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Review of A Positive Journey
Emeritus Professor Mike Tobin reviewed A Positive Journey for the British Journal of Visual Impairment. It has now been published in the September issue and the text is given below.
Eric Sayce. A positive journey. One step at a time from blindness to living again. Ludlow, England: The Dogrose Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9528367-6-6.
The very title of this book encapsulates the story it sets out to tell and the author’s purpose in telling the story. His purpose was threefold: to allay in his visually impaired friends ‘the fears that you have’ and ‘motivate you’ to go forward and ‘enjoy the life that is available to you’; to raise awareness among sighted people of the limiting consequences of late-onset blindness; and to substantiate the author’s belief that we all have the potential to discover and then exploit the strength of our other senses. For anyone working in the rehabilitation professions, the book provides practical/applicable knowledge and information, and insights into the psychological, emotional, and social factors that impinge upon the loss of sight, not only for the individual himself/herself but for family, friends, and the professionals immediately involved in diagnosis and treatment.
Eric Sayce was an engineer by training, and after National Service in the RAF, he became a sales and marketing executive in the field of engineering plastics. A satisfying and rewarding life and career in which there was extensive travelling at home and abroad. As he puts it, his life began its traumatic change in June 1985 when the first ‘sign’ was a feeling that there ‘was a little bit of grit in my left eye’. The next eight chapters set out in minute, and often painful detail, the process of repeated efforts to save his sight. The many ophthalmological interventions offered hopes of success, but some of the various operations were accompanied with acute physical discomfort, and eventually Eric was registered as blind in 1987. The accounts of the medical attempts will no doubt have much in common with the experiences of other patients, and at this stage in the story there is little to alleviate the fears Eric has promised to allay.
As one reads this part of the history, a question arises as to whether ‘rehabilitation’ needs to be rethought, reconceptualised, to encompass the period before medical treatment has ended and the offer of ‘registration as blind’ has been made. This suggestion is made by this reviewer in the light of Eric’s account of how his wife and daughter, and not just himself alone, were coping with the practical, the day-to-day, tasks associated with prolonged hospital-based procedures. It is clear that close family members were also experiencing a period of emotional turmoil with alternating hopes and disappointments. The patients’ own distress is mirrored in the distress of those nearest to him and at present we have no means of addressing these problems. Despite the lack of success in preventing the onset of blindness, Eric is continually applauding the work of his doctors. One can imagine that some patients would not have shown the same degree of stoicism and satisfaction.
The chapters describing how he learned ‘to live again’ bring out the importance of the acquisition of basic practical skills such as self-help in
food preparation and finding out about a liquid-level indicator to avoid spilling tea and scalding his fingers, using audio equipment for recording
his thoughts on what he was feeling, learning Braille, playing dominoes, and the great boon of using the long cane, and then for Eric himself,
the presence of a guide dog, one of many that have transformed his whole attitude to life by making him independently mobile. The
significance of mobility for promoting self-confidence and independence is made at length. These skills and their consequences might be
seen just as vital for the whole rehabilitation process as the provision of psychological, emotional, and social support. Indeed, their acquisition
may be judged essential for the individual to become able to adjust to and accept the impairment. Certainly in the absence of continuing
psychological assistance, the best way in which rehabilitation can be effective would seem to be in the individual’s own capacity to pull
himself through to the conviction that he/she is the maker of an entirely new way of living.
The second half of the book builds upon the guide dog motif, leading on to accounts of projects undertaken in the wider environment and community. A new, different and outgoing life has been achieved, to the benefit of the author and to blind and sighted people.
This is an unusual book, of therapeutic value to the individual himself and likely to be of inestimable value to professional workers as they build up their experience. It is for others of us an opportunity to imagine something of what it is to be faced by the loss of so important a sensory system. In part, this fine achievement stems from the writer’s ability to meld precise, detailed description of a prolonged process of acceptance and adjustment with a convincing presentation of his own developing understanding of what he and those near to him have experienced.
copyright Mike Tobin and British Journal of Visual Impairment, 2013.
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