Thank YOU Dr Stinkelwurzer!

I was over at my mum’s the other day, and she’s going through her old papers and so on, and she digs out a couple of letter from Dr Heinz Stinkelwurter, my old opthalmologist  (eye doctor) when I was a kid.

For the record I never HAD pink eyes OR glasses. CUTE!








One is to my parents when I was about 4, saying that the cataracts I was born with are nothing to do with any inherited defects, so they really needn’t feel guilty. (There goes the extra dollop in the will.)

The other is to the Department of Education, about 5 years later, saying that he’s been told that I’ve been sent to a special school for visually impaired kids and is absolutely horrified. He has, he says, had occasion before to ‘rescue’ children from the special education system, and he urges that I should be returned to mainstream education as soon as possible, since I can see well enough to be able to cope, and it’ll be much better for my social and educational development in the long run.

Anyway I read this with a mounting sense of rage and a desire to march round to Dr Stinklewurzer’s house (being long dead, he’s safe) and punch him. Nobody ever asked ME what I wanted and what I could cope with – not then, not ever.  The good doctor’s ‘rescue’ meant that I was moved suddenly from a school where I was popular and happy among all the other half-blind kids with pink eyes and goggles, to a school where I was instantly labelled a weirdo and cast out more thoroughly than the woman with the scarlet letter.

I was given no extra help by hard-pressed public school teachers.  I failed Chemistry (couldn’t read the board), Maths (couldn’t read the board), Physics (couldn’t see well enough to manage the various experiments), Woodwork and Sewing (quel disaster!) and only did well in history and English because all you had to do was read books (which I could do, and did).

Things are different now. Kids with disabilities are given special helpers and assistive technology. Parents sometimes ask, and listen. Ms M goes out of her way to be kind to other kids who seem to be having a hard time, and I go out of my way to listen to what she needs to tell me – and those things, too, Dr Stinkelwurzer, are down to you.

So thank you Dr Stinkelwurzer for ‘rescuing’ me.  And now that I’ve got THAT off my chest! I’ll go have a nice cup of tea!




  1. Until… I think it was third (?) grade, I had very bad near-sightedness that had gone undiagnosed because vision testing at the public schools I went to in the States wasn’t exactly rigorous. Anyway, my third grade teacher was convinced that I had either some massive learning disability, or was just the most obnoxious little kid on Earth. I never did any work, refused to do anything in class, all this kind of thing.

    Can you guess why?

    DING DING ! Couldn’t see the damn board.

    Cut to three days later when I got my first set of glasses, and I remember walking out of the opthamologist’s office and seeing – get this – leaves on trees, from a distance, for the first time. Also, I got a comically bad case of motion sickness for a couple of days until my vision adjusted. The funny thing is that in the many years since that happened, my vision has not degraded at all. It was already bad enough!

    1. Wow! Yeah I think I know what you mean, people used to think I was stupid all the way through school because of my way of moving or not moving my face, which was vision-related (I think they still do, sometimes). When I got ‘bionic lenses’ I couldn’t BELIEVE the colour things were – the cataracts had been blocking out the light for ages and suddenly everything was in technicolour. I remember saying to my family, ‘you mean those plates are really THAT colour?’.

  2. How are your eyes now, love? I’m truly sorry you had to suffer through that trauma as a kid. That’s really despicable. I know it’s hard to be a parent, but sometimes i wonder why they won’t listen to their own child over some sort of expert or another. Expert, ahem. Awww, my sweetie. You are so smart and clever and wonderful, i’m glad you made it through the muck and are writing and living and being a good mum. Hope you enjoyed the tea … and more tea. xox m

    1. Now I’ve got bionic lenses so my vision’s ok (not great, but fine for most things). Thanks Melissa, you’re so sweet and kind! i guess I was having an attack of bitterness – comes over one sometimes! I guess if I hadn’t had it hard then, I wouldn’t be the person I am now (grumpy and arrogant..nah, not really). Actually other people have had much more rotten times than I ever had – you for instance, I think! My parents were loving if not listening, and that’s something important.

  3. As my vision continues to deteriorate, I marvel at my middle-aged husband’s perfect eyesight. I hope he realizes how lucky he is. What a thing for you to have experienced as a child. But I suspect it made you stronger. 🙂

    1. Yeah, it is amazing what other people can see. But I guess to an eagle we’re pretty bat-like, in vision terms. We can only see what we can see, it’s only in comparison that we suffer. Thanks for commenting, anyway – and they’re always inventing cures for deteriorating vision, so I hope one of them works for you! (I personally like it when my romantic interests can’t see very well, though).

  4. Oh the harm caused by a blithering doctor. it’s just terrible.

    Yay for assistive technology though (that’s what I do in fact). It definitely helps reduce some elements of the “short bus” phenomenon. Especially now that so many people have so much personal tech they carry around with them. Now if I can just get our library to get rid of the oversized “cans” they call headphones on the computer running JAWS and Kurzweil…the kids hate them, they recall days in the back of the classroom at the crappy old public school computer (I think you’re writing in British English, yes? So I should maybe clarify “public school” here means government funded, or rather, government underfunded).

    Thank you for stopping by my blog!

    1. And thank you likewise. Public school means govt funded to me too, I should have clarified – I’m an Aussie. Yeah, totes – hurrah for assistive technology! It just gets better and better, though of course the best would be not to need it.

  5. This is really interesting, raises the issue of whether rescue is always actually rescue, and that meaning well can cause more harm.

    I couldn’t help laughing at ‘There goes the extra dollop in the will’ and wanting to punch your ophthalmologist, but I certainly feel bad that you had to go through unnecessary ridicule. I was temporarily quite deaf in primary school, and was always getting told off for not listening, but then when everyone left class and I still remained reading a book oblivious because I hadn’t heard it was the end of school, the teacher’s knew something must be amiss. Now I hear perfectly so I can just look back on that and laugh.

    1. thanks Ruthbug! I’ve heard lots of stories like that – it’s lucky your deafness got picked up. I’ve got a theory about annoying things that happened long ago, and why they sometimes come up to bite you when you’ve mostly forgotten all about them..but that’s another post!

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