Sight and other senses: Friendly concern both comforting and inspiring

May 31, 2012 By Betty Starks Case

I seem to need periodic reminders about how precious eyesight is. For some reason, the clues keep coming my way.

I didn't think I was casual or careless about it, but I have noticed that I often rub my hands over objects to feel them as well as to observe them visually. I hope such behavior portends nothing but a need to respond with a sense other than sight.

Last Thursday, I had my second cataract surgery, an event not uncommon for people my age.

When the first eye was done several years ago, my mate asked, "Want to go home now?"

"No," I said. "Let's go get a hamburger and a milk shake."

No problems. My eye healed quickly.

This time, my post-surgery eye had three unplanned abrasions and was most uncomfortable for days -- to me a grave concern.

Fortunately, I have a very caring local optometrist who kept close watch on the eye and advised me to call him anytime during what should have been his long weekend holiday.

I phoned him a couple of times with concerns about the eye, and he came to his office to check it over the weekend.

That, I've found, is how it is when you live in a friendly town of 10,000 population where people truly care about one another.

When I had shoulder surgery 8 or 10 years ago, our concern about my swelling arm brought my surgeon to our home to check the arm and offer reassuring advice.

This sounds like an uncommon world. It's how people are in Riverton.

The recent eye experience also took me back in memory to the year I dealt with the dangerous ailment called temporal arteritis.

This rare inflammation of the arteries in the temple carries the potential to cause serious problems, including stroke and loss of eyesight.

Fortunately for me, alert physicians in both Riverton and Lander recognized the unusual symptoms of ear pains, locked jaws, etc., and treated them promptly and efficiently.

A Lander neurologist said, "I've never seen the ailment, but I know what it is."

Then he phoned the Riverton hospital lab with instructions to draw blood, test it, and call him on his cell phone with the results. He was traveling, but said the medication must be started immediately.

I was soon well, with no lingering problems.

This recent event with its potential to harm the precious sense of sight also reminds me of the blind woman in Cody who phoned me in tears, asking if I could get my book "This is Wyoming -- Live" on tape for the unsighted. Someone had read parts of it to her.

The process was fast, simple, and most gratifying, especially when I was notified the National Association for The Blind would name mine "A Talking Book." Somehow, they said, through the wording of my stories, the unsighted envisioned events almost as if they could see.

I cannot imagine better pay for one's work. Makes me wonder: Could my own eyesight have been saved for that purpose?

I'll probably never know. But the experience impressed upon me once again the responsibility and potential inherent in words, published or uttered.

Then last Sunday, reporter Emily Etheredge shared a lovely Ranger story of a young couple named Jared and Jenni Bears who found each other without sight. Right here in Riverton.

This young couple's courageous and positive response to life's challenges reminds me that while eyesight is a precious thing, it isn't essential to happiness and fulfillment.

I salute them.

Their story reminds me of the value of my inclination to "test by touch." It's probably a sense that Jenni and Jared use as often as eyesight.

I'm reminded that, like my sometimes scary experiences, my need to touch carries no threat. It simply adds another dimension to my sight.

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