S1: Episode 35 - Sandra Contreras

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode 35, Sandra Contreras

Sandra:  He couldn’t work, although he would pick up cans from the streets. I’ve never met someone so special in my life like he was. All I remember is hearing my mom screaming and it was my uncle. His lungs closed up. I just couldn’t cry. I couldn’t move. Although I was still watching everything. I was eight years old when my uncle passed away. Maybe like couple weeks later when I sit down in my class, I look at the board from far away and I just couldn’t read anything. Everything was just blurry to me. My parents took me to an eye doctor. They thought it was a trauma after seeing my uncle died, but they did not believe me. They said I was faking it. They would just tell me that as the days go by, I’ll be able to see better. Well, for several times I did believe I was faking it.

Since everybody was telling me I believed it too. I would sometimes stare at books, stare at other materials to see if I was able to see better. But I just couldn’t. Well, there was one time where this girl was making fun of my eyes, how close I would get to the book. So what I did, I pushed her head against the desk. And ever since then, she never bothered me again. I would cry maybe every single day. I didn’t understand what was going on. I had to think I had to be strong for me. Cuz if I don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for me. Through all my, my school years, elementary, middle school, high school, I didn’t have no help at all. Not teachers, parents, nobody. It was really hard, me being as a kid and telling someone to hear me, to believe me.

I felt alone in the world. When I was 18, I got diagnosed. They did a MRI and a CT scan on me. The doctor told me that I had a white spot in the back of my eye and there was no blood running through. So that’s the reason why the glasses won’t help me. I have Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. I dated some guys. I never told them I had an eye problem. They never noticed that I had an eye problem just because I would do my best to hide it. There were sometimes when they would try to show me something and I can’t see it. I’ll just go along with it. Act like I saw it. Now I realize there’s nothing for me to be ashamed of. It’s not something that I provoked or anything that has to do with me being embarrassed.

I don’t feel helpless. I’ve had really good awareness just by the fact that I couldn’t hear and I can feel also, it’s just easy to tell for me whether a person is honest or or not. I did work at a restaurant a lot of the times. It was really hard for me to distinguish the food, so the food was always in the same place, so I memorized every single item that was there unless I would switch it over. I’m really skinny, which I could just feel that it’s me. I have dark brown hair. I have been always positive. Never give up. And I love animals because they, they’re always with you. Whether you’re a good person or not. They’re just really loyal to you. They don’t judge. My person won’t judge anything about me.

[Outro Music]

Host:  What is it like to be a child or a young adult? And no one believes you? Not your parents, not your doctor, not your teacher. No one. Where do you turn? I can’t imagine the trauma Sandra experienced going to school, not seeing the board, not able to take notes, struggling to read books. She said, as a child, I wondered about my future. How was I going to finish school? How was I going to learn how to drive? Would I ever get married? How can I improve my life? When Sandra was in high school at the age of 18, she was finally diagnosed by a doctor of her vision impairment. She did everything on her own, found the doctor, went by herself to the doctor’s office by taking a bus. No parent or friend went with her. Sandra said, I felt so much better after the diagnosis. Now everyone understands I was not pretending. Sandra is now married, has one child. She works full-time, she listens to Spanish pop music and often returns to the oldies. Listening to the Righteous Brothers and Elvis Presley too.

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you for listening.