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<v Doctor>Okay, keep looking straight. <v Doctor>I'm just going to take the pressure now. <v Doctor>Open big, that's it. Look straight ahead try not to blink you're doing fine. <v Narrator>Barbara Allen has gone blind in one eye. <v Narrator>With laser treatments the doctors hope to minimize the damage of diabetic <v Narrator>retinopathy to the other eye. <v Narrator>For Barbara, the physical ordeal of diabetes and two years of surgery has <v Narrator>been traumatic, but somehow less overwhelming than the painfully slow <v Narrator>psychological acceptance of her condition. <v Narrator>It is an ordeal shared by many facing the possibility of total blindness. <v Hank>I knew I was losing my sight and I wasn't handling it well. I wasn't a very good person, <v Hank>I don't think. I drank a lot and started making <v Hank>geographical changes. I moved from Hawaii to Connecticut and moved <v Hank>away from my wife and children, uh, drank awfully heavy, <v Hank>got into a lot of trouble. <v Hank>And then from management jobs to semi-manager jobs to to salesman to to a bum.
<v Hank>That's really what it was. <v Man>When I am totally blind, I don't know what I'm going to do or where I will go. <v Man>I don't have any family here. <v Man>And uh I'm sorry to say that sometimes my family is not <v Man>as comforting as friends and neighbors are, but you can't always rely <v Man>on friends and neighbors. <v Woman>Are you lonely? <v Man>Very lonely. <v Man>Very lonely. <v Woman>Each morning I wake up, I'm thankful that I do have some sight. <v Woman>And I, now I expect any morning I wake up, maybe, you know, it's gone because <v Woman>each time it gets worse, it frightens you because you wonder how <v Woman>much longer that I'll be able to see. <v Narrator>What these people have learned is that the medical profession can only go so far, and <v Narrator>when surgical attempts for cure and correction fail, the only thing to do is
<v Narrator>to accept. <v Doctor>Okay, look up at the ceiling. I'm just going to pull down on your lid. <v Barbara Allen>Umm, I'm completely messed <v Barbara Allen>up right now. After the surgery and I got hit smack in the <v Barbara Allen>face with, well, your life is completely different, you no longer <v Barbara Allen>have a job, you no longer can drive, you can't read, you, all your <v Barbara Allen>dreams you have to start channeling them in different directions. <v Barbara Allen>So in the beginning, I was very emotionally disturbed. <v Barbara Allen>I took it out on my husband a lot. <v Barbara Allen>I felt cheated. <v Barbara Allen>I thought I hadn't done anything to deserve it, and <v Barbara Allen>I had to to realize it's not <v Barbara Allen>uh a fair world, and <v Barbara Allen>um, after a while, after the self-pity, after
<v Barbara Allen>the depression, after the anger, I started <v Barbara Allen>feeling that I had to start doing something with my life. <v Narrator>Barbara Allen is taking the first steps toward adjustment. <v Narrator>But for others, acceptance of blindness does not come easily. <v Narrator>And those in need of psychiatric counseling often find there is nowhere or no <v Narrator>one to turn to. <v Man>In medical problems you can mount a big million dollar research <v Man>efforts. In psychological adjustment, <v Man>you cannot solve the problem in the laboratory. <v Man>You have to involve the people surrounding the patient. <v Narrator>Under the direction of Dr. August Colenbrander, the Pacific Medical Center's Low Vision <v Narrator>Services is one of a handful of facilities in the Bay Area offering counseling <v Narrator>and adjustment assistance to patients facing the loss of sight. <v Dr. Colenbrander>We got people at many different stages.
<v Dr. Colenbrander>Some have lived with their visual loss, have learned <v Dr. Colenbrander>to accept it, and are eager to get the technical means <v Dr. Colenbrander>to do more. Other are still in the stage where <v Dr. Colenbrander>they have hardly accepted it, are fighting the concept. <v Dr. Colenbrander>Why did this happen to me? <v Dr. Colenbrander>Why are all those people out there with normal vision? <v Dr. Colenbrander>Why do I have poor vision? <v Narrator>Dr. Colenbrander says that too often ophthalmologists are asked to guide <v Narrator>patients through the painful period of psychological adjustment, a responsibility <v Narrator>they are reluctant and often unprepared to assume. <v Narrator>The low vision services counsels patients and family members on the realities of <v Narrator>blindness. Patients with partial sight experiment with optical and non-optical <v Narrator>aids to boost low vision, and those facing possible total blindness <v Narrator>can discuss freely feelings of self-pity, hopelessness, and desperation. <v Dr. Colenbrander>Very often a person who loses his or her vision
<v Dr. Colenbrander>loses his or her independence, and the loss of independence <v Dr. Colenbrander>may be even worse than the loss of vision. <v Man>Her independence is is the big thing,and she hates to ask anybody <v Man>for help. <v Doctor>That's a real common um reaction that we get here. <v Doctor>Family members come and they say that, well, in a way, they don't want them going <v Doctor>out on their own, which also hurts the person tremendously is that <v Doctor>the independence he's taken away from them. <v Man>I think this is uh one of the areas that uh that she is affected most. <v Man>. . <v Barbara Allen>It's the most frustrating. <v Man>She's lost her independence. <v Doctor>Mm-hmm. <v Man>And this is something that she. . .It's very hard. <v Man>And we all take very hard, I think. <v Barbara Allen>Not being able to drive, not being able to to rely <v Barbara Allen>on myself, to get me where I want to go always have to depend on someone else. <v Narrator>Many of the patients that come to the low vision services are referred to group <v Narrator>counseling sessions at the Lighthouse for the Blind.
<v Narrator>Therapist Donna Emerson says that emotional response to imminent blindness follows a <v Narrator>distinct pattern. <v Donna Emerson>The first stage shock is usually characterized by someone experiencing <v Donna Emerson>a numbness, feeling in a daze. It's usually followed by some kind <v Donna Emerson>of denial, some feeling or expression that this isn't happening to me. <v Donna Emerson>They're furious about this thing that has happened to them. <v Donna Emerson>There's a lot of widespread anger. We find the client moving into some phase of <v Donna Emerson>depression. The individual will bargain; uh, if <v Donna Emerson>I'm a good person, maybe my eyes will get better. <v Donna Emerson>If I go to the magic doctor, everything will be all right again. <v Donna Emerson>The quiet usually moves into some kind of partial grief and actual mourning <v Donna Emerson>for what has happened to them. <v Donna Emerson>And finally pulling through to some kind of readjustment. <v Narrator>In expressing pains of the past and present, patients <v Narrator>have slowly moved from denial and anger to a gradual acceptance of the unalterable <v Narrator>finality of blindness. <v Woman>Things have been coming up for me, like images from my childhood that are real painful
<v Woman>that that I didn't even realize were as painful as as <v Woman>you know, now, looking back on, they seemed to be, um, I didn't feel good <v Woman>about about my appearance. <v Woman>I had not had my eyes straightened at the time. <v Woman>And this I tended to sit right down on the corner that it was more overall than that. <v Woman>That was, you know, like somehow that was the pinpoint of it. <v Woman>But just overall, generally, um I tended to walk <v Woman>around with my, you know, I didn't want to meet people's eyes. <v Woman>I remember sitting in the dentist's office when I was a kid and and being so miserable <v Woman>because I didn't want to look up at anybody. <v Woman>There were all these people sitting around and I I kept looking at my lap <v Woman>or trying to look at a magazine or to do anything so that people wouldn't notice my eyes <v Woman>because I was convinced that people could tell by just looking at me that there was <v Woman>something wrong and that that they would reject me or feel negative toward me. <v Donna Emerson>Hank, what did you feel when you first learned that you were going blind? <v Hank>Well, an awful lot of fear.
<v Hank>Terrific amount of fear, what it's gonna be like to be, to not see. <v Hank>Uh, what I was going to do for work. <v Hank>Uh, how I was going to support my children. <v Hank>Um, didn't want to live. Really seriously considered suicide. <v Hank>Just a lot of, uh, why me? <v Hank>You know, screw God. If there is a God, you know. <v Hank>And then um, <v Hank>I don't know. Just, just intensely angry. <v Donna Emerson>What are you afraid of the most? <v Hank>Being alone, I suppose. Just blackness. <v Man>In those days and afternoons and nights in the last six months, it's been awfully trying. <v Man>Particularly <v Man>since the fact that what limited vision I have is not going to last maybe
<v Man>a year. And then you talk about fears. <v Man>You're bringing out some things. <v Man>But anyway. <v Man>I think that if I go there, I can't see anything, I'd rather be dead. <v Man>[sobs] Pardon me. <v Man>I don't do this, I don't let myself get down to two of these things, but that's what it <v Man>is. <v Man>People don't care when you cry. They prefer you when you're laughing. <v Man>But that's life. <v Man>That's the way it goes. <v Narrator>Edna Hogan lives alone in a small apartment in the Western Addition. <v Narrator>When she was 23, severe glaucoma forced doctors to remove her right eye <v Narrator>and replace it with a glass eye.
<v Narrator>Edna has known for years there was a chance the disease would spread to her left eye. <v Narrator>Doctors have now confirmed that she will lose all vision within a few months. <v Narrator>It has taken Edna 42 years to come to terms with her blindness. <v Narrator>And now, at age 65, she is faced with the task of learning how to live <v Narrator>in a world of darkness. <v Edna Hogan>I wonder if I'll ever accept it. <v Edna Hogan>You know what I mean? And be relaxed that <v Edna Hogan>each morning I wake up. I'm thankful that I do have some sight, <v Edna Hogan>and I, now I expect any morning I wake up, maybe, you know, it's gone because <v Edna Hogan>each time you get worse it frightens you because you wonder how <v Edna Hogan>much longer that I'll be able to see. <v Speaker>For Edna, the most important step toward adjustment was learning how to read again. <v Speaker>After 3 years of classes in Braille reading and writing at the Lighthouse for the Blind, <v Speaker>Edna professes to a moderate proficiency in the Braille system,
<v Speaker>wearing special glasses to block out glare, she takes dictation. <v Man>I'll give this first sentence in its entirety and then I'll break it down into phrases. <v Man>For many years, the population of Oklahoma grew more rapidly than that of any other <v Man>state. <v Narrator>Using a stylus, students punch out holes in a 6-celled slate to represent <v Narrator>letters of the alphabet. More advanced students use a Braille typewriter. <v Narrator>[sounds of typewriter being operated] For many seniors attending classes at the Lighthouse, <v Narrator>the Braille system is difficult. <v Narrator>They're learning the alphabet all over again, some using fingertips that have long lost <v Narrator>sensory acuteness. Edna's progress has been slow, but interaction <v Narrator>with other seniors losing their sight has given her encouragement. <v Narrator>On the last day of the semester, it was time to celebrate. <v Narrator>[M
<v Speaker>[music and sound of several people talking] <v Man>Face cards counts for ten.. Twenty near as possible. <v Man>Get over sixteen it's too much when you take a chance on hit because you bust out. <v Man>Dealer takes a hit. <v Narrator>Many of Edna's classmates have not yet accepted their blindness or partial vision. <v Narrator>And since Edna has had more than 4 decades to adjust emotionally to her <v Narrator>disability, they've come to her for advice. <v Speaker>I tell him it's just something that we've got to learn to live with. <v Speaker>And I maybe tell them about conditions of other people who are in far worse <v Speaker>shape than we are. <v Speaker>We can walk about. We can talk. <v Speaker>We can do some things for ourselves. You know, <v Speaker>the first time I went out to any kind of play or <v Speaker>something like that was to see Alice in Wonderland. <v Speaker>That's the first time I've been out since my sight began to get bad. <v Speaker>I don't know. I felt like it wasn't any use because I can't see you
<v Speaker>know what's going on. But I think with time <v Speaker>I'll be able to go to those things and enjoy them. <v Speaker>I hope so anyway. <v Narrator>Since Edna must rely on other people to drive her around the city, she stays home a lot <v Narrator>and there has been a lot to learn about getting along alone in an apartment. <v Narrator>She's memorized the dials on the stove. <v Narrator>Learn to listen for the sound of fullness when pouring and remembers where she <v Narrator>puts things. To a blind person a lost item could stay lost <v Narrator>for weeks. A Lighthouse volunteer usually visits Edna once a week <v Narrator>to do her shopping and errands. <v Narrator>But this week, relatives from home paid a surprise visit. <v Speaker>Dear God, we thank thee for this day. <v Speaker>We thank thee for allowing us to travel the dangerous highways <v Speaker>and be reunited as a family and allow my mother to <v Speaker>a chance to see her grandchildren. <v Speaker>We thank thee. And these blessings we ask in Jesus' name. <v Speaker>Amen.
<v Edna Hogan>How was Alice getting along when you left home? <v Man>She was doing uh a fairly good. <v Woman>We've been to the hospital and got her situated before we left. <v Woman>So James is there with her. <v Speaker>Are you adjusting to. <v Edna Hogan>I'm adjusting to my condition, yeah, and I do get out you see I go to the Kingdom <v Edna Hogan>Hall on on on Sundays and I go on on Wednesdays. <v Edna Hogan>One of the friends come by and pick me up and take me. <v Edna Hogan>But my most getting out was going to the Lighthouse. <v Edna Hogan>You see, long [??] was going to classes. <v Narrator>When Edna's son, daughter-in-law, and 2 grandchildren learned the extent of her visual <v Narrator>loss, they drove from Louisiana to San Francisco, hoping to convince her to return <v Narrator>home with them. After seeing her grandchildren again. <v Narrator>It didn't take long for Edna to decide to return with her family. <v Speaker>Often I sit here before the children got here and wonder <v Speaker>how is it going to be? How will it be?
<v Speaker>With the sight I have left, I would like to spend more time with my family <v Speaker>and especially my children and my grandchildren, you know, and <v Speaker>that I can remember their faces after, you know, I don't see them no <v Speaker>more. <v Narrator>Not all seniors losing their sight are as fortunate as Edna. <v Narrator>Many have no families to return to and few friends to lend support. <v Narrator>But Edna says that all those years living alone taught her a valuable lesson <v Narrator>that when the thought of total darkness became unbearable, there was always something <v Narrator>inside to pull her through. <v Edna Hogan>Hereby say Surely <v Edna Hogan>the darkness shall cover me, even <v Edna Hogan>the night shall be <v Edna Hogan>light about me. <v Edna Hogan>Yea, the <v Edna Hogan>darkness hide it not from thee, but the night shineth as the day.
<v Narrator>Jim and Diana Martin have 5 children, 2 of whom are blind. <v Narrator>5-year-old Andrew is sighted. <v Narrator>So are 10-year-old, Jimmy, and 11-year-old, Margaret. <v Narrator>Leber amaurosis syndrome has caused blindness in the Martins' youngest children, <v Narrator>3-year-old, Stephen, and 1-year-old, Jeannie. <v Narrator>The Martins had never heard of Leber amaurosis before Stephen's birth. <v Narrator>The disease causes blindness in 1 out of 4 children of parents with a rare <v Narrator>recessive gene. For babies born blind, few psychological problems <v Narrator>emerge early in life. They have no concept of the sense of sight. <v Narrator>And few realize they're different from other people. <v Narrator>But for the parents of blind children, especially those with no previous contact <v Narrator>with the disabled, the acceptance and adjustment process is heartbreaking <v Narrator>and unending. <v Jim Martin>When we found out Stephen was blind, I really felt devastated. <v Jim Martin>As if someone had just taken and pulled the plug right out of all my <v Jim Martin>desires and ambitions, and just I just felt my body was draining.
<v Diana Martin>The first time it was hard to explain. <v Diana Martin>Even thinking about how I felt just hurt. <v Diana Martin>I'd close my eyes and I didn't think I could ever survive a dark world because I don't <v Diana Martin>like the dark and I didn't like to think about it. It was just, like, <v Diana Martin>I'd rather die than face anything like that. <v Jim Martin>I remember the afternoon of driving home after we had it had been confirmed <v Jim Martin>through the test there at UC Med Center and uh <v Jim Martin>driving back to Petaluma how she and I just couldn't <v Jim Martin>say anything. We just uh were almost in shock. <v Diana Martin>Yeah. I actually was sick. <v Diana Martin>I, with the flu. <v Diana Martin>I thought it was flu. I just came home and had to go <v Diana Martin>to bed. <v Jim Martin>Just went right to bed, yeah. <v Narrator>As Stephen grew older, his parents realized he possessed all <v Narrator>the qualities of a normal 3-year old: imagination, humor, <v Narrator>and an immense inquisitiveness of the world around him. <v Narrator>Today, he wanted to explore our camera equipment.
<v Jim Martin>And look, can you lift the lid up? [girls talking in background] Lift it real...good. That's good. Now feel it, isn't it...what's that bumpy? <v Stephen Martin>That's rubber. <v Jim Martin>Is that rubber? <v Stephen Martin>Yeah. <v Diana Martin>Jeannie has a window screen., sounds good. <v Stephen Martin>I wanna do it. <v Diana Martin>Okay. <v Stephen Martin>That's a screen. <v Stephen Martin>I wanna turn the camera off right <v Stephen Martin>now. <v Camera operator>Okay, you can turn the camera off. <v Camera operator>Push the button. Push the button. <v Diana Martin>He's on the other side of the fence. Very nice cow. <v Diana Martin>I think he feels frustration of not not completely understanding his environment. <v Diana Martin>If I could just know what he's thinking, if I could see what he, picture his world it <v Diana Martin>would be easier. <v Narrator>It did become easier with the love and support of their other children and counseling
<v Narrator>from the Blind Babies Foundation, the Martins were able to guide Stephen into an <v Narrator>adjustment to his disability. Raising Stephen required a little extra time <v Narrator>and understanding, but what they learned from him and with him helped to overcome <v Narrator>those initial feelings of hopelessness. <v Narrator>And when Jeannie came 2 years later, they were emotionally prepared for another <v Narrator>blind baby. <v Diana Martin>We wanted another little girl and we thought she had sight. <v Diana Martin>And then we found out she didn't have very much. <v Diana Martin>And that was disappointing. One particular time, I took him to a supermarket <v Diana Martin>that knew of of Stephen, and then they watched that she wasn't responding <v Diana Martin>to trying to talk to her. <v Diana Martin>He um asked me if we didn't know that this could happen <v Diana Martin>again after Steven was born. And, by I said, well, yes, but <v Diana Martin>uh she was conceived and we were going to have her. <v Diana Martin>And I uh it was a possibility that she would be just fine. <v Diana Martin>And I was very upset to think that all that she was missing her eyes, her <v Diana Martin>eyesight, and I just told her that I just looked down
<v Diana Martin>and I just I couldn't kill her. <v Jim Martin>I have a sister who is very outspoken and uh, uhh <v Jim Martin>as soon as she found out that we had our fifth child, she was she <v Jim Martin>was disturbed at that. I think she's very population conscious and things like this. <v Jim Martin>And as soon as she found out that Jeannie had <v Jim Martin>a visual problem, uhh she was uh very, very outspoken. <v Jim Martin>She uh uh she said, how can you even consider <v Jim Martin>you know having a fifth child? <v Jim Martin>Do you like going around populating the world with blind children and things like <v Jim Martin>this? And of course, that hurt me very much. <v Diana Martin>[Stephen cries] Where did you get hurt, huh? Are you tired? <v Narrator>In the past 3 years, [music plays] the Martins have known more emotional pain than most <v Narrator>of us experience in a lifetime, yet raising Stephen and Jeannie, they say,
<v Narrator>has taught them that blind children grow up just as sighted children <v Narrator>do, needing love and giving love in return. <v Narrator>[music plays] <v Diana Martin>What did you and Lisa do? <v Narrator>The Martins and some of the other people you've met in our brief look at the adjustments <v Narrator>to blindness, all voice one concern. <v Narrator>One of the most important aspects of accepting a different darkness is self-esteem. <v Narrator>Our society views the blind and other disabled persons with the same hopelessness and <v Narrator>despair that the disabled themselves have fought so hard to overcome. <v Narrator>And rather than stand up to this public attitude, many succumb to the stereotype, <v Narrator>one that is hopeless, helpless and worthy only of pity. <v Narrator>The disabled are, for the most part, rejected by our society, perhaps because <v Narrator>they remind us of our own vulnerability. <v Narrator>In time, we may learn to look upon them as examples of the human ability to confront
A Different Darkness
Producing Organization
KQED-TV (Television station : San Francisco, Calif.)
Contributing Organization
KQED (San Francisco, California)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
"The program explores a relatively ignored aspect of vision loss -- the psychological adjustment to blindness. [Ophthalmologists] are often asked to guide patients through the painful period of emotional adjustment to vision loss -- a responsibility they are reluctant and often unprepared to assume. "A Different Darkness reveals the psychological stages of blindness through the lives of patients: Barbara Allen: 27 year old student with diabetic retinopathy, devastated by loss of independence. Edna Hogan: 65 year old woman who has been fighting glaucoma for 42 years. The Martin family: [Leber's Amaurosis] Syndrome has blinded 2 of the Martins' 5 children."--1979 Peabody Awards entry form. The first patient is Barbara Allen, who has gone blind in one eye because of her diabetes. Other people talk about the psychological adjustment they had to make after losing their sight. Allen talks about her current state of mind and the journey she took while adjusting to her vision loss. A facility in the Bay Area helps people psychologically adjust to losing their vision, and the program interviews the doctors and counselors working at the center as well as patients receiving counseling. The next patient is Edna Hogan, who is going blind after fighting glaucoma for 42 years, and she talks about how she's adjusting to her blindness, learning braille, and her lifestyle. The Martin family has five children, two of whom are blind, and the parents talk about being the parents of blind children and the adjustments they had to make.
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Producer: Pamela Young
Producing Organization: KQED-TV (Television station : San Francisco, Calif.)
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Identifier: 485;1617 (KQED)
Format: application/mxf
Duration: 0:30:00
Identifier: cpb-aacip-55-5370sq15 (GUID)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Master
Duration: 0:30:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: 79012pst-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 0:25:25
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Chicago: “A Different Darkness,” 1979-00-00, KQED, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “A Different Darkness.” 1979-00-00. KQED, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: A Different Darkness. Boston, MA: KQED, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from