Monday, March 28, 2011


There aren't a lot of disabilities that affect programmers. We occupy a “life of the mind,” with few physical constraints. Early on in my career, I realized that my only real concerns would be major head trauma, repetitive stress injuries, and blindness. For the first, I figured that I wouldn't know that it had happened, and for the others I could take precautions — there are a lot of pairs of safety glasses in my basement.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I returned home from an extended business trip with a detached retina (for those who aren't squeamish, see the Wikipedia article). Thirty six hours later, I was in surgery. Two weeks after that, another surgery. Currently, I have a gas bubble in my right eye that requires me to keep my head in one of two positions: face down or sideways. Even though I have one good eye, and a laptop that folds flat, my ability to use a computer is limited: a half-hour at a time before I start feeling dizzy. And daytime TV — even with on-demand Mythbusters — is not something I'd wish on anyone.

But recovery is just a matter of time. Six to eight weeks of not doing what I want, of sleeping on the couch to ensure that my head is in the proper position, of wearing a green band to tell paramedics that my eye will explode if they put me on a medivac helicopter. There's a high risk that I will develop a catact as a result of the surgery, and a possibility that the same thing will happen again.

What's interesting (to me, at least), is that my attitude about disability hasn't changed, even after realizing that precautions might not be enough. I mention this because I've had a few half-written postings about fear and motivation. And this experience has taught me something about about how little fear has to do with reality. I think that now I have the ideas needed to complete those posts.

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