what people with limited funds go through when this happens to them. I don't have all the answers, but, maybe someone will be more prepared when it happens to them. Even those who do have the funds and the insurance need to know what to expect.
Macular Degeneration happens to more and more people as we age. It's called AMD or Age Related Macular Degeneration.
Of course, the point is that, if you, or someone you know, starts seeing horizontal or vertical lines that seem curved instead of appearing straight, it's time to make a fast appointment with your Opthamologist or a Retina Specialist. It comes on suddenly, without warning, without pain, but time is important in getting a diagnosis and treatment.
The small painting that I have posted today shows how I have been seeing the Amsler Grid. Some of the lines not only curve, but they don't connect to show a complete square, in places. There is the ever-present purple spot in the center.
Along with showing my view of the grid, I thought it might be a bit abstract or design-like.
I used Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 pound Strathmore watercolor paper to do this small painting.





Sunday, July 15, 2007

After Sunday Dinner


After Sunday Dinner 8.5" x 11 " Pencil
Miles Farm Navarro County, Texas
The unpainted farmhouse, with two front doors, in the middle of fields of black dirt that turned sticky when it rained, was the home of my mother, Ellen's, parents, Emma and J.D. Miles. The farm had belonged to his father before him, but, as a child, that wasn't so important or interesting to me.
J.D. Miles Sr. was a Captain in the Confederate Infantry during the Civil War. He and his wife, Ellen Day, came to East Texas from Alabama prior to the Civil War.
I would have preferred to be at my house in Calvert, or with the grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and my parents back there, who I was around every day. I didn't get to see my Miles grandparents that often, so they were not that familar to me. They did come for extended visits, but only one came at a time. I missed life in town with the drugstore, the movies, the swimming pool, church, playground at school, and being very spoiled. I couldn't find a lot to do on the farm. Just sit and look out the window, sometimes sing, or chase cats or chickens outside. Not much fun by myself.
Grandma Miles was tall and thin. She had hair so long that she could sit on it, but wore it in braids crossed over her head. Her dresses were always long sleeved and high necked. She was a bit stern and a strong disciplinarian. As a child, I didn't see that she also had a sense of humor, but, as I look back, she was probably full of fun and mischief, as well as being a lady. Now, I can see in photos of her when she was young, that she was really beuatiful. She had come to Navarro county from Tennessee with her mother, Rhoda, after her father, Dr. Arnett, died in Tennessee. Rhoda died a little over a year after moving to Texas.
J.D. was a big man, and nice looking too, with clear blue eyes, and light brown hair. He walked with his knees bent as a result of a boyhood accident with an axe while he was chopping wood. He was kind and soft spoken, was a good cook, and was constantly working on something. He had lost his wife and two little daughters before he married Emma. He and Emma had two daughters, my mother and her older sister, Emma Dee.
Both girls were started in piano lessons at age 3 and Emma steered them into music as a career. Ellen got married before she graduated from high school, Emma Dee became a teacher and musician. Ellen, too, continued her music as a private teacher, and in her church. She also excelled at art, and most anything she tried.
Sometimes Daddy would drive us to the Miles farm for a visit, especially on a Sunday, when he was off work from my great-uncle's grocery store in Calvert. Sometimes we went in the little Ford coupe with the rumble seat, with you-know-who in the back-me! Other times, he would take the '30 something Ford sedan. I remember the road that approached the farm, and the smaller winding road that became almost impossible to drive on once the rains made everything so sticky. Grandpa had to meet us at the main road with his wagon when they thought the car might get stuck.
Sunday dinner with my Calvert family was a big affair after church, with all the family and friends they could bring in. I'll write about that another time. But, on the farm, there would only be my grandparents, my mother, my father, my aunt, and, possibly a visitor or someone helping on the farm.
There was a long room across the back of the house, with a door that was not far from the well. I remember that this room was like a screened porch, with screen all along the west side. I don't know what they did in bad weather. I think there may have been large wooden flaps that they closed when it was cold or if it rained. The north wall and the south wall by the door were made of wood. The east wall had windows in it, behind the table. There was a door that led to a room that had a bed in it, but also was used for storage. Sometimes, when we stayed longer, we slept in that room by the windows to the kitchen/porch.
There was a fairly long table with benches on one side, old fashioned chairs with what I called beadwork and carved flowers on the other side and at one end. An oil cloth tablecloth, with its pungent smell, covered the table.
On the wall behind the table, there was a cabinet covered with cloth curtains, where there were dishes, canned goods, and pots and pans at the bottom.
I don't remember a sink in the room, but, rather, a dishpan on a shelf or table under a window on the north wall. After washing dishes, the water was thrown out in the dirt in the yard, where chickens rushed to peck in it.
Beside the back door, there was a small shelf or table with a dishpan and a bucket of water for drinking. A ladle hung on a nail on the wall beside the door. There was a small towel for hand and face washing. Of course, there was the well near that door, where a wooden bucket hung. As I walked with my grandparents to get water, we would sing " The Old Oaken Bucket".
I'm sure that there was electricity, as they had a radio. It seems that there were electric lights, with bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling by a wire. But, I remember them using kerosene lamps, more.
There was a stove between the "sink" (dishpan) and the table. I don't recall a lot of details about it, but I believe they had a wood stove. Grandma and Grandpa, and Daddy, too, said that food was so much better cooked on a wood stove. I know they had wood stoves for heating in the sitting room toward the front of the house.
Emma Dee would usually come from where ever she might be working at the time, and join my parents for a visit with my grandparents. Sometimes, Daddy would leave us there for a week or a few days, but most often, we just went for a few hours on Sunday, came back home after supper.
In Texas, we have breakfast, dinner, afternoon lunch about 4 o'clock, (or a teaparty if there is something fancy going on, otherwise, they go for coffee), supper, and refreshments in the evening.
In this drawing, I remembered one visit when, after Sunday dinner, Grandpa and Daddy had gone out to look at the crops or something in the barn. The women lingered at the table, while trying to get me to eat. I had to be 3 years old, or younger, as my sister had not been born. I was a picky eater and only would eat cereal, fruit, and milk. And, I didn't want to eat strange things at houses that I wasn't familiar with, either.
Grandma Miles is sitting, facing us, at the table. The cabinet behind her.
Emma Dee is at the far side, on the bench, back to us, toying with a biscuit on her plate.
Ellen, is closest to us, seated on the bench, talking with my grandmother.
I have left the bench again, wanting to go outside, rather than have to eat. My little plate is empty, on the corner of the table, and my glass of fresh milk is still full. They would coax me and I would finally just drink my milk. But, I wasn't so sure about this milk that didn't come from a bottle, with cream floating on the top, from the grocery store.
Grandma had wrung a chicken's neck and fixed fried chicken for us. Maybe she used two or more chickens because the plate was piled high with chicken, with some left over. They also had canned corn and canned tomatoes, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, biscuits, syrup, and a pie. The grownups had iced tea and Daddy had "skyjuice", as he called it, or water to the rest of us. (That came from his days as an Aggie. ) The coffee pot was on the stove so that Daddy could have coffee to keep him awake as he drove us home at night.
In this picture, it was probably a time before the crops came in since we didn't have a lot of fresh things. Canned goods were even running sort of low. When the crops came in, there would be all sorts of fresh food to eat, with cornbread, or fried cornbread.
Daddy was a big eater. But, he didn't really like chicken. When he was a child and had Rheumatic Fever, his mother kept him in bed for the year that the doctor ordered, by bringing in chickens! He was terrified of them, as were the other children, so he wouldn't get out of bed. He didn't know why he was scared of them. He thought it had something to do with them flapping their feathers around, or their sharp beaks and claws. But, at any rate, there was seldom ever chicken in that house for those children, even when they were grown.
He did love Grandpa Miles' baking, especially the bisbuits.
As we sat at the table during this visit, I don't know what the grownups talked about. But I do remember that the bowl of canned tomatoes was getting low. Both Emma Dee and Ellen wanted the last of the tomatoes, the part with the little seeds in it. So, Grandma reached behind her, behind the curtains, and pulled out another can of tomatoes. She grinned as she placed it on the table. Emma Dee got a can opener and they ate the rest of the tomatoes, relishing the part with the little seeds in a small saucer.
I still think of that every time I open a can of tomatoes.
This drawing was done with a Sanford #314 draughting pencil.
I thought that, since it is Sunday, I would add something about Sunday, and memories, and take a little break from my vision experiences.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Vision-Night Lights

Night Lights 8.5" x 11 " Acrylic on watercolor paper

Today's painting is a composite of various lights as I see them outside at night.

The big starbursts are each actually a single light. One radiated cool light with blues and soft yellow, the other gave off a warm light with reds, yellows, and oranges.

In the upper right, there appears to be three circular shapes. That is the way I see the moon- as three overlapping moons.

The red hooks in the lower left hand corner are tail lights of a car in front of us as I was riding in a car.

The remaining shapes are security lights as I see them from my back door. These are in neighboring yards. The swash of orange is the glow of lights from Texas A&M.

Blinking didn't make them change, and they still look this way months later. The question still nagged at me-did I need glasses, or was it cataracts that would require surgery and a lot of money.

I used acrylics on 140 pound watercolor paper to do "Night Lights". To make the tiny marks in the burtst of light, I used a toothpick. The rest is brushwork.

It is more natural for me to work very large, but I had a block of watercolor paper that I had been wanting to use for a while, so I used that for most of my paintings in this series. I feel restricted and tight when I work small. As I work, I get tighter and tighter, which is actually more tiring and not as satisfying.

For me, if I start with a large piece of paper, or canvas, with a large chunk of compressed charcoal or a big brush, I can work large and free, and, as I work, my work gets even larger and more free. I could fill a wall easily, and gain a lot of energy at the same time. Part of that could be because I am working with a different area of my brain, allowing the tired part to rest. It does help things like headaches and tensio-for me, at least.

But, I often use a clipboard that has a storage space beneath the surface, to carry around with me and sketch as I have time. That works out better than sketchbooks, I have found, because my paper doesn't get bent or worn, and I also have room for my pencils, pens, eraser, and sharpener. I used that clipboard when I was teaching and continue to use it today. A tote bag, with my purse, a travel set of watercolors and a film container for water, and I am in business, ready to entertain myself anywhere.

Be sure to look at the links to artists, authors, and interesting sites that I have listed.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Vision-Watching TV


TV Stars 9" x 12 " watercolors
There had not been any more wavey vertical or horizontal lines, or faces with sunflowers in front. I was even able to read the newspaper, most magazines, and books with decent sized print without reading glasses. I used those for smaller print, when I had a lot of reading to do and, before I retired, for forms like roll and grade sheets. I had to use the glasses a lot when I was still teaching.
I was watching tv, something I do a lot of. Some of it was not all that clear. At lunch, I liked to have a sandwich while I watched the British comedies on tv. It was like having lunch with a friend. But, in order to make out the faces, or specific scenery, I had to stand up and walk over closer to the tv set. Sometimes, at night, while watching programs with the family, I would sketch or read my book. I wasn't all that interested in the programs, but it was time together while the younger crowd enjoyed what they wanted to watch.
I was also having to ask the younger folks what time it was, or what the words were on tv. I could read them, if I walked over to the tv set.
One night, I was watching one of the late night talk shows in which Phyllis Diller was a guest. How odd! She seemed to have two mouths, two noses, two sets of eyes and eyebrows, two jaws, while her neck and body were normal. I grabbed my watercolor paper. Then Jimmy Kimmel was on and he seemed to have two faces in profile, with his facial features a bit distorted. A man playing the piano seemed to have three heads in different positions while he was actually just sitting there, not moving around much. I switched to Jay Leno and he, too, had two mouths, double eyes and nose, as well as the side of his face appeared to be doubled. I sketched them to remember what I was seeing.
Lines of print were double and fuzzy, and had a wave in them, similar to what the venetian blinds looked like previously. I added a few lines of print to my sketch.
The next day, as I was watching one of my favorite British comedies, "As Time Goes By", Judi Dench seemed to have a very distorted face. A very long, curved nose, double eyes, cheeks, and lips, as well as the side of her face. She had on a wide brimmed hat and a suit, which were clear. Goeffrey Palmer also had a distorted face, with a long, curved nose, while the rest of him was clear. I sketched them, too, then added watercolors.
In the mail, I received a notice that it was time to renew my drivers license. I was sure that, at my age, that would involve an eye test. With what was going on with my vision, I feared I would need glasses.
I had been using some $5 reading glasses and a pair of drugstore glasses that I had for years. The doctor had given me a prescription for glasses at the last visit, as he said my distance vision had changed slightly. But, he added, I really didn't need them. Drugstore glasses would do just as well, if I felt I needed something. I stuck with my little cheap glasses, which worked for me.
But that had been a couple of years ago, so I thought my vision must have changed and that's why things were looking funny.
Problem was, paying for a copay and glasses. I couldn't afford Medicare anymore, and had lost my good insurance when I retired. I still had retired teachers insurance, which required people to have Medicare as well. They would pay for very little. My income had dropped to about 1/3 of what I made while I worked, but expenses kept going up.
I had quit taking medicine or going to doctors after I found how little the insurance would pay. Even when I had both Medicare and retirement insurance, they wouldn't pay for a lot of things, including the ambulance to take me to the ER when I couldn't get out of bed due to my knees. ( I still think that was extremely necessary, but they didn't. Their information didn't say that ambulance transport was only for life threatening situations, which is why they said they wouldn't pay. ) I could manage some drugstore glasses, but not the kind with a prescription, or a doctor's visit.
One more expense to have to worry about, but I had until after Christmas to renew my license. So, I just put that in the back of my mind. I was sure that glasses were in order, but feared that they might tell me that the cataracts were causing my problems. I tried not to think about it, and prayed that I only needed something that was really cheap.
I wasn't driving, due to my knees, anyway, so it could wait until Christmas was over. The distortions were just a minor inconvenience as I watched tv or tried to see the time on the clock on the cable box or the stove. That could be remedied by asking someone, or getting up and walking closer.
Painful knees and feet (from nerve damage), fluid, and other things like the need for money, seemed to be more pressing, but I couldn't do anything about those, either.
I thought that the tv stars might either get a laugh, or be upset, if they realized how I see them from a little distance.
Some glasses would solve the problem, I was sure.