About Mark's Eyesight

  I was born completely blind due to congenital cataracts. Four surgeries were performed to let light into my eyes from six months to two years of age. My brain hadn’t the chance to develop the ability to process visual information at the normal time babies learn to do that and I had to concentrate to learn how to use the information my eyes sensed after the surgeries. “Seeing” was not automatic for me and my brain had to learn how to process the information after it had been routing itself for a world without the sense of sight. My right eye was operated on six months after the left and is virtually useless.

  I also experience trembling of the eyes, or nystagmus, so the world is almost always shaking. I also suffer from strabismus, or crossing of the eyes, and I do not have the ability to see depth. It is important that I use my eyes and try to do as many visual tasks as possible. The more I remind my brain that I have eyes, the easier it is to see.

  I cannot process large amounts of visual information at once like most people, but must construct a picture in my mind and remember it. That is how I get around and recognize settings and situations. New situations can be visually overwhelming for me, especially when the circumstances are stressful.

  When I was living in New York, I was mugged and received several blows to the head. This detached the retina of my good eye and thanks to Dr. Yeh, who stitched it up, going in from the front of the eye and first removing scar tissue from previous surgeries, and then piecing the retina together by hand (not by laser) I regained some of my vision. My song “Second Sight” was written for Dr. Yeh in appreciation for this work.

  In New York I was told that only five surgeons had the expertise to perform such a difficult operation and Dr. Yeh, in Tacoma, was one of them. I will always be grateful to him.

  Now I have glaucoma from all this trauma, but I take eye medicine 3 times each day to combat this. My right eye also has had a less severe retinal detachment which this great surgeon mended later.

  Since my eyes have been operated on so many times, I have lost the ability to have pupils which contract or dilate to regulate incoming light. I also have no lenses in my eyes. This is why I regulate the light, especially the very harmful to me ultra-violet light, with various densities of filters (sunglasses). Still the retina will not return to normal, even with filters, for at least one-half an hour after exposure to bright lights like sunlight or car headlights. If for instance a photo flash goes off, most individuals know the blind spot where the retina has been desensitized for a few minutes. For me it is thus for much longer and is more intense.

  Many people often wonder how I can get around as well as I do most of the time. I am indebted to my Mother and late Father for my gift of seeing, who painstakingly worked with me throughout my youth showing me things and how to do things like others so that I wouldn’t be as disadvantaged. Rather than sending me to special schools, they thought, and I am glad they did, it was important for me to function in a normal situation. They have helped me so much I cannot begin to tell you.