About a year after I lost my sight, I met a guy who had been blind for around ten years. He told me a rather touching story of how he realized his worth when first dealing with his own sight loss. For the purposes of this story and to protect his identity, I will call him Robbie.
After a terrible car wreck, Robbie found himself in a hospital bed, alone, scared and with a very broken body. His collar bone was shattered, he had smashed ribs, a couple of fingers were fractured and most disturbingly, he had lost his eye sight. To top off Robbie’s woes, his wife had just left him and his friends and family were nowhere to be found. This is unfortunately a common theme when dealing with sight loss. Many times it is not just the newly blinded person who cannot accept and deal with the disability, but many of the people that should and could help, rather choose to disappear. Hiding their heads beneath the sand as ostriches do when faced with fear. All alone in this new dark world, Robbie did not know what to do.
As he lay recovering from his injuries in the communal ward of the hospital, all he could think about was getting out of the ward and finding the quickest way to end his life. He had resigned himself to the thought that he was now of no use to anyone. There was no way he could again function in a world so clearly designed for the sighted. Robbie lay in the dark and counted the minutes. He would figure out the simplest way to deal with his trauma. He would end his misery and suffering.
The ward was full of other patients, all invisible to him as he lay in darkness. He occasionally heard nurses attending to other patients. He could make out the sounds of concerned visitors chatting to other sick and broken people. Doctors and medical staff were busy and even when they came to check on him, he lay there in silence. All the time he contemplated his situation; lost in the trauma of it all. It was not a question of whether or not to end his life. He just had to figure out when and how he would do this.
One day, a voice called to Robbie looking for his attention from the bed alongside his, “Excuse me, sir?” Robbie ignored the call, not even sure if it was him that the chap was calling out to.
A few minutes later, the call out came again. Louder this time and more persistent. “Excuse me sir, can you please help me?” Robbie just turned away, too wrapped in his own troubles.
Once more the guy spoke, “Excuse me sir, please can you help take me to the toilet?” Robbie flew into a rage. Shouting and swearing at the man, he screamed out, “You Bastard, Can you not see that I am blind?” The man was silent for some time before he replied. “Yes, I can see that you are blind, but I have lost both my arms and legs.”
Robbie, stunned, lay and listened to the man, “I need to go to the toilet and I don’t want to ask the nurses as they just bring me a bedpan. It is humiliating to just lay here and have to ask for help.”
Over the next few weeks, as Robbie’s wounds healed, he struck up a friendship with his fellow ward mate. Robbie would push him around the hospital while the man gave him directions. They would go to the hospital canteen and drink coffee, eat cake and chat. Robbie would push the chair, open the man’s wallet and feel around for the cash. He would follow the man’s instructions and feed him mouthful after mouthful of chocolate cake and hold his cup gently to his mouth so that he could sip on his coffee. The man would all the time give audio descriptions to direct Robbie in his every movement. These two guys found such use in each other that a lifelong friendship was born. These two unlikely friends, saved each other’s lives.
The lesson that I learned from this story and have luckily been able to share with many, is simple and clear. When you think that you are totally destroyed and can be of no use to anyone, when you think that the world has come to an end and all you contemplate is ending it all, just when you least expect it, you may find a purpose in life.
Today, both Robbie and his friend from the hospital, live full fruitful and fun lives. They have no doubt shared this story with many that face obstacles that appear insurmountable and in doing so have no doubt helped many. I will end-off my recollection of this tale with a quote that I use on an almost daily basis. “When obstacles are insurmountable, just stop, breathe and think. If you cannot get over the obstacle, just find a way around it. Most importantly, anyone can be of use to others.”