Not wanting to be accused of venturing into Medical Model territory too much, I've hung back from providing too much detail about the various health issues that I've been experiencing lately! However, as one of the issues impacts upon my art in a more direct way than the other stuff, I thought that I'd share some of my experiences regarding the deterioration of my eye sight with you.
My sight has been deteriorating for quite a while now and I'd put it down to the aging process. Well you do don't you?! I've worn glasses since I was about 12 (Ed: Hadn't realised that they'd been invented that long ago Dave?!) and every now and then during the past couple of decades I'd had to have stronger lenses fitted.
It wasn't until I went for my last eye test and the optician mentioned that my cataracts had got a lot worse, that I realised I had any (cataracts, not eyes!). This explained why I'd been having to cut down on my computer useage and was finding it increasingly difficult to drive at night. Apparently bright light can't penetrate the cloudy lenses too well and it just creates a dazzling effect.
It also explained why I'd lost the subtle differences between some of the colours that I use in my cartoon work. I'd been convinced that 'they' had changed some of the colour palettes on the arts software I use and had sent off a couple of grumpy emails to the software nerds at Adobe!
So, cataracts. No big deal. At least treatable, albeit a bit painful and involving laying down in a darkened room for a while afterwards with sandbags either side of my head (how wrong was this piece of information?!).
A letter duly arrives from the hospital inviting me to attend for an eye test and, after a few more appointments and examinations, I'm sitting up in the assessment ward having a cup of coffee and a chocolate digestive (ED: You sure this is the NHS?!). They've confirmed that my eyes are bad and that the left eye is worse and will be done first - say in about two months time as the current waiting list dictates. But then the crip fairy of good fortune intervenes ...
"Anyone turned up yet for today's sessions?" queries a theatre sister, bustling into the ward, "Only we've had to send Mr Smith home due to an eye infection."
"Nope, nobody due for another half hour" replies the ward Sister, "Although ..."
They both turn to look at me. "Fancy having your eye done now?!"
Five minutes later I'm laying on a trolley having drops put into my eye and having the procedure explained to me by the surgeon. I'll be in and out in 20 minutes he explains. No general aneasthetic (all done by eye drops), no pain, no discomfort, no laying in a darkened room afterwards. I should be driving my car tomorrow and getting used to being able to see without my glasses. So much for the very out-dated information that I'd got from the internet!
He would put a distance lens in my left eye today, then in a few weeks he'd put a reading lens in my right eye. Apparently the brain sorts out the signal from each eye and adjusts automatically from distance to near. Talk about science fiction becoming reality.
The procedure itself was completely pain free. All I could see was the strong light from the microscope over my head and some vague shadows as the surgeon did his stuff. When I heard him say "Putting the lens in now", I was treated to an amazing display of colours as the lens unfolded and the light from the microscope lit it up. My "Wow" was greeted by a soft chuckle by the surgeon. "Good eh?!" he commented.
And true to his word, the next morning I was able to remove the plastic protective cover he'd taped over my eye for the night, and WOW ...!! (Sorry, but if you're from my generation you'll know that 'wow' is the ultimate term of amazement!).
For the first time ever (even with glasses) I could see into the distance with so much detail; colours were so bright and vibrant that it was almost unreal. Quite overwhelming I can tell you. If I closed my right eye (still murky from the remaining cataract) I got a Steve Austin (Bionic Man) type 'sight jump' and another meter or so of distance vision clicked in. And all this on the National Health!
So, for all of you out there who've been in touch wanting details of the operation (mainly because you're going through the same thing yourselves) I hope I've put your mind at rest regarding the lack of pain and just how uncomplicated the procedure now is.
The only down side, especially for someone like myself who relies for their living on being able to access a computer, is the wait between having the other eye done. At the moment, I can see the screen great from about two meters away, but can't reach the keyboard from that distance! I'm having to wear my old computer glasses and close my 'new' eye when I want to do any detail work on the screen, or keep scooting the chair back so that I can get a clearer picture of what I've just created. Not conducive to my usual style of working. Although it has given me a better insight into the sort of problems those of you with more permanent visual impairments experience.
I'm seeing the Consultant again next week and will hopefully have the other eye sorted in a week or so's time. I don't expect any problem, and I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for all of your messages and good wishes by the way. They've been greatly appreciated. :-)
As many of us will know, being a disabled artist and not allied to any group or organisation, it has always been extremely difficult to obtain funding. And those of us who produce work that has an overt political edge are even more handicapped (sic) by the funding system.
That's not to say that groups and organisations of disabled people who have applied for funding have had it any easier. For example I'm aware that our esteemed Editor Colin Hambrooke spends a large amount of his time searching for funding and then completing the endless application forms that inevitably go with this - and Disability Arts on Line (DAO) is one of our more established disability arts organisations.
And now the bloody CONDEMs, not content with slashing our benefits and support services have declared their 'Big Society'.
This involves not only the big disability charities coming back to haunt us with a vengeance (click here to see Crippen's political blog ) but also brings in the big corporations. These corporations will be encouraged to offer sponsorship to artists, including disabled artists who will be expected to compromise their art in order to obtain funding from a specific commercially oriented funder. Funding organisations like the Arts Council may well become redundant in this scenario.
And let's not forget the new funding process called the 'National Portfolio (NP)'. This is going to change the funding landscape yet again as the system of having Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) is overturned. As usual most of the funding will probably go to organisations like the Royal Opera House (ROH). The subsidy on bums on seats at the ROH exceeds any other subsidy for the arts. So the toffs are being subsidised at everyone else's expense ... what a suprise!
Cartoon in the pipeline re the National Portfolio ... watch this space!
A little while ago I did a round robin email to specific folks that I know who are concerned or who are involved in the cuts protests going on around the country.
It seemed to me that we needed to think of a way that we can protest without switching people off and being associated with violent confrontation, whilst at the same time getting in people's faces and making an impact. In effect cutting through the stereotypical perception that the general public have of us crips and putting an end to the apathy that seems to grip people in times of crisis, including many disabled people.
We have a huge resource in the shape of a large disabled artists community. We should be able to utilise this talented group and come up with some pretty unusual ideas with which to attract the general public to our cause. At the same time we should be able to provide a vehicle that those disabled people who haven't yet become involved could identify and join in with.
One of the best demos I've seen involved environmental protesters dressed in black, moving slowly through the streets one evening carrying large canisters. They all eventually converged on one of the large oil companies HQ's and proceeded to dump the oil they had in the canisters on the doorstep of the building. Nothing was said and the protesters remained expressionless. Then they all turned around and walked slowly away in all directions. This had such an impact and was covered by the press and television in full the next day.
Imagine several hundred (dare I say thousand) disabled people all gathering at one point and all doing something so imaginative that it would make the whole country sit up and take notice. It doesn't have to be elaborate; just different enough to grab people's attention.
I then gave a few examples of different ideas and waited for the responses ...
Well, I wasn't disappointed. My inbox is still gets several responses in it every day and they are still coming in. So the time has come to try and get all of these ideas out for further discussion; which is why I've created this blog.
The plan is to winnow out the main ideas and put them up on a further blog here for further discussion. We'll eventually end up with a group of ideas that we all feel confident with and that we can start to recruit crips to implement up and down the country.
The cartoon, by the way depicts fellow disabled artist Liz Crow appearing on the Anthony Gormley plinth in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 8th August 2009. She presented a dignified but powerful statement against extreme right wing politics in its worse manifestation. This was also an example of how disability art and disabled people's protest could come together and send a strong, clear message to the rest of society.