“It happened July 1, 2009,” she said. “I will never forget that date. I went to bed early because I was having a bad headache and the Sunday morning I woke up my usual time to prepare for church, but I thought outside was very dark. I turned on the light and it was still dark so I thought the electricity was off.”
Even after she went for her cell and could not see the mobile phone light, she was puzzled but did not think of the worst. “I was not thinking about loss of eyesight, nothing like that,” she said. “I do not know how to describe the feeling I felt in words; it was like someone knocked all the breath out of my lungs. I just fell to the floor rolling bout hollering and crying.”
Yet, Applewhite, who is diabetic, said she always knew of the risk of blindness as a result of diabetic retinopathy, which is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye (retina). Because she had the condition, she always went for her optician’s appointment which showed that everything was normal on each occasion.
Eight years on, Applewhite has found it hard to accept the loss of her sight and believes that God can restore it if He so chooses.
“Full acceptance, no; I believe my eyesight will be restored in Jesus’ name,” she said.
“Going back to that Sunday when I was rushed to the hospital and they did the tests, they were saying you will never see again. That is one conversation I will never forget as long I live; (the doctor) just ran off this long list of things I would never be able to do again; like if he was the hammer and I was the nail and he was driving the message home. I felt so bad then, that all I could do was cry, but now I know I serve a living God and in all things I give thanks.”
Applewhite said the part that “kerfuffled” herwas that there were no symptoms or anything to indicate an eyesight problem. She ate what she considered a healthy diet and always went for medical check-ups.
“Adjusting was the hardest part,” she said.“The first two years I cried every single day andgetting to wrap my mind around the idea of doing things differently. I have a daughter and a son.My daughter was eight years at the time and shewas a real trooper; she stepped up and helped me make the adjustment.”
Applewhite and her daughter, as young asshe was, created a series of hand signals to aidmobility. For instance, they would walk holdinghands and if her daughter kept her hand flat, itwas flat road, when her hand dipped it meant tostep down and if it went up it meant to step upand so on. So when they were out in public, Applewhite did not have to use a cane.
Mother and daughter would also put little “bumps” on the washing machine, microwave and push-button telephone so that Applewhite would still be able to use household appliances. Everything in the house has remained in the same position to allow her to get around with no issues.
She had access to disability trainingwith the National Disabilities Unit a few months after her vision loss, but by then, shewas already gettingby, thanks to herdaughter.
Cannot and never are some of the words that Applewhite chooses to keep out of her vocabulary. Because of her disability, people tend to say she cannot do certain things, but she is determined always to show them how wrong they are.
She still goes totown, to the hospitaland doctor on her ownand is living life as normally as she can.
She said her dayshave not changed much; the only thing she cannot do is read, but she still cooks, washes, cleans, takes the bus and doesher own shopping.
Applewhite hasbecome very active in the Barbados National Organisation of the Disabled (BARNOD)and now serves as chairperson of education and public relations officer. “They say I talk a lot,” Applewhite said witha laugh.
She serves onseveral other committees that keep her busy and active. In fact she isbusier than when shehad a job.
Applewhite said she likes to push awareness of disabilities and when any new information is announced, she puts it in the public domain.
“When we keep the public informed then people do not have to be saying, ‘oh I don’t know how to deal with them’. They realise that we are all the same we just do things differently,” she said.
One of the major changes she has seensince she lost her sight is that she has not worked since. Having worked at a major bank in sales, Applewhite said shewould like to set up her own business.
“I am not ruling out having an employer completely, but I do not think I can take the humps and grumps of working for someone.,” she said. “I am at the age where I want a more relaxed environment.”
To anyone at the beginning stage of the journey towards vision loss, Applewhite’s advice is not to give up on life even though blindness might seem like a death sentence at first.
“They can still live a full life,” she said. “You can do all the things you want to do; there are organisations that can help you adjust. Also, God is able and through faith, your sight can be restored.”
This Article is Compliments the Nation Newspaper