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As light begins to slip through the small cracks in my eye lids, I come back to the real world. I try to get a grip on what just happened, but my ability to think is blocked by the searing pain coming from my right eye. Without thinking my hands race up towards my face trying to tear out what is causing me the extreme discomfort. Instinctively, the nurse rushes over to the table and pins me down. Like a fish, I flop around trying to unhook myself from her grasp. As she continues to hold me down, fatigue begins to set in on her. My chance to break free has come. I slash. I shake. I scream. Adrenaline flows through my veins. My arms are released from the hand cuffs, and once again I reach up to my eye. I am only inches away when I am restrained again, this time by my parents. I am pinned to the bed, unable to move an inch. Hope has fled me. Blood trickles from the unhealed incision in my eye, and once again I drift off into a deep sleep.
It’s the bottom of the last inning. Down one run with the bases loaded, I step up to the plate with the opportunity to win the game. My size seven cleat digs into the back of the batter’s box. My fingers lock around the grip of the bat, and I crouch into my stance.
The first pitch floats right down the middle; my eyes widen, and I take a big swing. Strike one.
Again, the pitcher winds up delivering the pitch. This time I make contact, but the ball sails out of play down the first baseline. Strike two.
I got one more chance. I can’t let my team down again. As the ball approaches me, I freeze. The ball hits the catcher’s mitt right down the middle. Strike three you’re out.
Two games in a row I have struck out for the final out of the game. I have let my team down again. No longer do my coaches believe in me. No longer do my teammates believe in me. No longer do I believe in myself.
Maybe baseball isn’t the sport for me. I don’t want to let dad down, but I’ll never be as good as him. I suck.
“We are going to take you into the eye doctor today,” says my dad the next morning when I stroll across the tile kitchen floor and take my place at the granite breakfast counter.
“Why?” I spit out amidst a mouthful of warm gooey cinnamon rolls my mom prepared for me.
“I think you might not be seeing the ball very well. You have a perfect swing, but you just aren’t connecting with the ball right now. It’s worth a try.” Dad pours himself a cup of coffee, and takes a seat next to me.
He did play college baseball. He does know what he’s talking about. This must be why I’ve been struggling. I don’t want to make excuses, but as of now I don’t know what else to do. “Okay, I will go shower and get ready to go.”
Glasses. What is my crush, Shannon, going to think of me when I come back to school wearing glasses? Now I’ll never have a chance. The whole fifth grade will laugh at me. Everyone is going to call me a nerd.
When we arrive, my dad fills out paperwork while I anxiously wait for the doctor to come get me from the waiting room. The optometrist leads me into a small white room with nothing but some letters on the wall. I make out every letter with ease, and the doctor tells me I have 20/20 vision. Maybe dad was wrong; maybe I don’t have a problem with my eyes. Next, we head into a room with a machine that resembles large binoculars.
“Which looks closer?” asks the doctor, “circle one, circle two, or circle three?”
Three, no two wait maybe one. “Three,” I say.
“Okay, let’s try again. Which is closer, circle one, circle two, or circle three?”
Again, I have no idea which one to pick. “Two.”
Looking at me confused, the doctor says, “We need to dilate your eyes. I want to take a look in there.”
I am escorted to the back of the office to a dark room, and I recline in the soft leather chair. Taking out the eye drops, the doctor approaches me, tilts back my head, and drops in two small drops in each eye. A burning pain instantly comes from my eyes. Trying to relieve myself from the pain, I blink rapidly. Once the pain has subsided, the doctor starts his examination of my eye. A bright, florescent blue, ring rests millimeters in front of my eye. The doctor peers though the light and within moments notices something wrong.
Walking over to flip the lights back on, the doctor says, “You have a right eye palsy. One of the muscles is weaker than all the others and your eye is not able to rotate correctly. Because of this, you may be experiencing trouble with your depth perception, and it may also cause you to see double.”
This explains why I can’t hit the ball. Dad was right. “How will we be able to fix it?”
“I think the best option is surgery.” The doctor sighs and repositions himself on his rolling chair.
Is he serious? I’m way too young for surgery. “Is that the only option?” My hands tremble as I glance around the room, trying to hide the tear sliding down the side of my face.
“Yes, it is a very safe procedure, but I am going to have to refer you to a specialist to perform the operation.”
My biggest fear has just become a reality as I exit the doctor’s office into the blinding sunlight. The need for surgery overpowers me. I cannot focus on anything else. I know what I have to do, but I am deathly afraid. What if I never wake up? What if the surgery goes wrong? What if I can’t see again? What if, what if, what if...
A month later, we enter the hospital through the sliding glass doors, which open automatically inviting me to my doom. With my mom and dad at my side, we weave our way down the maze of hallways, anticipation growing with every set of doors we pass through.
The real agony begins when we enter the waiting room. Trucks, Barbie dolls, and blocks scatter the floor. Children’s books are placed on every table. Pictures of smiling kids hang on the wall all around the room. The room appears fun and un-harmful, but I will not be tricked into believing this is a happy place.
As my eyes nervously glance around the room, a petite, elderly nurse enters, “Nathan.” Emotions of the last month all pour out of me at once.
What if I don’t wake up? What if this is the last time I see my parents? What if I can never see again?
My height and weight has been taken, and I am ushered into a small room to change into a green gown. The friendly nurse, noticing my nervousness, calms me by the constant reassurance everything will be alright. “You have nothing to worry about. Doctor Gamm has done this a thousand times. It is one hundred percent safe.”
“Has this surgery ever gone wrong? I won’t die, will I?” Tears are forming in my eyes, and my legs, which dangle off the table, swing nervously.
“No, you have nothing to worry about. I can promise you there will be no problems.” She smiles reassuringly.
A small X is placed over my right eye, to insure they perform the surgery on the correct eye. I am ready to enter the operating room. With my mom at my side, I enter a whole new world.
Machines encircle the room; their bright lights, lines, and numbers display a language unknown to me. On the table sit a scope, scalpels, and elongated needles. The sight of them makes my heart drop below my stomach, doubling the amount of fear I already have. Panic overcomes me as I am lying down on the table. Green gloves approach my face placing a mask over my mouth and nose. A long narrow tube leading from the suffocating mask connects me to one of the machines. Strange air begins to fill my lungs. Every breath causes the balloon, hanging from the tube, to fill with air.
I am easily amused by the inflation and deflation of the balloon as I begin to drift away. I stroke my mom’s hair and the lights go out, total blackness.
Looking back today, I realize overcoming my fear not only helped me in baseball, but now I can drive without problems. Also, my vision has helped me in basketball and football. Today I see the world more clearly through new eyes. I do not take things for granted, and I thank God for all the wonderful gifts he has given us. With him at my side, no fear is too great for me to overcome.