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Going Blind?

By Harry Glickman, with Jeannette Glickman, 1999

To play basketball three times a week is not extraordinary. The fact that I was sixty years old and the court located in the Middle East under a blazing sun made it a little unusual. Six feet tall less normal shrinkage and a seasoned basketball player from high school days gave me an advantage even though Menachem Gosher, Chaim Bordelay, Dave Krashinsky and Zelig Goldman were fifteen years younger. Our Saturday morning workout playing '3 on 3' turned into a great activity—lots of fun and exercise for my buddies. I was in good shape, working physically hard in the orchard and cutting lots of weeds; playing ball completed my need for 'work and play'. In a short time we were joined by the sons of my friends and youngsters from the village, including Oved who would later become our son-in-law. For ten years it was Saturday morning plus Tuesday and Friday afternoons with a turnout of twenty or more eager players. The boys turned into strong young men; we ended up playing some tough ball with injuries and lots of sweat. It became routine for the original group of friends to gather at our place in the moshav, where all this energy was expended, for a glass of orange juice and a shot or two of brandy, and to discuss the traumas within our government. It was while enjoying this respite and feeling relaxed after an invigorating game that the reason for recording this story happened.

Without prior warning the bottom half of my left eye was blind. A straight line across the middle divided the eye in half and a black curtain covered the lower part—black with absolutely no light getting through. In shock with a new kind of fear, a lot went through my mind in the next few seconds. Don't panic, breathe deeply and relax. After thirty seconds which felt more like minutes, light commenced to seep through the curtain and I was back to normal. I saw a doctor the next day and consulted with a couple of close doctor friends. All recommended that I see an ophthalmologist who confirmed my belief that there was no damage to the eye. I don't remember the circumstances preceding the next attacks but for the next ten years the length of blindness increased slightly. This experience recurred at intervals of weeks or months culminating in a panic situation in the spring of 1997.

At that time I was 81 years of age and feeling great, proud of the result of a year building the house for our daughter, Debby, and her husband, Ron, both of whom were my assistants in this major work. With the house complete I was getting the irrigation system in order for the summer which included removing trees, that were dying of old age, with a chain saw. This meant lots of bending down to fix sprinklers damaged each year during the harvest and hauling out the firewood resulting from the cut trees. By noon this left me in a state of euphoria, tired and a little stiff but mentally feeling great. After lunch and a twenty-minute nap and then into the carpenter shop where cabinets were waiting to be built to furnish the masterpiece we had built. To make cabinets with lots of drawers is relaxing and not physically taxing, but the four and five meter long planks seemed to be getting heavier; a load each week or so on top of the old Peugeot left me perspiring and with stiff joints the next morning.

As stated it was in the spring of '97 and I was going full blast when the eye acted up. The curtain was drawn and I was in my usual position breathing deeply on the sofa but it soon became obvious that this was different. The few seconds were gone and the curtain stayed drawn. I lowered my head to the floor maybe to get more blood to my head. A good two minutes or more before relief. Again in a few days there was a repeat performance. And then the particular day arrived. I came into the house after a great morning in the orchard, the tractor loaded with enough orange tree logs for a couple of weeks of fires for the next winter, when I felt it coming on. Blurred vision and then blindness in the left eye, not the bottom half but for the first time the whole eye was black-black. My left eye was completely blind—blacked out. It is impossible for me to put into words the relief when after a long two minutes light slowly reappeared. Within minutes I had my old buddy Dr. Mort Rayman on the phone. His reaction was one of urgency suggesting that blindness could result if this condition was not corrected. Check out those arteries going up each side of the neck to the head, but immediately. So it was to the new doctor in our village clinic who agreed and arranged an appointment with an electronic device to check artery blockage. I was relieved to learn that the blockage was insignificant as I have been depriving myself of lots of deep fried goodies for years. With this report our young lady doctor suggested that I take a tiny aspirin each day. An aspirin? Am I going blind? How about the heavy work that this workaholic is up to? My suggestion to slow down brought a strong reaction from the doctor, "Your body will tell you when to slow down. Do not pamper it."

We took off for Seattle on schedule spending the summer in comfort with the temperature in the mid 70s. It is our habit to avoid most of the summer each year in Israel where it is 95 in the shade almost every day. There had been no eye trouble for the couple of months since starting the aspirin, but it seemed reasonable to check things out with Group Health, the huge medical co-op in Seattle. We are members with coverage when in the area. After a complete physical examination, well, almost complete; I didn't follow through with some of the tests that had to do with possible cancer or some other dread disease. The prognosis, "Good," but "keep taking those aspirin tablets".

Back to the farm in October where we were pretty much finished farming. Each year before 97 we would return from Seattle each Fall for the harvest of the Clementina oranges. The 96 crop went unpicked as the market had collapsed. We were not too unhappy as the work had become less pleasant. Fertilizing had changed from chicken and cow manure to chemicals applied through the irrigating system. Weed control changed from cultivating with my small tractor to herbicide sprayed from the company tractor. Pruning now done with a huge windmill-type blade revolving from a tractor; picking by Arabs working for the marketing company. We had become gentlemen farmers; the reason for making the move to Israel had been to work the land. But we still had the acre around the house that needed care. A few days after our return from the states I fired up the gasoline power mower for the workout that I needed. A large area of weeds on one side of the house was a good eight inches high. It was a warm dry morning when I started pushing that machine and a hot dry morning when I stopped; a chamseen with the wind from the desert is very dry and hot with the temperature usually passing over 100 degrees by noon. Dressed in only shorts I felt great and was finished mowing before 10 am.

After a cool shower I was joined by Debby for 10 o'clock snack when for the first time since starting with aspirin, a period of four or five months, my eye became fuzzy and within seconds the curtain. Debby shouted the question, "Water, did you drink water?" She was already filling a glass as she spoke. My eye commenced to clear as I swallowed the water, and after the second full glass I was back to normal. Instantly we both realized that we had stumbled onto what was an obvious answer to my fifteen year-old problem.

Pictures of episodes of the past were clear in my mind, always scantily dressed indicating hot weather, relaxing suggesting some exertion just finished. And, of course, in all these years with many months in Seattle and lots of touring through mountains and even desert, not once had this problem arisen. Not much energy was expended driving the VWcamper. The fact that my diet is vegetarian with lots of fruit and vegetables had me believing that water was not important as I was getting plenty from the greens. The couple of cups of coffee and a couple of glasses of orange juice each day was additional liquid. It appears that the temporary blindness of all these years was due to dehydration.

Since that day when Debby yelled WATER!! it has become my best and most important medicine. Rarely do I feel thirsty but find it easy to down a couple of glasses of good clear H2O after any exertion of energy. It is now just over a year since that incident of temporary partial blindness. For you guys out there practicing medicine may I suggest that you consider a deficiency of H2O as the culprit in the ailments of your patients. Prescribe this non-drug as a medicine to be taken as prescribed. I personally guarantee that the side effects, other than more trips to the privy, will never cause you the embarrassment of needing to tell your patient, "Stop taking the medication!"

Harry Glickman with Jen March 1999

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