Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It's a thrill to have my friend, Sharon Donovan, here as a guest logger to discuss her inspiring memoir, Echo of a Raven. She will be donating a portion of the proceeds from book sales to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
With America in the lead at 20.8 million, there are more than 230 million diabetics
in the world and the number is rapidly increasing. More than half of these diabetics
will develop some stage of retinopathy during his or her lifetime. This condition
causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead
to progressive blindness.
I began hearing the frightening phrase diabetic retinopathy at the age of six when
I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. During a routine visit to Children’s Hospital
when I was twelve, a doctor predicted I would be blind by time I was twenty-five.
His harsh words echoed in my head to the point of obsession, affecting every major
decision I made for years to come. But even though these words haunted my subconscious,I never spoke them aloud. Then they might come true.
The closer I got to twenty-five, the tighter the noose around my neck, sucking the
life out of me like a garrotte.
I worked as a legal secretary at the Court of Common
Pleas where I prepared cases for judges in Family Court. But painting was my passion.
I spent my weekends painting picturesque scenery, the ruins of ancient Rome and reflections on the water. Through my artwork, I escaped to a place of peace and tranquility.
No more heartache. No more pain. But one day while painting a Tuscan landscape, I
had the first bout of blindness. And for the next two decades, my vision came and
went. Now you see it—now you don’t. And after a rocky road, nine years ago, I lost
the battle, losing all hope and my will to live.
But through an organization for the blind and visually impaired, I found the courage
to face a sighted world I was once part of. Some of the curriculum I endured for
eight grueling hours every day for sixteen weeks was mobility training with a white
cane, group therapy to deal with anger issues and the use of a computer with adaptive
software. It was a heart-wrenching journey filled with endless challenge. Part of
the reason I was reluctant to enroll in a program for the blind and visually impaired
was because I thought clients would be uneducated. I was a professional, after all.
What could I possibly have in common with “Those people?”
I was wrong. I met doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, all with one common
thread. We were all facing vision loss due to circumstances beyond our control. Some
had the extra burden of facing a marital problem because a spouse could not or would
not accept the blindness. We laughed and we cried. We connected in a way words could
never express. I was one of the lucky ones. What didn’t kill me made me stronger.
And after a long and winding road, a new dream resurrected. Today, instead of painting my pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words.
Echo of a Raven is a must read for diabetics, those facing a vision loss and for intelligent people who want to put an end to this world-wide epidemic.
In my memoir,I give a prolific account of my stay at Pittsburgh Vision told from an insider’s
point of view when institutionalized for sixteen weeks. Echo of a Raven is not for
the weak at heart. But through my darkest hour, I found light at the end of a tunnel.
Only when I reached out and asked for help did doors open. And doors have continued
to open for me.
There is a plethora of opportunity for the blind and visually impaired. In my memoir,
I give the names and addresses and websites for several organizations that have been
invaluable to me. Please help me in my mission to find a cure for diabetes and its
number one complication—blindness. If I can prevent one child from living in fear
of losing his or her vision, Echo of a Raven will be a smashing success.
A portion of all proceeds of Echo of a Raven will be donated to JDRF Juvenile Diabetes
Research Foundation fight for a cure. I thank you for supporting my charity.
Echo of a Raven
CTR Recommended Read Award for outstanding writing
YGR You Gotta Read rating
Available in paperback and eBook
Visit my website:
or contact me at:
As the blind man sweeps the streets with his white cane, I look away. As the blind man jingles his cup of coins on corner sidewalks, I look away. As the blind man sells his mops and brooms, I look away.
“You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five,” a doctor at Children’s Hospital predicted. “Your blood sugars are way too high.”
I began hearing the frightening phrase diabetic retinopathy at the age of six when I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. This condition causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead to progressive blindness. And at the age of twelve, when a doctor at a routine visit made this prediction, his cruel words changed the entire course of my life, affecting every major decision I made for years to come.
His words haunted me. They consumed me. They devoured me. Wherever I went or whatever I did, these words echoed in my head. The only time I found refuge was through my artwork. Painting became my sanctuary, a place where I could escape to another place and time. Peace and tranquility. No more pain. But one day when painting a picturesque Tuscan landscape, the initial bout of blindness struck with no warning.
Several buses pulled up, hissing and spewing as slush and mud splashed in all directions. People jumped back to avoid the mud-stained snow. It was a 71 and it was going downtown.
As I stood shivering, waiting for people to file out, a blind woman approached the bus stop, sweeping the snow covered pavement with her white cane. Her flat, monotone voice cut through my thoughts. “Does this bus go downtown?”
“Yes,” I answered her. I wanted to turn my head as I’d done so many times in the past, but my heart went out to her. It was so slippery out and she was so vulnerable. What if she got on the wrong bus—or got stranded somewhere? That could be me some day. Fear welled up in my throat as I watched her maneuver her way on to the bus. She cleared each step with her cane and stepped aboard.
A man in the front of the bus stood up. “Here, miss. Take my seat.” He tapped her arm. “Behind you.”
She wordlessly took his seat without uttering so much as a thank you. I sat in the seat directly across from her, not wanting to watch her--but unable to take my eyes off her. She wore dark glasses and a blank expression, so isolated in a world of utter chaos. She pulled a book out of her bag and began feeling it. Braille, I sucked in my breath. A foreboding premonition hurled through me and I thought I might be sick. I couldn’t take this. Visions of my future flashed in front of me, filling me with an uneasiness that had me completely undone.
How could she have the patience to read Braille, feeling all those bumps. After reading small print on legal documents all day, I would never have the tolerance to learn Braille. No way. How could a sighted person adapt to an unsighted world? Would that be me some day? Or was I just hitting the panic button. Then to my horror, the words screeched in my head. “You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five.”
Precisely one week later, I was down in my garage, putting the finishing touches on my painting. The rich fertile vineyards of the Tuscan landscape shrouded an inland harbor of mirror still waters. Age-old olive trees framed the hillside. Sitting back to admire my work, I smiled in eager anticipation. Just a few more strokes of the brush for fine detailing, and my masterpiece would be complete.
But suddenly, a huge splattering of black paint covered my beautiful painting. Confused, I wondered how paint had managed to get all over my masterpiece. I blinked several times, but it was still there.
Slowly but surely, my brain received the message. It wasn’t black paint covering my canvas at all; it was blood covering my retina. My worst nightmare had just come true. I’d had a massive retinal hemorrhage.
Dumbfounded, my paintbrush slipped from my fingers and rolled across the floor. I felt like I was drowning, losing consciousness. I sunk into a chair, clasping my hand over my mouth. Heart-wrenching pain stabbed at my gut. Nausea threatened. Then the tears spilled. “Nooo! Not yet. It’s too soon.”
at 6:55 AM