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A Second Life

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Cynthia Groopman lives in the state of New York.

February 28, 1988, will always be the beginning of my second life.

Sixteen years ago I received a prescription cough medication. Although pleasant tasting, it would change my life and my vision forever.

I awoke at midnight from a fitful sleep with a pounding headache and red eyes that felt like they were going to pop out of my head. Everything seemed hazy.

My dad and brother accompanied me to the local eye and ear hospital. In the taxi, tears began to stream down my face. What was happening to me? I thought.

I was 39 years old, active, vibrant and enjoyed life. I was an elementary school English teacher.

An intern and nurse awaited me in the emergency room. The intern looked into my eyes and measured the pressure, which was 55 in each eye. When I showed him the cough medicine bottle, he said that I was one in five who experiences an adverse reaction.

Immediately the doctor and nurse went to work to lower the pressure with injections, liquids, pills and drops. I was in the emergency room all night and into the wee hours of the morning. I had laser surgery, and the pressure was lowered.

The sight in both eyes, however, was gone.

I found myself in a dark and isolated world. I thought to myself: What purpose do I have now?

In the taxi going home, I listed in my mind some goals to reach by the year 2002. I was just imagining things and thought that this would allay my fears.

In the beginning it was like a bad dream. Going to the doctor. Using drops. and Just sitting around and moping.

I felt I had to retire from my job. The medical board asked me stupid questions.

I then underwent intensive rehabilitation and was taught new skills, including cane travel.

I began taking adult education courses from the Hadley School for the Blind. Later, I would become Student of the Year.

In 1991, I became a social work, educational and recreational volunteer professional at the local seniors centre where I began to utilize my skills as a teacher. I taught ESL, conducted groups and spoke to the homebound and counselled people. I was named Volunteer of the Year and blessed by the Monsignor.

I was adjusting to life because I had a purpose.

I was photographed for Time Magazine, using the Reading Edge machine and inspired others.

Time passed, and I realized that the goals I had verbally listed on that February night were becoming realities.

I began to write poetry and was one of the best poets for three years.

I was awarded a Citation of Honour for volunteer service, the Hero of Winter and Exceptional and Role Model Person.

My fondest dream came true when, in August 2001, I had a Bat Mitzvah at age 53.

Today, I mentor children and talk to groups about blindness.

My letters appear in our local papers, and I am interested and involved in social actions with senior citizens.

The ability to use the computer was my last goal, and I had special technology lessons.

My life is full.

I have insight, the ability to grow, lead a productive life and see the light of the Lord.

My life is truly rich and blessed, and yes, now I know the true purpose of my life.

God gave me an unconquerable soul.