Tag Archives: Susan’s eye injury

Susan Speaks: How About an Eye Update?


It’s been forever since I’ve shared an eye update with you guys. That’s actually a good thing — it means there’s been nothing to say. The eye has been and remains stable.

And it was that way last week, too, when I saw the surgeon. He’s happy with how it’s healed, although he finally did admit I’ve got a handicap in the form of what’s called a Lamellar hole. It’s confusing to explain what exactly that is, but its presence explains a few problems I have with my vision: letters drop out of signs and the eye chart. And, something I noticed a year ago: I’ve developed a touch of face blindness.

Which means that if I’ve known you for years and I suddenly don’t recognize you, it’s not because you look terrible. It’s because I truly cannot see you well enough to make out your features. Or because my brain can’t interpret what my eyes are seeing, and can’t make the connection to the memory I carry of you. I’m not sure which; I haven’t asked that question.

The fact that I’ve got this slight face blindness is is really strange, given that the damage is to my non-dominant eye. You’d think that the dominance would overrule the distortion. Okay, *I* expect that. Except, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

Which leads us to another big question: how can I work as an editor if letters drop out of my vision?

That’s where it gets weirder: when I’m looking at my screens, my dominant eye kicks in and compensates. And the surgeon says, too, that my brain is learning to adapt to the dropped letters. I’m figuring out, he says — and I agree — how to look at things so that I can get a more complete picture. I’m learning how to look around the hole in my vision.

Bizarre, isn’t it? You’d think it’d be the other way around, that I’d struggle with the small stuff and have faces down cold.

But eyes, as we’ve all learned through this crazy adventure, are tricky, confusing, confounding, and amazing things. At one point during this whole ordeal, I looked at one of my surgeons — I think it was the cataract guy — and said that if I were 20 years younger, I’d go back to med school for ophthalmology. This is really cool stuff.

So what’s the upshot of all this? I get to see the surgeon once a year now, so long as I check in with my optometrist in between my annual surgeon visits, to make sure my eye pressure is behaving. That problem probably won’t ever go away, and so I need to stay on top of it to keep it from damaging my optic nerve. I’m willing to do that, even though it means having my eyes dilated twice a year and letting them touch my eye with that strange blue light. Like everything else, you get used to it.

Another upshot: this is what it is. It’s not nearly as bad as it could have — should have — been.

And I can work as well, if not better than ever. In some ways, I work more slowly, more thoroughly these days.

Just… if we see each other in public and I don’t seem to recognize you, don’t hesitate to say, “Hey, it’s Stevie.” (Except, you smartass, use your own name.) Like I said, it’s not you. It’s the strange gift of my right eye.


Susan Speaks: Help Save My Sight


I like telling you guys about interviews I do. Usually, I am out and about talking about writing, about fiction, about being an editor or (more rarely these days) being a writer.

But these aren’t usual times, as all of us know.

And so I’m talking to other people. New people. People who love to help spread the story of my January 29016 bicycling accident. That’s because I am not fighting a genetic illness. I’m not obese and dealing with Type 2 Diabetes. I’m not any of those things certain factions of the health care legislation community points to as drains on the medical system.

Okay, I’m a woman. But beyond that.

The thing that journalists love is that I am an accident victim. Something happened — and we’ll never know what, according to my concussion doctor — and I wound up with an injury that will never fully heal. I’ll never have 20/20 vision out of my damaged eye again. I require ongoing care to make sure I can maintain my vision. Because something happened.

I’m a pre-existing condition of the worst kind: the accident victim.

And accidents can (and do) happen to anyone. Life happens, you know? And I now need ongoing medical care.

I have never been hugely political. But now, I find I have to be. My joke about renaming the business to Cyclops Editing: I do with one eye what everyone else does with two is… not so funny when faced with the reality that I’ve spent a year and a half fighting to save my vision. My house, my career, my freedom.

So, yes. I’m asking you to join me. Here’s the latest article about what the proposed changes to our health care system will do to not on me, but others. Amy Zellmer did a great job writing it. Now, I’m asking you to read it. To think about me. To think about yourself, and what would YOU do if this bill passes and you have an accident of your own.

Share the link. Encourage others to see it. To stand up for all of us, really.

Because tomorrow, it can be YOU lying on the floor with a hand over your eye, screaming not at the pain but at the horror of what’s just happened, even though you have no idea what just happened. All you know is that it’s black like you’ve never seen black before, that the image of a pink-taped handlebar is forever seared on your brain as it came closer, that the feeling of inevitability flooded you and held you down and allowed it to happen.

Because tomorrow, it can be you coming out of a surgery with no one waiting for you at the hospital, no one who can or will tell you how long it took them to clean your eye up, no one there to hold your hand when the resident, cute as he was, tells you that yes, you’ll be able to drive with only one eye, as though it’s a foregone conclusion that this is your new future.

Because tomorrow, it can be you who follows the surgeon’s instructions like you’ve never followed instructions before, and it can be you with the miracle outcome of an eye, of vision in that eye.

And because tomorrow, it can be you who goes from being perfectly healthy and riding your bike to, in an instant, needing ongoing medical care for the rest of your life, but you don’t know, thanks to the government’s crazy ideas, if keeping your vision means losing your house, your scant life savings, the business you’ve worked so hard to build up and nurture and grow.

Yes. You can be where I am, and that’s why this fight really is about every single one of us.

Join me in it.


Susan Speaks: Talking to Others


I always tell people that when they see the Orange S on the Red Background, they know it’s me.

But sometimes, when I have given an interview or a quote and it appears on other sites, or it’s not proper to use, you can’t see the Orange S on the Red Background. And you may not know it’s me. Or you may not know to look.

I’ve got two such links for you today.

One’s from, of all places, Huggies.com — yes, the diaper people! (And yes, when my kids weren’t in cloth, they were in Huggies. Hard to believe, as I look at them now, but there it is.) The question of the day was “The Best Job in the World: Inspirational Quotes for Moms and Dads.” Click on through to see my words of inspiration.

The second one is more political, so if you’re dead set on the need to get rid of the ACA and don’t want to listen to reasons why it’s been good for people, don’t click through. This one’s on Rewire, and it talks about how the ACA has allowed me to be the amazing editor you guys know and love — and how it saved my hide during the saga of my eye. My medical totals have gone up since I gave this interview, and let how much money is involved boggle your mind. It sure boggles mine.

I’m at work on other spots to spread the gospel of Susan, such as it is. Know of anyone who’d like to host an editor? Send ’em my way.

And like always, get your manuscripts in my queue!


Susan Speaks: Words as Weapons (Take Two)


With a respectful nod to Seether

All I really want is something beautiful to say

Most of us grow up with that old sticks and stones maxim. As kids, we like it. It’s our defense against bullies and the mean kids and situations. It gives us a sense of power and a coating of teflon.

I was a kid who needed that teflon.

I was also a kid who grew up to be a wordsmith. I know that words can never hurt me simply isn’t true. Words can hurt. Sometimes, words do hurt.

Take last night, for example. Someone I hadn’t seen since before the accident called across a crowded room, “Hey, where’s your eye patch?”

“There never was one,” I said.

She kept going. I kept repeating the phrase.

She thought she was funny.

I … can’t say as how I agreed.

Keep me dumb, keep me paralyzed
Why try swimming? I’m drowning in fable
You’re not that saint that you externalize
You’re not anything at all

Now, here’s the thing. I had a client who made eye patch jokes… twelve weeks ago. A good friend in Texas who suggested I wear a gorgeous scarf she’d sent me years ago because it would match the patch… twelve weeks ago. Hell, even my mother made a joke about wearing an eye patch… seven weeks ago.

And the first and third were jokes, asked by people who’d checked in with me from time to time before they’d let ’em rip. Lord knows, I’ve made plenty of jokes myself about this whole thing. My favorite still remains the “Just like riding a bike. Oh, wait. We all know what happened last time I rode a bike” that I left on a friend’s Facebook wall after she discovered that after ten or more years, she still remembered how to roller skate.

The second? My friend in Texas? She truly didn’t know. And we had an absolutely fascinating discussion about the elegance and brutality of modern medicine. We theorized why I didn’t have a patch, or what circumstances might have occurred that would have resulted in having one. We talked about it. Yeah, we probably joked, too. I like to joke.

Last night? Wasn’t a joke.

That’s because this woman is someone in my community. She has my phone numbers. She knows where I live. We have shared parties and rituals. We have watched each other’s kids grow up.

She is someone I’d reached out to when the accident first happened, asking if she could help.

I probably don’t need to tell you what she said.

And last night, she was looking at me as I stood near my son. I had my new glasses on. People had been telling me through the evening that they couldn’t tell anything was wrong with my eye until I looked to my left, and then they could see it’s still pretty red, thirteen weeks later. One dad had commented that I’d been a regular at this, our weekly meeting place, and then I’d stopped showing up, and now I was back again. Was I okay? Had something happened?

So I told him the story. That I almost lost my eye. That I shouldn’t have vision.

That I have both.

That I am one lucky woman.

It’s all so playful when you demonize
To spit out the hateful, you’re willing and able
Your words are weapons of the terrified
You’re nothing in my world

And then her. Repeated demands to know where my eye patch was.

In front of my friends, my community.

In front of my son.

Say, “Can you help me?” right before the fall
Take what you can and leave me to the wolves

It’s been over thirteen weeks. I still wake up at night, scared that I’ve lost my vision; this is where the PTSD about the whole thing seems to lurk. Cloudy days are stressful days; when it’s not bright and sunny, my eye feels swollen — even though it’s not — and things are darker. Walking out of a well-lit area (like my family room) into a darkened area (like going up the stairs without turning the hall light on)? It’s like walking into a cave at first. It takes a bit longer to adjust. Zombie apocalypse? I am so toast.

In other words: I have vision, but it’s not perfect. The new glasses, with the lens that’s thicker than you can get your mind around, help.

My vision was perfect enough, though, that I could see this woman, across a room that was becoming more crowded as we drew closer to dismissal time, continue to make jokes. About me. About what I’d been through. She was just doing it softly enough that I couldn’t hear her.

I wanted to ask if she knew I could read her lips.

But I didn’t think she was succeeding in diminshing me at all. Nope. I looked at her, and I thought that I had been through so much in the past thirteen weeks (and three days) — and she didn’t care a whit to check on me once.

I thought that I continue to stop multiple times a day and say a silent thank you for my vision. That I look around and appreciate the way things look. The sharp lines of a tree that hasn’t yet blossomed or opened its buds. An angry storm, snow on the ground, the obnoxious shirt my son thinks is funny that I keep waiting for phone calls from school about. I was grateful when I got up at 4:15 in the morning last week to put my daughter on a bus for a school field trip, and that I didn’t have to sit in a dark living room with her and wait for someone to pitch in, help out, and give her a ride while I stayed home, acutely aware that life was passing by as I sat inside and healed.

And I thought that this woman was too… whatever… to realize the value in any of it.

That yeah, her words were weapons. Except…

They missed the mark.

All I really want is something beautiful to say
To never fade away
I wanna live forever

Funny how much better I’m seeing the world these days, as I wait for my vision to “resolve” (whatever that means; it’s the surgeon’s term) and I switch pairs of glasses depending on what I’m looking at, as the cataract grows and my eye heals and as I learn to live with a new reality, the outcome of which remains anyone’s guess.

Again, thanks to Seether for the amazing lyrics which may or may not fit, but suit my mood and give my roiling emotions a safe outlet. I am amused that the name of their new album is “Isolate and Medicate.”


Susan Speaks: Eleven


The eleven week mark came and went pretty unremarkably. And yet, it was the single most important week since it happened, since the retinal repair. This was the third in the series of important things — all things come in threes, right? — and of it all, this was my favorite important week yet.

I went from being a patient to being myself again.

Now, as I’ve said, full healing will take about a year. My optometrist yesterday said he can’t even guess when the cataract/refraction surgery will take place. Maybe the surgeon is waiting for more healing, less swelling. Maybe he’s waiting for the cataract to sing and dance (okay, not anyone’s words, but you know what I mean). Maybe he’s waiting for my vision to settle and resolve — that’s what my money is on. And I’m in no rush. A new pair of glasses is being made as we speak. It’s all good, even if it’s not over yet.

And it is good.

I had agonized from the moment this happened about whether or not I’d be available for last weekend, for this eleventh anniversary.

My son had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. The coach had told me back in November he wanted me to be there. Hell, *I* wanted to be there; there’s something magical about being outside all day, watching the heart and soul that Ultimate demands of its players. And even though this weekend wound up being cold and rainy on the first day, causing a couple emergency runs to stores for heavier clothes and trash bags to keep gear dry, it was still magical.

See what I mean?


This was warmup Sunday morning. Yes, that’s frost on the ground. Yes, that’s a hot air balloon in the background. Yes, I had a hard time seeing to grab this shot, between the sun and my poor beat-up eye. But it hung there so perfectly over the team…


I stood there, on Sunday, the day after the eleventh anniversary of the day I tried to kill myself with a bicycle, and I took a deep breath of the around-freezing air. And at last, I felt alive again. Not wounded, not scared of what was going to happen. Myself. Strong, tough, smart, cool. A small force of nature. Restored.

Okay, and a little bit cold, too. And maybe, just maybe…

a little bit muddy.



Susan Speaks: I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Eye Protection


Eight weeks and two days. Seven weeks post-surgery.

* I’ve resigned myself to going back in for a second repair and a third surgery late in March. I just have. Mr. Google isn’t always your friend when you’re hurt, but I don’t need Mr. Google to tell me that the retina is supposed to be attached to the side of the eye and bad things happen if it isn’t.

And that’s before I get the weird flashes of light that are my own private showing of the Northern Lights.

* I ordered a new Road ID just now, before I wrote this post. The kids and I were looking through the list of slogans — the boy, of course, loved the Latin and thought I needed the slogan that said, “Always where under where” — and I suggested mine should be I don’t need no stinkin’ eye protection.

They dared me to do it.

So, of course, I didn’t.

* The gas bubble is STILL in my eye. This is one stubborn sucker! When I’m in a good mood, it’s my little buddy. When I’m in a bad mood, well… there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how thoroughly and creatively I can swear, grumble, and whine. These people are lucky.

The bubble does distort my vision.

* I was out doing something today and realized that yep, because of the new tear, I’ve lost a tiny bit of peripheral vision. Just enough that I’d been wondering, looking funny at things, trying to figure it out. But when I was doing something familiar and noticed the absence was when I could admit it to myself.

I’m not as unscathed by this thing as I’d thought.

And that’s good and bad. I mean, there should be something more than one eye with 20/20 vision and a lot of memories to remind me of what happened. Something that reminds me of what I’ve been through, what I’ve survived. Hopefully, I won’t need bigger reminders, or more of them. Because let’s face it: no one wants to lose their vision. Even tiny bits of it.

But I have.

* I’m in the first major funk since the accident. It’s the new detachment, the scar tissue. Because if I scarred after one surgery, what’ll happen after the second? How much worse will it get? How much vision will I lose with each subsequent scar tissue growth, detachment, and repair?

This keeps me up at night. This is not the way I like to be kept up at night.

The vigil for a retinal tear from the detachment continues… keep the prayers coming.


Susan Speaks: I Missed My Calling


This blog will be 10 in April, and for almost all of those ten years, it’s been the blog of a writer and editor. If you’ve gotten used to the sage writing and editorial words of wisdom I’ve been doling out of late and you can’t figure out how the recording of my recovery from a very serious eye injury ties into writing, well… maybe you’re not ready for Writing Wisdom According to Susan.

I’m writing this on Friday. It’s funny because I’ve been able to tolerate the light emanating from my phone – in small doses — but the laptop has been harder. And the desktop is still the most uncomfortable. This is because I can’t see the buttons to turn down the brightness. Naturally, now that 24-7 help has gone (for the time being), I remember to try. But the desktop is in its own room and despite the pleas of Lucy Cat, who misses going to work with me, I haven’t been in there much.

Anyway, I have a million thoughts and a million stories to tell. This is good.

Let’s flash back to last Monday, my first morning out of the hospital. I had to get up and get the kids off to school and maybe it was when my daughter was eating, and maybe it was after she’d left. Time… I’ve been very time challenged through this. (I asked in the first ER if I could possibly have a concussion and they shrugged and kept doing what they were doing. You know it’s bad when no one cares about your brain.)

So. Monday morning. I decided that I needed to eat something because, as I said to my Scouting buddy Will, “I ate more at Order of the Arrow ordeal than I have up to now.” If you don’t get the joke, ask an OA member.

And dude! I could make TOAST. I was feeling very proud of myself, ready to crow, “Hey, I can COOK!” when I blinked and …

This is it.

This is the moment in which I realized I missed my calling.

Guys, I should have gone into rocket science. I really should have been a rocket scientist.

Because I paused and looked at my toast and realized I couldn’t see it very clearly. “WHAT is up with that?” I asked myself, possibly out loud but who knows. “It’s my right eye that’s messed up. I should be able to see out of the left.”

Shoulda been a rocket scientist. I’m telling you this right here, right now.

I squinted. I tried to widen my eye (not as easy as you’d think when the other one is swollen shut). “What the HECK?”

Jet Propulsion Laboratory is sorry they never got their hooks in me.

Because no matter what, if you are nearsighted and you don’t have ANY sort of correction happening, YOU CANNOT SEE WELL.

Yeah… that explained a lot.

So I went upstairs and put in my left contact and all of a sudden, things were clear. It was a miracle!


As Vonnegut said so famously, “And so it goes.”

More later…