Left eye. Blindness, acquired.
These four words, stamped on my medical records and nonchalantly tossed around by doctors and nurses never fail to tick me off. These four, plain little words don’t do me or my eye justice. And one, in particular, is used erroneously. Acquired.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (around since 1828), to acquire, from Latin acquirere, means two things:
1, to get as one’s own (to acquire property, for example).
2. to gain, usually by your own effort (a new skill or ability, for example).
This verb has been around since the 15th century and only recently has it been used to describe any disease or condition not present at birth. I was not born blind, I became blind. I get it, acquired is the antonym of congenital. But who in their right mind decided that any disease or condition not present at birth would be medically termed acquired?
Now, to be perfectly clear, I didn’t dream of getting blind as in 1. No, sir, I have other dreams. I’d rather travel around the world or buy a gorgeous house by the sea. I’d love to be famous and become the new Agatha Christie (or Stephen King). And the mere idea of making an effort to be blind as in 2. is simply ludicrous and extremely insulting. I did not gain blindness, I lost vision. It was not through any effort of mine but rather the unfortunate consequence of a severe trauma.
I made an effort to taste kimchi when I lived in Seoul and it became an acquired taste. Through dedication and hard work, I acquired the body of a bodybuilder (it’s ok, you can laugh).
But I did not acquire blindness. It surreptitiously crawled into my life and settled in, for good. It challenged my vision of the world and people’s perception of me. It made me suffer and cry many times. It was frustrating, infuriating. My blind, left eye became my new reality, by default. The companion I didn’t wish to live with, the uninvited guest. Some doctors have called it my ‘bad eye’ or my ‘angry eye’. I chose to name it my ‘damaged eye’. This blindness was not acquired , it was imposed, thrown at me, forced upon me, inflicted to me.
I am not alone. In the US, 10 million people are blind in one eye. You can live and function pretty normally. I struggled with balance, lost depth perception, 3D vision (a real shame and a ripoff at the movies!), can’t see well at night and can’t properly evaluate distances. But other than that, I’m doing rather well. And every day, I wake up relieved and grateful to see through my right eye. I need it. There is so much beauty around me, so many places to explore, people to meet and stories to write.
But for crying out loud, could someone come up with an alternative to acquired?
I’d be forever grateful,