I love my job doing community education presentations and advocacy work for CNIB in Alberta. I’m often at schools, seniors’ homes, and whatever other community information events I can find to participate in to raise awareness of CNIB and talk about vision loss in general.
In late November, I was getting ready to do a presentation at a Calgary area high school, and needed to retrieve a white cane from the storage area in our office basement. The cane I wanted was in a basket with a bunch of other white canes of different lengths and types*. I tried to pull the one I wanted out of the basket, but it was stuck, so I pulled harder. As I pulled, the elastic inside of the cane stretched, and when the cane finally broke loose from the others in the basket, it shot out like a slingshot and the tip of the cane hit me in the left eye.
I dropped the cane and put my left hand over my eye, walking around to try and walk it off as though I had just been punched. A moment later, I could feel something wet on my hand, so I pulled my hand away and saw blood on it. As I tried to look around using my left eye, all I could see was blood. I covered my eye again and found my way back to the elevator to go up to the main floor. As I walked out of the elevator and turned toward the reception desk, I said, “I need help.” Luckily, one of my co-workers, who happens to be our Health & Safety person, was standing at reception. She came over right away, took my hand away from my face to take a look at my eye, then led me down the hall to the area where our first aid kit is stored.
After a short walk down the hall, I was sat in our first aid area where two of my co-workers tended to my injury, trying to stop the bleeding, while another called an ambulance. It was decided I should be taken to a hospital across town which had a specialized eye clinic.
At the hospital, I didn’t have to wait very long before seeing an emergency room doctor, and after examining me he decided I should be seen by an ophthalmologist, but none were in the hospital that day, so I was sent to the clinic of the “on call” ophthalmologist, a short distance away from the hospital. By that time, my girlfriend had arrived at the hospital, having been told of the accident by my co-workers. She drove me to the eye doctor’s office.
At the ophthalmologist’s office, the doctor confirmed there had been no damage to my eyeball, and after a couple of quick tests, there didn’t seem to be any change in my vision either, but the doctor said I would need a few stitches to close up the cut to my eyelid. He stitched me up and sent me home.
I tried to return to work the next day, but the emotional impact was too much for me. From the time I had left the doctor’s office the day before, all through the night, and into the next day, I relived what happened over and over again, and would start to cry realizing how much worse it could have been, and how lucky I was to only have needed a few stitches. I went home from work that day and got myself back together emotionally, and after some much needed rest, I felt good enough to go back to work the following day.
Now, a few weeks after the accident, the stitches are gone and there was no damage to my vision at all. Working in a place that supports people with sight loss, and having already lost a significant amount of my vision already, I know how important eyesight is, and I feel very lucky the outcome wasn’t worse.
What is also not lost on me is the irony of it all. A guy who is already legally blind gets hit in the eye by a white cane, and in the very office where we do our best to help people living with sight loss. You just can’t make that stuff up! After a few short weeks, I’m able to laugh about it, and in fact, I did a presentation to a group last week and as I talked about white canes, I told them the story of just how dangerous white canes can be.
When I’m doing presentations in the community, I often share personal stories about my own experiences with sight loss, and although it was a scary moment a few weeks ago, now it’s just another of my many adventures of being a guy with sight loss.
*There are three main types of white canes: Support canes are used by people who have mobility challenges, or may need balance support. Mobility canes are tall, thick, canes used by people with sight loss to navigate their way. Identification canes are short, thin, white canes used by people who have some usable vision but may need to occasionally test surfaces in front of them.