Roe Row

A site for my family and friends to discuss personal and public events, and musings about whatever interests them.

Location: Shelby, North Carolina, United States

I have been married to the same lovely woman for 39 years and am father of two daughters, and grandfather of three granddaughters, all exceptional. I have made my living for the last 30 years as a hospital pathologist , but am now retired due to a loss of vision.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blind Camp

I haven't blogged since August. No one reads this blog, so it isn't like I've been letting anyone down, but I need to put some thoughts on 'paper'.

I went to Blind Rehab through the Veterans Hospital services in September and was there for 7 weeks. I had some reservations about going; they ranged from not wanting to be gone from home that long, to feelings that I would be taking up a space that someone with worse problems should take, to thoughts that I would just be wasting my time.

My wife started calling it Blind Camp because the instructions that came in advance sounded like you were gong to camp. What you should bring, what you could not bring - sharp, pointy objects - were on the list and there was a clear message that someone else was going to be in control of your life for the duration. We were going to be hospital 'patients'.

On the way down we stopped at a service station to get gas and take a 'station break'. The restroom was outside the MiniMart and down a hall. Coming out of the restroom I went from a bright, white, environment to a dark hall way (dark to me, anyway) and I got disoriented. Thinking I had sorted things out I strode out for what I thought was the doorway back and stepped off into space. I ended up on my back at the bottom of a flight of stairs with nothing hurt except a sprained finger and my pride. I knew I was doing the right thing after that. I'm not much for believing that someone is sending me messages in the affairs of my life, but that would have been a strong argument for such.

Camp was structured and divided into Living Skills, Orientation and Mobility, Visual Skills, and Manual Skills. Most of what I learned was not rocket science, but it was the practical information put together through years of working with veterans with visual problems. All of us were classified as legally blind, but about 80% had some usable vision - thus the section called Visual Skills. This was where I spent most of my time. I have a fairly rare problem compounded by the fact that I had a lazy eye as a child with less than 20/20 vision even after correction. That eye is now the eye with the better visual acuity. Neither eye has much of a field of vies - less than 10 degrees in my better eye.

Saying that the process was not rocket science is a little misleading. Some of the gadgets to assist in seeing and organizing are pretty 'gee-whiz'. I have a gadget called a Jordy that works a lot like the air-filter looking contration that Lamar Burton wore in Star Trek. It receives and displays a pictire onto a screen in front of your eyes that can be manipulated in a number of ways through magnification, reversal of field and ground, display as black and white etc. to aid in vision. It is not perfect. It weighs a lot and about 30 minutes is as long as you can stand to wear it. It looks hazy for some reason outside, and the first thing that comes up on the screen is a warning against trying to walk with the gadget on. Some of the other less technically advanced aids actually helped me more in a given situation.

Computer training is a seperate program that I took concurrently with the other training. Having expeience with computers I only needed to learn how to use a program called Zoom Text. It is a wonderful program for those of us who can still see some. I had time to play around with Excel and Mail Merge.

It is good to back home. I decided that I will use a cane. I had tried to avoid using one and look 'normal', but using one gives me a lot of mobility I didn't have before. I can get across and intersection now without being terrified, and better yet, I have a good idea of which intersections are not doable for a visually impaired or blind person.

I can't wait for my new computer to arrive. It is so much more versatile and easy to use than the one I have now which is set up with Microsoft's Accessabilty features. They are much better than nothing, but leave a lot to be desired Viewing PDF documents or any Apple product with the Accessibilty feature is a royal pain.. Some email goes black when I try to reply.

Perhaps the most valuable part of the program was being surrounded by other men and women with many of the same problems dealing with life without good vision that I did. Some had much worse problems, but were able to cope and maintain their dignity. They were a real inspiration.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Apples versus Oranges

For several decades American politicians have been holding up terms as opposites that do not belong to the same class of things. As an example, consider socialism vs. democracy or communism vs. democracy. These comparisons have been made for so long that it has become accepted as valid if we don't give the terms thought.

Socialism and Communism are economic systems. Dictatorship in its various forms is a political system as is democracy. The word that is not used in any of these comparisons is capitalism. Freedom is a state of being and neither a political nor an economic system. How did this confusion in thinking come about?

The prime consideration of U.S foreign policy is free trade - unfettered capitalism. In the past U.S. corporations have been willing to support any form of government that would support unfettered capitalism. The easiest form of government to insure this economic interest was corrupt dictatorships. Dictators who were willing to insure America's economic interests while having their pockets lined by bribes - usually in the form of foreign aid that could be siphoned off to personal accounts - proved the most lasting form of government to further the needs of business. Democracies proved to be very unstable and difficult to influence so we developed relationships with the various banana republics with their 'president's for life. In the middle east the same approach was tried with some success, but in the process we produced such heads of state as Sadam Hussein. The economic power of oil made these dictators difficult to control, especially during the time that we were competing with the USSR for their allegience.

There may have come a tipping point in the willingness of big business and their cronies in Washington to create these monsters. Our leaders are now talking about making Iraq safe for democracy. Do our leaders now think that messy old democracy is preferable to disobedient dictators? Probably not. It is probable that given the emergence of a a charismatic dictator in Iraq who was in the pocket of american big business our government would embrace him in a heartbeat.

It is useful to remember that "the business of business is business". Compared to profit all other considerations take a distant back seat. Business was smart enough to know that fighting to "make the world safe for capitalism" just wouldn't excite many young men and women to lay down their life.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Exchange between United States President George W. Bush and journalist Peter Wallsten at White House Rose Garden, June 14, 2006:


PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, Peter. You're going to ask that question with those shades on?

PETER WALLSTEN: I can take them off --

BUSH: No, I'm interested in the shade look, seriously here.

WALLSTEN: All right. I'll keep it then.

BUSH: For the viewers there's no sun. (Scattered laughter.)

WALLSTEN: I guess it depends on your perspective.

BUSH: (Laughs, laughter.) Touche. (Laughter.)


Peter Wallsten is blind.

Bush is an idiot.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kajsa's Kidney Update

This is now the 10th postoperative day since Kajsa's transplant. The course has been storym, perhaps no more than other transplants, but it has included a fever presumably due to urinary tract infection that was treated with antibiotics, difficulties establishing enough blood flow to the transplanted kidney, now apparently satisfactory, and recent recurrence of fever. This time there has been no easily identified cause of the fever and the fear is that acute rejection is taking place.

Today Kajsa will undergo a kidney biopsy looking for evidence of rejection or CMV infection. The donor was CMV (cytomegalovirus) positive so this is a real possibility. CMV is innocuous in healthy people, but in the immunocompromised it can be life threatening. Hopefully the answer will be in the biopsy and Kajsa's doctors will know what to treat.

You can go to Rowan's blog and get this one step less removed from the source, but things have been so hectic that Rowan has not had many chances to sneak away to the hospital library and post.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Red Rain

This is an interesting bit of news. There has been a theory around for years that life did not originate on earth, but instead came to earth as a stowaway on comets, metiorites or cosmic dust. CNN aired a story about an Indian scientist's claim that he has isolated the cause of red tinged rain that fell on the Indian subcontinent recently.

The 'organism' consists of a structure that does not contain DNA but divides by creating an internal bubble that emerges as another structure. It retains the ability to do this after being subjected to temperatures in excess of 600 degrees. The argument is that this could enable the organisms to survive the heat of entry. The most heat resistant known organism prior to this loses the ability to reproduce at about 250 derees.

Competing theories for the cause of the 'red rain' are:
1. a large flock of bats that were hit by some structure causing red blood cells to rain down!?
2. red algae that got caught up in a typhoon and were then dumped inland.

Algae contain DNA. Red blood cells don't, but can't reproduce.

We may have been colonized at multiple times. All plants and animals survive as the result of photosynthesis. Plants directly, animals, saprophytes and parasites by ingesting plants. There is an exception to this energy source; tube worms that grow at great ocean depths and gain their energy from chemical rich vents along the ocean floor.

Everyone, by now, has heard of 'mad cow diseas'. This disease, scrapie in sheep, kuru in humans and Jacob-Kreutzfeld diseas are all caused by infections agents called prions that replicates without a nucles, DNA or RNA. Sound familiar?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Kajsa's kidney

For anyone who has kept up with the mamassage blog site our granddaughter, Kajsa, got a new kidney this morning. Patient and kidney are doing well so far.

Hopefully, there will be more details once the computer gets fixed and Kajsa is back home.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The amazing brain

I haven't posted much about the progress of my visual loss. In part this was due to having other concerns, and, in part, it was just because it seemed uninteresting to others. However, I think, this being a fairly rare condition, it might be useful to keep a journal of the evolution of the injury.

There is a previous blog labeled 'rotten luck' that was entered on the 29th of December, 2005 giving some of my thoughts in the acute injury timeframe. The injury first became apparent December 17. At that time there was a 'smudge' in my lower right nasal field of vision. This was slightly more pronounced on the 19th when I first went to see the opthalmologist. The diagnosis was made then of AION involving the right optic nerve. An MRI done the following evening showed swelling of the right optic nerve and nothing else. I worked on the 20th and then left for Christmas vacation, driving 5 hours on the 21st. There was rapid progression of visual field defects over the next few days and by Christmas day I realized that my left eye was also involved. By that time I was unable to find my way out of the movie theater and could no longer drive. My central vision began to become dark over the next week and by January it seemed like twilight in the middle of the day. I could see color, but the color was not true and the light had to be bright. Purple, for example, looked like electric blue to me in bright light. I seemed to have lost the red spectrum. I lived in theis twilight state through January and February. During that time I had mobility training and used a cane or my wife acted as a 'sighted guide' for me. We walked in the park together with her calling out when I started to stray off the road. During that period I found that the visual field defects, for whatever reason, were worse on the left in both eyes. For that reason I began walking behind and slightly to the left of my wife so that I could see her turn and still have some sense of what was happening in front of me. This was a dreadful time. I think my wife saved my sanity during that period. I would get out of bed and then want to go back to bed, go to sleep, and wake up whole. Lynn insisted that we go exercise and we went in freezing rain to keep moving and get out of the house.

Sometime in March I noticed that the light coming through the louvers in our bedroom shutters seemed brighter. I attributed this, at first, to the days getting longer and the sun coming up a little earlier, but then realized that some recovery was taking place in the portion of my optic nerves that were not dead. I think that the swelling due to the 'stroke' in my nerves compressed the still viable portions to the extent that they barely worked. By the first of April color was beginning to return. There doesn't seem to have been any improvement since the first week or so of April. I have no improvement in my visual acuity and have no useful improvement in my visual fields. I still don't see anything below chest level, and don't see things to my left until they are in my center ov vision. Visual fields measured by some piece of equipment that tests the ability to see pinpoint bursts of light show me to have less than 20 degrees of vision in both eyes which is considered legal blindness in the U.S.

Now, the part about the amazing brain. When I look with either eye closed I realize the extent of my visual loss. However, when I look with both eyes open I have the ILLUSION that I see an entire picture. This is both comforting and treacherous. The problem is that I don't see large parts of what my brain tries to make up. I imagine that I see things to the side, however, when I move my hands in the areas that I imagine I see the rest of the room I don't see my hand. In my central vision I am largely unaware that large parts of the center are missing. Realization comes when I look at people. Not only are their faces fuzzy, their left eyes are all missing. This is due to the fact that when looking at the center of a face the area where I should see the left eye is missing in both eyes.

Another area that demonstrates the illusion is that when I look at a yellow sheet of paper, for instance a page of legal pad paper, the page looks blotchy yellow and white. As it turns out my brain has assigned the areas that it doesn't see white against a yellow background. Curiously,j against red brick or asphalt these areas appear dull green and look like there are grass clippings all over the asphalt or brick pavers. Why did the brain assign these colors instead of the color to either side?

Another curious phenomenon is that from the beginning continuing to the present I see flashes of yellow light throughout my vision, more extreme at some times than others. The effect is similar to that of rubbing your eyes vigorously and then seeing lights against your closed eye lids.

Mid June will be 6 months and I'll try to do an update at that time.