S1: Episode 28 - Ernest Ramos

Portrait of Ernest

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator: Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode 28, Ernest Ramos.

Ernest:  I’ve had two events in my life that have affected me dramatically. The first one was when I was struck by lightning. I survived. I used to go to Calavera Lake and there was a lightning storm that was coming in. All I could remember is the brightest blue light and the loudest sound, thunderest sound. And next thing I know, I was in the hospital. After that experience, I had instincts that I never felt before. Perception, awareness. I could almost sense somebody’s presence. It’s changed me in positive ways, but my mom and dad being conservative Christian people, they would tell me those were bad things that I had and said that that was a devil speaking, working its evil ways. So I’d suppress them for a long time. The second event is when I lost my sight. I had had blood pressure in my eyes, elevate to where some blood vessels burst. I had just gone through some treatment for a condition called narrow angle glaucoma. It’s a very rare condition, but it was treatable. I started going to see my retina specialist, and she goes, you have permanent damage to your, you’re gonna be going blind.

The first two weeks I cried sometimes uncontrollably, and I stayed in my room wondering what I’m gonna do, how I can live, even some bad thoughts that I had. I cried so hard that night, fell asleep. I woke up the next morning and like, if somebody snapped a finger, no more am I gonna sit here and feel sorry for myself. I’m gonna do whatever I need to do to be the person that was before. Sounds are incredible now. When I first lost my sight and I moved into my apartment for the first few weeks, I couldn’t sleep well. The reason why I could hear every little noise, the person above me in the apartment, walking, them turning on a faucet, I knew who my neighbors were just by listening to the car that they would get in. I could hear little things that gave me peace, a cricket, a bird.

I started distinguishing different people the way they walked. I can tell you, it’s coming. It’s Robert. It’s Blanca. Losing your sight it can be real scary because I was trying hard to still be visual. You feel that you’re living in darkness. As time goes it’s not a dark world being blind, but light starts to happen, and you realize that you’re living in a new world. At first, I ignored my hearing, my sense of touch. Well, when you’re blind, you depend on every sense that you have. Knowing the direction of the wind, you sense all of that.

Sound is also an image. When you hear a ball bouncing out the floor, all of a sudden there is an image of the floor. I’ll use the wind that I’m feeling on my arm. All these things start coming together, getting faster and faster to where every sense that I have starts to create an image in front of me. And as I walk, that image becomes more fluid, clearer, and easier for me to walk in a hallway down, a sidewalk. I see bright yellows, blues, greens, purples. There are absolutely gorgeous colors that I’ll never, ever remember seeing when I was sighted. When I talk to people that are curious about my blindness, and I would tell them simply every day, start with five minutes. Close your eyes. When you’re at home, I want you to relax and don’t think about anything. Just listen. A crackling of the leaves outside on a tree. Whatever sound that you hear that you’d never heard before, at that point, you’re starting to understand what I do. This is how I live every day of my life.

 [Outro Music]

 Host:  Ernest told me when I lost my sight, I ignored my other senses. I was still trying to think like a sighted person. I wasn’t paying attention to what my body or mind was telling me to listen, to feel, to smell; acceptance is important. Once I started utilizing my other senses, I realized this is easier than I thought it was going to be. Ernest fell in love with baseball when he was three years old. He continues to play even with his vision loss. National Beep Baseball. The ball has been modified to include a high pitch sound that beeps three times a second. I called Ernest a few days ago and he said, “I continue to work full-time. My family is important. I have two sons and three grandchildren. I live a strong independent life, and I don’t use my blindness as a crutch, but rather as a strength.”

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast. for portraits and transcripts. Thank you for listening.