By Yudith Madrazo Sosa
An eclipse seems to eternize in the eyes of the young man. He vehemently
wishes the return of the light, the undecipherable joy of being able to glimpse figures and colours, a joy more desirable now since after the accident that terrible, unbearable darkness overflows his eyesight. He is, however, able to listen, to speak, to move -he is alive!!! Despite the pain, the certainty of the fact sends away resignation as it nurtures hope.
José Antonio González Horta, president of the National Association for the Blind (NAB) in Cienfuegos, recalls the circumstances under which, at the age of 26, he experienced that sort of “gradual summer twilight” that stands for blindness, according to the Argentinean poet Jorge L Borges. Sadness does not show itself as he talks, neither does self-pity. On the contrary, he gives his words the breath of those who know how to cope wit adversity.
“No one can for certain imagine blindness; just those who are blind”, he assures. “At the beginning, when I got to know the consequences of the accident, I was not desperate. I had stayed for six months in a hospital in Havana where ophthalmologists were confident that I could at least partially recover my eyesight. That expectancy kept me from completely accepting a forthcoming total blindness.
”After that, I was submitted to surgery, but without results. Then Dr Hernández, a good friend of mine, told me: ‘We have just one opportunity left: the Orbis Project’. Some months later, I went to the province of Ciego de Ávila to be tested by the doctors of that project. They informed me that I could only find a solution in a hospital in Mexico or in California, United States, where Cubans were not allowed.
“Once the Cuban medical authorities studied all the chances, my eyes were tested again and then the doctors concluded there was no reverse for my condition. It was in that moment that I really faced the fact that I had lost my vision. Then my existence started to be difficult, full of hindrances.
How did you react?
“In those moments appear all the outbursts common to a human being when suffering such a great mishap, all the emotional disturbances. As in my case, you can get through it with the support of friends and family. Anyway, it is quite difficult for a sighted person to suddenly and irreversibly become blind. Such circumstances bring about some psychological instability. Then suicide attempts, harms to others and eagerness to hold everything and everyone guilty of your condition are likely to show as natural responses.
”Of course, after a time you seek the assistance of specialists. You need faith in order to go ahead. You lose your eyesight, but life has to go on. I have never been resigned, though. I just adjusted my life to my new condition. What have I done? I’ve tried to achieve independence. We need to lead a normal life, but we have to be aware of our limitations.
In your opinion, what does the NAB represents for the blind people community?
“All people with visual disabilities gather together in this organization, where they find opportunities for rehabilitation and for integration into society.
Do you think there still are obstacles inside our society for the acceptance of blind people into schools or workplaces?
I do. Sometimes the lack of knowledge prevents people from waking up their sensitivity towards individuals who suffer any disability. When they fully recognize blind people as part of society, many of the hindrances will cease to be”.
What have being a father given to you?
“Don’t you know? (he placidly smiles), I have forgotten about my blindness. My son represents my most valuable treasure. He is a great joy not only for me, but also for my mother who suffered my eyesight loss more than I did. The birth of my child swept away all her sadness from her for he became the centre of her attention”.
Would you like to send a message to anyone who, like you, unexpectedly loses his/ her eyesight?
“I’ll suggest them to think about it carefully and to join the Association, where they will always be welcome”.
In Toni’s life, strong will and the certainty of counting with the support of others made the light go beyond dusk. Today we can see him, like many others, walking with the guidance of his cane along the streets in Cienfuegos. He does not feel himself diminished. He is fully aware of it: life is much more.