It was Tuesday 14th Dec 2021, I was working a late shift, 9am-8:30pm. As my day unfolded, I knew something was not right, but I persisted. The fighter spirit in me refused to give up and I continued to serve my patients in the best way I could. Eventually, I came home, and I removed my contact lenses (I have keratoconus – a corneal defect that permits contact lens wear only). I saw that something was blurry in my left eye and thought to myself I’m tired, it’ll be fine in the morning.

15th December dawned; I realised my eye was still blurry. My left contact lens no longer fit. I had no choice but to go to the eye hospital. My local hospital declined to see me, and I was forced to go into Central London.

The nurse did the checks, and to my horror I was unable to see anything from the left eye. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realise the severity of it. Shock engulfed me. It almost felt like a repeat pattern, from when I was first diagnosed with keratoconus 11 years prior. At that time, 11 years ago, my life changed upside down. No one in my family knew what it was. And additionally, there was a big question mark as to whether I was going to be able to continue my studies. I had already completed 3 years of my studies towards my degree.

Back to 2021, I could have gone back to using self-loathing aids I have known from childhood, but I refused. My inner self said, all these years of sadhana, spiritual teachings and growth, was I going to succumb to the negative talk?  I had been praying consistently for my eyes to get better, but it seemed that life chose differently. There had to be a way forward. I said to myself, that I trust in the Guru’s grace and protection that everything was happening for my highest good.

Eventually, I saw the Optician and Ophthalmic Consultant. The official diagnosis was Corneal Hydrops. It’s a 1 in 1000 risk of getting Corneal Hydrops from Keratoconus. It is where the cornea spontaneously bursts when the cornea is too thin and steep. The consultant said I would eventually need a corneal graft. Once the consultant left, the optician said don’t worry you may not, let’s see how you heal. For some people it’s a silver lining. I was very fortunate there was no real pain, photophobia or infection. I’ve since seen some of the pictures on google and boy does it look awful at its worst. I was certainly lucky from the various possibility of presentations. The blurry vision I experienced was disorientating and as the eye was in a state of healing, my body was taxed. I was advised to continue working and living life as normal including being able to drive – it was going to take up to 4 months to heal. Yes, 4 MONTHS!

Loss of vision is debilitating; it can be so easy to take our human body parts for granted. Nevertheless, I refused to sulk. I informed work of the situation and agreed to continue working, with a lighter load especially on my long days every Tuesday. My eye appeared as though something was wrong. It was as though part of my eye was popping out as the hydrops caused a swelling. I chose to embrace self-love no matter what and as I continued working in a people facing job, people politely ignored it and my work colleagues were very kind and supportive.  Even though it was difficult, I felt really blessed that with the Gurus grace, positive attitude and willpower enabled me to embody witness bhaav and continue the journey forward.

Eight days later, continuing with the healing journey, I started my menstrual cycle, which left me with low energy. Normally it lasts one day. And with the hydrops, I thought perhaps my body just needed more time. Three days on, and I still felt the same. It was xmas eve. Something was not right. I did a covid test and it was negative. I repeated it the next day and it was still negative. Two days later, my mum came down with covid. It was then, that I realised I likely had covid and was the reason my mum caught it. I had no other symptoms, but extreme fatigue. Damage was done and I silently passed it to her. My mum is vulnerable and on immunosuppressants, she had it quite severely with a range of common covid symptoms. Fortunately, she recovered well with no side effects.

For me, the fatigue persisted for a week. Luckily, I had prearranged holidays over the xmas and new year period of 10 days. I spent my time mostly between sleeping and cooking.  My eye disturbed me more than the fatigue, which also limited any screen time. I had a ton of college work to do, but there was not an ounce of strength in me that could. Funny, if I had to go to work, I would have gone. But since I was home, I couldn’t find any inspiration.

January came and I couldn’t face going back to work because I was still low in energy and used to sleeping in late and out of my usual routine. At the crack of dawn on the day of returning to work, I dreamt a dream. It was with Swami ji. I cannot remember the dream exactly, but in that dream Swamiji gave me all the shakti to start the year back at work. Not only did he grace me with his presence on that day, but again the next day too. I am forever so grateful. The visions gave me such strength and conviction and made me feel so loved and protected.

7 weeks post onset of the hydrops, I was given a review appointment at the hospital. To my utter astonishment, I was told I had completely recovered. Although a visible scar forever imprints my eye, my vision improved manifold, including improvement to the vision I had pre-hydrops. The opticians were able to measure me up for a new lens. Honestly, it felt like a miracle. So, it seems that my prayer was answered after all. My eyes did improve, just not in the way I thought it would. It certainly came with a price, but that’s with everything in life. I feel so, so, so grateful for being able to go through this journey with heightened awareness and surrender. All I can say is never lose hope and faith, NO MATTER WHAT.

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Bijal Shah

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