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New Vision

Never, never, never give up.
~Winston Churchill

It was Easter vacation and I was home from the university for ten glorious days. I knew how much my mother missed me while I was at school and I knew she was going to cook all of my favorite foods and spoil me rotten.

I was an art student and would graduate with my degree in two months and I had just been given a scholarship to attend a university in England for two years. I'd never been happier.

Friday night I stayed up late to watch a funny movie on TV with my mother and older brother and we laughed until our sides ached. It was good to be home again.

Saturday morning I woke up and couldn't see out of my right eye.

"Mom, something is wrong with my eye!" I said. I wasn't too scared because I thought it was a simple infection or allergic reaction to something.

My mother took me to an eye doctor and he took one look at my eye and ordered us to catch a plane to get to a hospital hundreds of miles away. He said he'd call ahead and make arrangements for a specialist to examine me. He wouldn't tell us what was wrong.

My mother said maybe a sliver of glass or something had gotten into my eye and they'd have to remove the splinter and I'd be fine.

A few hours later, after five doctors had examined me, one of them told us the bad news.

"You have histoplasmosis. It's fungus, a disease that eats the blood vessels behind your retina. It's untreatable and incurable. You could be blind or dead in a week."

I started shaking from shock. My mother put her arms around me and I could feel her shaking too.

"My daughter is twenty-two years old. She's an artist. She can't go blind or die! I'll give her one or both of my eyes for a transplant," my mother said.

"They can't do eye transplants," the doctor said. "All we can do is some laser treatments to try to stop the bleeding in her retina."

I was rushed to the emergency room for a painful and prolonged procedure, one that I would have to endure fifteen more times. I was sick, in pain and had to remain in a completely dark room for seven days.

It seemed I was doomed to go blind or die.

I wouldn't graduate. I wouldn't go to England. I'd never paint again. My life was over.

My mother and I called my oldest brother, Aaron, from the hospital and told him the bad news.

His first words were, "Can I give you one of my eyes for a transplant?"

We told him they couldn't transplant eyes.

We called my middle brother, Shane, and told him.

"Can I give you one of my eyes?" he offered.

When we called my youngest brother, his immediate response was the same.

"Can I donate one of my eyes to save your sight?" he asked.

My mother and all three of my brothers, on hearing the news of my possible blindness, without hesitating, had offered to give me one of their own eyes and go through life with only half of their sight.

I'd always known my family loved me but I was overwhelmed.

"I guess I should drop out of the university here," I said, "and notify the university in England that I won't be coming."

"You still have one good eye and you're still breathing," my mother said. "Don't give up. Fight! It won't be easy for you — you'll have to find the courage to try harder than anyone else. You're an artist. I don't know what the future holds but you have to live every minute of every day. You can't give up, roll over and die the first time life knocks you to your knees!"

Ten days later, I returned to the university and graduated. I went to England and attended the University of Sussex and earned a Master's Degree.

My vision is permanently damaged. My disease is not cured, but it is in remission. It could flare up tomorrow and I could be blind or dead in a matter of days or I could go years without further damage to my sight.

Seven years have passed since the day I found out I had histoplasmosis. It was the worst day of my life. It was also the day my entire family offered to sacrifice half of their vision for me. It was the day I found courage I never knew I had and found my family's love for me had no limits.

I found a dream was worth fighting for. I have less than half the vision of most people, but that doesn't mean I can't be an artist. It just means I'll have to try harder.

Since that day, I've painted hundreds of pictures. My paintings have won recognition and awards in dozens of art shows and exhibits. I have designed my own line of greeting cards.

At one art show, every one of my paintings sold, giving me an unexpected windfall of cash. "What should I do with the money?" I asked my mother.

"Use the money to go to Paris and see the paintings of the greatest artists in the world," she said.

I did. I stood in awe as I was surrounded by the beauty and genius of Van Gogh, Monet, Leonardo da Vinci and others. For me, it was a miracle.

I never take a single day for granted. Before this disease took half of my vision, I was an artist.

I'm still an artist. But now, I'm grateful for everyday I'm given.

Life View By Spring Stafford
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive
http://www.chickensoup.com/ Changing Lives One Story At A Time

"Without gratitude, joy as a state of being is not possible."

Have a great day!
Mark

 

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