In this story, former competition shooter Vera Koo describes her last few years with vision problems, and how she lost and gained back her vision.
I do not know why I pulled my car off the freeway, but I am so glad I did.
Doing so put me on the path toward seeing clearly, versus possibly losing my vision in my left eye.
For the later years during my shooting career, I struggled with my eyesight – so much so that I have learned to condition my brain to shoot at a blurry target. That was when I really appreciated the 4-inch black dot on the official match target to keep me in check with the center.
Two years before I retired from the shooting sport, I could not see clearly what I shot at the 10-yard line. I had cataract surgery in 2017. Thanks to the surgery, my vision was better than it had been in years. I could see crystal clear. Color changed, and I could even tell the difference between warm and cool value of the color white.
That didn’t last.
I have worn prescription eyeglasses since I was 11-years old, and I kept up with all the changes with an annual eye examination during the entire time that I have spent in the shooting sport. Late in 2018, after I retired from competitive shooting, the blur seem to have returned. I wondered if my eyesight was simply deteriorating due to my age.
That wasn’t the case. By the time I saw my ophthalmologist, I had lost 40% of the vision in my left eye. My doctor said it stemmed from my previous cataract surgery. He said about 2% of people who have cataract surgery develop scar tissue from the incision, and that scarring blurs vision. Unfortunately, I was among that 2% of the people.
My doctor said I could have another procedure to push away the scars, allowing me to see clearly again like I did right after the cataract surgery.
I felt hesitant and wondered whether it was worth the risk. I worried that another procedure would mean another incision. What if I got unlucky? I thought I would be taking a chance with a second procedure. If something went wrong, I might even go blind soon after that from more scarring. At least if I do not have the procedure, I could hold on to some vision in my left eye for a few more years. It was kind of ironic that a precision pistol shooter would lose something that was previously an important asset. I figure that it will be better that I have the procedure later when I am at the senior retirement home.
So, I decided not to have the procedure.
Somehow I managed to carry on through challenges. This, I thought, was just another one of those hurdles I must endure.
In this case, I was making a mistake by resigning myself to a fate that I need not endure – that is until one day when I was driving to a gun range to practice my shotgun shooting. For whatever reason, I felt a sudden urgency to pull over and call my ophthalmologist.
I am a big believer in not ignoring life’s signals. Instinctively I did not want to miss it. So, I pulled onto a side street to call and schedule an appointment.
When I went in for my appointment 2 weeks later, by then I have lost about 60% of vision in my left eye. Driving on freeway with 1 good eye had become a bit strenuous. My doctor told me he could do a simple procedure to get rid of the scar tissue and improve my vision. The previous time we had talked, I was under the impression that he would have to make another incision and push away the scar tissue through a surgery.
I may have misunderstood him in my last visit. This time, he said that he could use a laser to eliminate the scars and it would not create more scarring.
Even so, I did not feel ready to have the procedure that day. I told him I would come back in a couple of weeks when my schedule is more flexible. There was just one problem: My doctor has just decided that he is retiring from his medical professional in order to pursue his passion as a violinist. Dr. Chang was the department head of ophthalmology, and he was the one who keep track of the health of my vision for previous 12 years.
If I was going to have my doctor perform the procedure, it was now or never.
I have a good rapport with my ophthalmologist, and I trust him. I really did not want another doctor to perform the procedure, which would happen if I delayed.
My doctor had such a positive energy about him that day. He had a glow to him, and he was in good spirits. I took this as another sign that I should not ignore.
Anytime you are undergoing a medical procedure, you want your doctor to be in top condition to operate. It was obvious to me that my doctor was in top form that day. I decided that I must seized the opportunity.
The procedure took only a few minutes. Had I understood initially the procedure was so quick and simple, I never would have worried. After the procedure, my vision was so unclear that I had to pray. I somehow managed to drive myself home to sleep. When I opened my eyes a few hours later, my vision was crystal clear.
Throughout my life, I refused to yield to challenges that come my way. However, I try to accept what is beyond my control and not fight it. I have always try to stay upbeat and don’t let the negatives in my life drag me down. But this situation served as a reminder to not accept an unsatisfactory fate too soon. Do your homework and see if you can improve your situation before you accept that, it is what it is. We must all urgently hold onto life and live as fully as we can.
I thank God for giving me another chance at healthy vision, and I do not want to take it for granted. I also know that I need to always watch for ways He might be speaking to me and not ignore His signs. With God guiding my steps, I can see clearly.
Vera Koo is a first-generation Chinese American woman. She’s a wife and mother, author, entrepreneur and retired competition shooter. Along with Vera’s fantastic memoir and life story, "The Most Unlikely Champion," she writes her column, Vera Koo, at "Women’s Outdoor News." View all posts by Vera Koo
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