Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Done with School

I can't seem to comprehend that statement.

I'm done with school

I don't have any more tests to study for or papers to write. I'm done school.

Two-and-a-half years of hard work is finished. I'm done with school.



Clearing off three shelves in my book case, I packed away my text books and binders and notes and projects, filling three plastic bins with everything I've learned in grad school. Then I put them up in the attic. Yes, I know I may need some of these once I start work, but I don't want to look at them right now. Instead, I'm looking at the three empty shelves on my book case to help cement the idea in my head: I'm done with school.

See, the books are gone.

All the work I did preparing for my exams is cleared from my desk. There is room to write again.

My Master's exam was last friday and although I won't know for sure if I passed or not until mid-April, I feel pretty confident that I did. It was a four hour essay exam and I had to show everything I've learned about teaching Orientation and Mobility to visually impaired people with complex diagnoses, such as deaf-blindness and diabetes. I had to explain the criteria for when a person should use a cane, or when they are considered safe to travel without one. After a few moments of panic when my brain went utterly blank and I couldn't even remember what the hell a white cane was used for, I just started writing, and then all that info that was crammed into my synapsis came pouring out. I probably wrote too much, but I didn't want to leave anything out that might be important for the test reader to see. When I left the room I was bleary eyed from staring at a computer screen under fluorescent lights for so long, my hands cramping from typing on an unfamiliar keyboard and my brain numb with fatigue. The three other classmates who were taking the test with me looked just as drained, but we were also grinning, because we all felt confident we passed.


That night we celebrated with several other classmates who came to join the celebration, and we drank margaritas and talked about looking for jobs and worried about money and laughed about the past and which lessons were our favorites and which lessons were horrible... as if we were in the same platoon and the war was over, but we needed to rehash a few battles just to talk to someone who understands. We talked about having a reunion every year; I hope we do.

Now I'm home, slowly working my way through that long list of things that have been waiting for me to do while I was so busy with school, like read books for pleasure; organize the pantry; have a Dr. Who marathon; iron. I supposed I should get cracking on preparing for a job, but I just can's pull myself together enough to make that happen. Maybe next week.

Feels weird suddenly having so much free time. I'm so used to being busy and stressed out, I don't know how not to be busy and stressed out. Obviously, I need more practice doing nothing. Perhaps sitting on the couch reading a novel will help.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One more exam and I'm freaking out!

You'd think I'd be used to this by now, but I'm obviously not. I have five days until my last exam, this time for my Master's degree, and I am completely...

FREAKING OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And this is supposed to be the "easier" test, compared to my Certification exam. There are five questions, probably case studies, of which I choose three. Plus there is a Pro-Con question on a controversial issue in the O and M field.  Or at least that's my guess. It's an essay test, not multiple-choice like the last one, and I'm also guessing I'll be writing about teaching a hypothetical student with a certain type of vision impairment. Sounds easy, right? I mean, I should know this. It's what I've spent the last two-and-a-half years learning to do. If I can't do it, I didn't learn a damn thing and shouldn't be a teacher. Right?

Which is why I am freaking out! If I fail this test, not only will I not graduate, but I'll also prove to everyone, including myself, that I am not qualified to be a teacher.

Tests make me crazy.

I'm sure this anxiety has more to do with my insecurities and lack of confidence in my abilities than any real lack of knowledge. I suspect that I really do know how to assess and teach people with vision impairments. I just haven't done it very much to prove to myself that I can. So here comes this test which is pushing all of my low-self-esteem buttons, making me feel like a babbling idiot who shouldn't be allowed to teach anyone. I should take up landscaping, because at least when you work with plants, you can't hurt them. Oh wait, yes I could. Never mind.

For the next three days I will be studying like a crazy person, because that's what I am right now: crazy. Then on thursday I will go to the City and stay with my friend's again where I will get a good night's sleep and ignore as best I can that I have a test in the morning. On Friday I take the test, then Friday night I get good and drunk with my classmates, because that will be it. All done. No more to do for my Master's degree.

Except finish my internship paperwork. But that will have to wait until next week. I can only take on so much crazy at one time. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Optic-Nerve Hypoplasia

I've spent many months studying eye diseases and conditions for my exams, things like Cortical Vision Impairment, Retinopathy of Prematurity, Albinism and Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. And one day while studying all that information, I suddenly realized that Optic Nerve Hypoplasia had fallen off Queen Teen's list of diagnoses. I have no idea how or when that happened.

She was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia when she was 2 years old. Luckily, she didn't appear to have Septo-Optic Dysplasia, which meant she didn't have the syndrome with it's hormone and brain abnormalities, or so we were told.  She "just" had the vision impairment: 20/1500 vision, poor depth perception, nystagmus and intense light sensitivity. Plus, she had physical disabilities such as hypotonia and ataxia and later a hearing impairment. After hundreds of tests and consultations for the last 14 years, including genetic testing, the reason why she has those physical disabilities is still a mystery. No one can  figure out the underlying cause of her shrinking cerebellum. We all finally reached the point where we ran out of tests and theories and decided to just give it time. She's happy, appears stable, and is thriving in school. Let's just stop all the testing and let her be a kid for a while.

And then came the day when I was studying for my Certification exam and read newer information on Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. According to the research, a child can still have the hormone problems and developmental issues, even if not diagnosed with Septo-Optic Dysplasia. And if the child shows no hormone deficiencies as a child, they can develop later in life, especially around adolescence. Holy shit, that's not what we were told 14 years ago!

Then I went on to read some of the common behaviors and symptoms:

  • trouble with body temperature regulation
  • hormone deficiencies
  • growth problems
  • sleep problems
  • hypoglycemia
  • developmental delay
  • trouble with eating, including appetite
  • impulsivity; easily frustrated; highly distractible
  • high fevers when ill; fevers when stressed
  • cerebral atrophy
There are even more symptoms which all depend on what type of hormone and brain dysfunction the child has, and Queen Teen has about 80% of them. 

Later that day, I looked at her medical reports from the last few years and saw that there is no mention of Optic Nerve Hypoplasia on any of them.


Even her official diagnosis from CCS doesn't mention Optic Nerve Hypoplasia any more. When the hell did that change?

If the diagnosis of Optic Nerve Hypoplasia is missing, does this mean we've all been looking in the wrong place to uncover the mystery of what has caused Queen Teen's disabilities, as if we started a treasure hunt on the wrong desert island? Or was the mystery uncovered several years ago in all those tests, found to be inconsequential, then buried again and forgotten? But if Queen Teen does have hormone problems now that she's older, especially with her pituitary gland, how much damage could have been done which might have been avoided?

How did I miss this? How could I have let things get so disorganized that I allowed something this big to slip through the cracks? Yeah, I know, I've been busy, but this is my child! I must stay on top of things, especially medical care. And don't tell me it's the doctors job to keep up with her medical care, because we all know how often doctor's miss things (and not always through a fault of their own. They have a lot of patients with a lot of different medical reports to sift through). No, it is my job. 

But I can't think that way. Blame is pointless. I'm doing the best I can. At least I found the problem now and I can do something about it. I have to figure out when and how Optic Nerve Hypoplasia was excluded from her medical diagnosis.  It's not like the optic nerve damage just went away. 

I contacted her geneticist and he seemed surprised that she had Optic Nerve Hypoplasia; they never got a report from the Ophthalmologist (I know I told him!). He also agreed that she should be seen by an endocrinologist and he made a referral to one at Stanford. I should hear back from them in the next week or so. Now I'm going through her medical files again looking for mention of Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and will send copies to her geneticist, neurologist, and another for the endocrinologist. And I need to figure out the last time she was seen at the Low Vision Clinic in Berkeley and possibly make a follow up appointment. Or should I take her to an ophthalmologist at Stanford? 

One step at a time. We'll get to the bottom of this. 

School was the biggest reason I lost track of her medical care, but it may also be the biggest reason I'm able to investigate what kind of care she needs. Now that's ironic.