It was 1965 and I was in 4th Grade when my mother, a World War II Army nurse, became concerned about the increasingly prominent veins she noticed appearing on the right side of my forehead. So, she bundled me off to our family G.P. who apparently dismissed her concerns, saying I was a perfectly normal nine year old girl. He metaphorically patted her on the head, reassuring her there was nothing to worry about. But with a combination of medical suspicions, a good dose of mother’s intuition combined with her natural tenacity, she refused to be placated.
Discussing her concerns with a friend at church one Sunday, she was given the name of a neurological centre in Sydney established expressly for ex-servicemen and women and their families. Both my parents fell into this category, with dad having served in the RAAF as a fighter pilot.
Mum returned to our GP armed with the information about the centre and requested a referral to Northcotte Neurological Centre. He reluctantly agreed to write one, while she sat in his office and waited, and then immediately drove to the neurological centre to make an appointment.
Thus began a series of visits and examinations under the care of a gentle giant, Dr. William Basser. He towered over me and I have very fond memories of him and the centre, where, as far as I knew I was their youngest patient. The staff spoiled and fussed over me wonderfully and I must admit to secretly enjoying all the attention. I felt rather special and different to all my school friends – somewhat like a celebrity.
I had numerous neurological examinations as well as EEGs and X Rays. The drone of the machine and rhythmic clicking of the pen etching on trace paper often lulled me to sleep and I grew to like it. I happily settled into the regular routine of these visits. That is, until one day my mum abruptly broke the security of it all, arriving at school to pick me .
I was very embarrassed. And annoyed. We were in the middle of sewing class, at which I usually was far from enthusiastic. But that day it was finally my turn to write down the names of all the girls who talked. This would be the first time my name was not amongst them!!
Although I can’t remember mum telling me what was happening, I waited patiently near the Infants Block as she went to tell my sister’s Kindergarten teacher all about it. Standing, lost in the early Spring day, blue sky, sun streaming down, birds singing and flowers just beginning to bloom, I watched her disappear into the distance with a confusion of emotions. Part of me longed to stay there and enjoy such a beautiful day, rather than be torn away from it. But I also remember my deep concern for my little 5 year old sister and how she would handle this, (whatever it was), what she would think and jus how it would upset her. Something was happening to her ‘Jan Jan’.
When mum and I got home I obediently packed my Globite school suitcase with pyjamas and other essentials, including my new and most favourite toy, my brand new Barbie doll. She was a new type of doll, having only just appeared in the shops and I loved her, as I loved all things small in scale and miniature.
I didn’t know why I was packing my suitcase in the middle of the day. I didn’t understand why mum came and whisked me away from my friends, from school, from the known. In fact, I didn’t know anything much at all. Not because of secrecy but my own confusion over the speed at which events seemed to move. I just felt as though I was caught up in a whirlwind of activity, so I put my blinkers on and looked straight ahead. I was scared of seeing distractions or things I didn’t want to know about. I felt overwhelmed, yet strangely distant.
(to be continued…)
©Jan Stead JEMproductions, 1999 & 2008
Well, here we go again, now up to Part VI of the continuing egocentric saga.
I must confess it is only the continued enthusiasm and encouragement of some very special people that is prompting me to continue with this story.
It is that and a sure knowledge that this is a story which I must tell.
For I am that blind man!