Mum and Dad always encouraged a lot of drawing – there was always lots of pens and ink around.
IN THIS EXTRACT FROM VANESSA POTTER’S BOOK, SHE RECALLS THE TRIUMPHANT DAY SOME OF HER EYESIGHT RETURNED, IMBUING HER WITH A STEELY DETERMINATION.
makes an entrepreneur tick. I suppose in some ways it’s made us closer but it also means we have our times where we disagree.
“We’re both interested in food and wine – we both love eating out. We also both really believe in having a strong family culture at work. My father’s always had a knack for identifying good talent and developing it. I totally believe in and support that as well. He’s got a passion for quality I really admire. That’s a company value we both share.
“We both have a passion for learning. My dad’s an avid reader, especially of business development books. I like to go and hear people speak, but it’s the same continual search for new ideas or something that can contribute to doing things better.”
Attention to detail, Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I am being quietly observed when, leaning on my stick, I hobble unaided to the bathroom at 4am. Marissa, huddled sleepily in the marshmallow chair, eyes every tentative step I take. It’s a small triumph, but my life is made up of tiny triumphs these days.
After breakfast I am quietly scanning my bed to see what new things have appeared overnight. The room is being put together like a jigsaw puzzle – new shapes emerge out of the shadows, enticing me to guess their names. My sight is returning page by page, each one a filmy sheet of acetate with tiny scratches and marks on it. This morning three black smudges on the far wall beckon me over, demanding my attention.
Closer to hand, a Nivea bottle provides a more instant reward. Something so familiar to my morning routine has taken on supernatural qualities. In previous days this dark, heavy shape would have been handed to me, and my fingers guided to the lid. But, this morning I know instantly what it is, and what’s more I know there is something else there. It’s so faint that I have to hold my breath to register it, but a pale circle rises through the mist. As I hold the bottle two inches from my nose, indistinct outlines start to dance.
This is packaging; this is my job. Examining the fine print on the product shot of a television commercial is part of what I do. Carefully checking we have the right brand, seeking out unwanted highlights and reading every single line of copy is natural to me. I have knelt in front of many post-production monitors to check these small details; but I never thought that I would find myself lying in a hospital bed doing the same thing. A smile twitches at the side of my mouth as I recall the characteristic phrase “attention to detail” that you’ll find on many producers’ CVS. Today it has a bitter irony.
It’s the last plasma exchange today, the last time I will experience the acerbic commentary of my sharp-tongued technician. I want this magical treatment to go on longer. I want to know if the coiled up animal that lies sleeping on the white T-shirt the technician always wears, will today wake up and show me its form.
I have another appointment in Neurophysiology later, and I dread a repeat of the awkward silences of a week ago. Today, I am determined to pass this damn test. As I am again wheeled into the stuffy room, a taut, brisk woman takes the place of my softly spoken friend. The hushed pleasantries I am getting so used to gently buzz around my head, but invisible fingers point silently at me. A bouncy young doctor is overseeing this process today, her bubbling enthusiasm slightly nauseating. I feel like her experiment.
The brisk woman fusses that I should not be allowed to stay in the wheelchair, but is overruled. I can feel her bristling behind me as she glues the sticky electrodes to my head, and am conscious of my unkempt hair becoming even more banshee-like.
Brisk Woman asks me to look at a small spot on a TV screen in front of me, and my heart sinks. “What TV?” I ask, aware that this is going the same way as last time. The room falls silent again, and a collective yet soundless sigh of dismay breathes in and out. I sense Brisk Woman’s body jerk to my right, and I guess she is pointing at the screen. I lean forwards to touch a cold metal square and can only guess this is what she means. The enthusiastic doctor fusses around me, guiding my hand to the small dot. I can feel the technician’s disapproval, and her impatience is like a wall of heat behind me.
The other people in the room lower their voices, perhaps thinking that I won’t be able to hear them, given that I can’t see them. In fact, my hearing is like a fox’s at the moment, alert and tuned into any
sound, in particular the whispers of clinicians trying to avoid me hearing them. My ears twitch at the words “waste of time” and Brisk Woman finally bursts out. “She can’t see anything!” That’s it. “No!” I growl from the depths of my wheelchair, turning in her direction. “I can see something.” I start pointing around the room. “There is a chair over there by the door, and there is a dark shape there on the wall that I think is a coat hook; and you are wearing a skirt.” I breathe furiously as the silence reverberates around me, but I haven’t finished yet. The fight in me is rearing up. “Five days ago I couldn’t see anything; but today I can see something. OK, maybe not much, but there is something there. So don’t tell me I can’t see anything, OK?”
My tirade diffuses the atmosphere in the room, and I can feel Mum invisibly punch the air from her dark corner, and I taste her delight. Apologies fill the room, contrite and shamed. They forgot I was a person, and now they are sorry. I insist they go ahead anyway, and I pass their infernal test.
“Abnormal readings” is the result, but nonetheless there is some evidence of electrical messages trying vainly to get through. If they’d only asked me, I could have told them that. I am not off the hook yet and my punishment for being mouthy is to be wheeled off for yet another bag of intravenous steroids and vitamins.
This is to be swiftly followed by another FMRI, this time with a glow in the dark dye. Maybe when they have lit up my insides like a nuclear Christmas tree they will cross more nasties off the list.
The Protégé arrives later to give us an update. My little gang has a wager running that he is the star pupil here. I can tell from his boyish confidence and smiley voice that he is young and good looking; but he also seems kind, if sometimes impatient. I have forgiven him for his lack of tact about my nail polish, and we have settled into a jovial banter when he now waltzes into my room. He announces that once the FMRI results are in they hope to work out what has happened to me. I have a mini leap of excitement at this brave statement. They might be able to pin a label on me after all, although to date nobody has been any the wiser.
Once The Protégé has left, Jackie asks how I know that he’s attractive (after agreeing with me that he is). She’s curious as to why I could say this so confidently, when obviously I couldn’t see his face. My answer is simple: “Because nature would never have made him ugly.”
As I hear my own answer I realise this reflects how we assess those around us in life. High achievers transmit their success through their behaviour. I had calculated from his stride that he was tall, and also noted the reactions of the women in the room when
he arrived. It was a combination of these factors, along with more subtle primal cues I couldn’t explain, which helped me draw this conclusion. In essence, I didn’t need to see him to know he was attractive. Jackie’s question left me musing over the complex (and often unthinking) ways in which we humans communicate with each other.
A friend visits me later on, and I smile as I recognise her familiar voice when she kisses my cheek. She is wearing a polka-dot scarf, and I can make out vague stripes on her top. I wonder if Team Family briefed her to wear bold patterns before she visited. She narrates the story of her mother’s recent cancer diagnosis, which prompts a thumping to start deep inside my chest. The doctors have eliminated cancerous tumours from my diagnostic list, but bad thoughts drip down inside my mind anyway. We try to cheer each other up when really we’re both miserable. Health is such a delicate business.