Stubbornly, I awkwardly stumbled my way down the driveway to my Ford Fusion and plopped down in the driver’s seat. I placed the key in the ignition to start the engine, shifted into reverse, looked over my right shoulder to confirm clearance – nothing. I looked over my left shoulder – nothing. I shifted the car back into park, removed my keys from the ignition, stumbled to my porch bench and sat there defeated. Nothing. As I had previously peered over my shoulders to perform the ritual of ensuring clearance of stray objects or pedestrians, the nothingness wasn’t the absence of things I may run over, rather it was my vision. I could not clearly make out anything. And so, I sat on my porch bench, defeated, and phoned my wife inside the house to verify if she was going to pick up our son from school. Stubbornly, I was trying to perform the role of Superman, but I failed.
My health issues started the day before on August 4, 2020. I remember that day because I was driving to the polls to vote. As I made a left turn on Evergreen Road, I noticed my vision momentarily blurred as I entered the turn. As I made a mental note of the occurrence, I figured it perhaps a consequence of motion sickness as I sometimes suffer from time to time. However, this time was different because I was the driver and not the passenger. I noted the strange occurrence and continued on to vote with no problems. However, later that evening, I suffered a dizzy spell as I was bringing dinner to the table for the kids. It stopped me dead in my tracks and I had to find my bearings.
I’ve had momentary dizziness in the past, so I really did not dedicate any focus to the matter – not wise. The next morning I was struggling to read work e-mails – really, really struggling. A coworker suggested I just take the day off. I did, but my condition began to worsen. I began to seriously worry, so I immediately contacted my physician and scheduled an appointment. My sister-in-law drove me to the office. I stumbled across the parking lot to the building. I got lost in the hallway because I could not read the signage on the doors. I found myself desperately clinging to the walls in an attempt to read the signage to figure out where the doctor’s office was located. I was eventually successful. After an examination; the preliminary diagnosis was vertigo. My blood pressure was also elevated. I had a bout of vertigo approximately three years ago, but it was not THIS bad.
I was prescribed meclizine and provided some exercises to perform to assuage the symptoms. What followed was a weekend of dizziness, nausea, sweats, and vomiting. Honest to God, in 44 years I have never experienced any traumatic health events. I barely get a cold. So when collapsed onto the bed drenched in sweat after throwing up in the bathroom; I am sure I scared the crap out of my wife. She wanted to take me to the ER. I was so fatigued, all I wanted to do was lay there curled up in a fetal position. I was miserable. Every instance that required me to look object to object, it felt like someone shook the living hell out of me.
My vision was seriously scrambled. I could not interact with my children for nearly over a week. My daughter asked my wife if I was blind. If you know how I feel about my role as a father; you will know that I was devastated. I sincerely pride myself on being an active participant in my children’s lives. I could no longer pick up my son from school and listen to the GAP Band in the car. I had started cooking with the kids and jamming to old school R&B music; that was no more. I struggled as I prepared them for showers and bedtime. I could barely help with homework. I could not go to the grocery store and restock shelves with the kid’s favorite foods.
Hell, my once immaculate lawn was overgrown and developing brown spots because I could not provide it the proper attention. My wife eventually asked the young man next door to mow our lawn. I began to feel utterly useless and burdensome to those around me. I had to be driven to doctor appointments. I began to order groceries online just to feel like a contributor to the household. Many days I just stared at the ceiling because it was a blank continuous image that didn’t move. Solitude was the only thing that offered quiet comfort. I probably cried a little every other day. Frustration. Worry. Anxiety. My mind was constantly racing. Diabetes? Brain tumor? Stroke? Early onset of multiple sclerosis? I had to get an MRI.
Now, my condition started early August. With the medication, my primary care physician advised my vertigo would resolve itself within a week. My eye doctor concluded I had good eye health. It was now the end of August. The nausea, dizziness, sweats, and vomiting disappeared. However, my vision was still distorted. By this time I began to see double. I remember exactly the moment it happened. Strange how weird events become memorable. One day, I looked across the room at my wife and saw two of her. I blinked a few times. Nothing. Everything was double. What was going on inside my head? I was filled with trepidation before I went sleep. What if I check out before I wake? I privately told my next oldest brother to make sure they have a good male role model in him if things went sideways with me. Slyly, I asked what was his shoe size. I lied and said I found some shoes on sale for him. In reality, I was planning on leaving all my shoes and neckties to him. I was overreacting for sure. But the unknown was frightening me and the doctors were not offering anything conclusive after a battery of tests and bloodwork. My mind was wandering.
It was now September. I had began to wear an eye patch just to see one image. My kids began to call me a pirate, referred to me as “matey”, and asked about buried treasure. That made me smile. My Webex calls at work were a little embarrassing. I show up one day looking like Nick Fury and you know everyone is burning to ask what the hell happened. Fast-forward, my MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) results revealed nothing problematic. I didn’t have a stroke, brain tumor, diabetes, or early onset multiple sclerosis. Both my primary care physician and eye doctor were still stumped. Now it was off to see a neuro ophthalmologist. I swear have never had my eyes poked and prodded in my life. And we’re in the middle of a pandemic no less! He could not pinpoint the problem either. He was confident the issue would eventually resolve itself in another month or so. Until then, it was time to schedule an MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) to rule out one last possibility – aneurysm. However, that appointment was canceled as the insurance provider reviews whether an MRA is “medically necessary” for my condition. That is another story.
By now, I had concluded that life as Nick Fury was the way it had to be for the foreseeable future. The young man next door attempted to mow my lawn again. I heard the mower outside, grabbed my eye patch, and ran outside to stop him. I graciously thanked him, but I needed to feel useful – even with one eye. Slowly I was able to interact with the kids again – helping with homework definitely improved. I gave my son a haircut and didn’t butcher it. Defiantly, I emptied a large duffle bag and walked to the grocery store to shop. Thankfully no one called the cops on the suspicious black guy with an eye patch loading groceries into a duffle bag in the parking lot. My sister-in-law gave me a lift when she spotted me trudging home (damn I made that bag too heavy) as she happened to fortuitously drive by me on the road. This was all an attempt to reclaim some sense of usefulness. I am not a man that vainly attempts to be macho, but I do have pride.
It is now the middle of October, and my vision is slowly starting to correct itself. I have never experienced any serious health issues in all of my 44 years on Earth. As with any tribulation, I attempt to glean some wisdom and thankfulness from the experience. I am thankful I am able to work remote during a pandemic that has taken so much from so many. I am so thankful I have a network of family and friends for support. Tuwanda, my old high school/college friend that messaged me vertigo exercises on Facebook to get my head straight. Michael, my brother that checks on me weekly to see how I am progressing. Reverend Mack, my pastor that called me each week to pray for healing. Brandi, my sister-in-law that drove me to my doctor’s appointments and helped with childcare. Stephanie, my wife that has held down the household and more while I have been out of full commission. My mom, my coworkers, close friends, and even social media friends that I’ve never met face to face; your prayers and well wishes are so greatly appreciated. I constantly think of those people that have neither the network of family/friends or the financial means to survive an unsuspected life event. I feel extremely blessed. And I have learned that it is okay to be mortal and lean on others in times of adversity. There is no shame with being human. Focus on the good things, live, and enjoy life.