Live The Dream – Tony Armenti

It was a Saturday and I was playing on the sand hills with my brother and the boy from next door.

We lived at the back of the railway tracks in Subiaco, a inner suburb of Perth in Western Australia.

We were using some sticks of bamboo as spears.  One was thrown at my brother and when he deflected it the stick hit my face.

The fur on the bamboo leaves cut across the pupil of my eye. I was seven years, two months and five days old.

There was concern I could lose sight in both eyes.

I lay in the Princess Margaret Hospital for children for twenty-eight days with both eyes bandaged.

I remember someone tried to teach me to read braille.

Eventually doctors removed the eye and arranged for a lady and her young daughter to come to the hospital and talk with me. The girl had lost her eye a year earlier.

I remember her telling me, “Don’t worry. It’s not so bad. You get used to it.”

Her mother was a great help to my mother at the time.

I would like to take this time to thank that girl now. Thank so very much Frances Isaia for what you did all those years ago.

My first ocularist also offered a lot of support.  He wasn’t just a gentleman – he was a lot more.  Mr Powell helped me so much.

It was when I returned to school that the hell really started. The kids called me names like Cyclops and One Eyed Monster and I remember a lot of teasing went on.

It wasn’t just the kids at school that got me down.  It was even my
own family.  They said things like, “You poor thing, you won’t be able
to do this or that.”

I believed them and I didn’t do swimming and all sorts of other school
activities. I became an outcast. I’d be left behind at school when the others went off.

In sport I’d be the last kid picked because people didn’t want me on their team.  They thought a kid with one eye wouldn’t be good at sport.

My family had to move and I had to start at a new high school with a whole new set of kids who didn’t know me.

Again all the teasing started.  One kid in particular gave me a very tough time.

Eventually I got fed up and challenged him to a fight.  He turned up at the agreed place.  I asked if he would do something before we fought.  I asked him to hold my eye.

He completely freaked out and I won the fight without having to fight at all.

Then I started to rebel.  If someone said I couldn’t do something I set about proving them wrong.

I did indoor cricket (normal and super league), soccer, baseball, softball and football and ever played golf.

I got my drivers license and then truck license.  I learnt to swim and then I learnt to dive.

I’ve done everything people told me I couldn’t.  I met a beautiful girl and got married.

I completely stopped thinking of myself as having a handicap.  I figure that I can still see and move around freely.   This is so much more than other people are able to do.

When I lost my eye there was so little understanding and information available for people who are going through such an experience.  There were also some dodgy eye makers around.

These days the artificial eyes are just so good and there is a lot more information available.

I’ve learnt that you have to have confidence in yourself. If you believe what people are saying about what you can’t do you end up being your own worst enemy.

Don’t let people put you down.  Don’t let people make you doubt yourself.

Yes it can be hard but you have to make yourself get out there and do things.  It is not a handicap unless you think it is.

My advice to parents of kids who lose an eye is treat your kids normally.  It is not the end – it is a new beginning.

You do have to learn new things.  You do have to pay more attention. You just learn to adjust.

You also get a lot of extra help from your other senses. They get even stronger and they help you out.

I think it is really valuable to talk to someone who has been through

If they tell you it will be fine you tend to believe them. They have been through it and they know what they are talking about.

What I really want to say to you is don’t just dream the dream.  Get
out there and LIVE the dream.  Having an artificial eye won’t stop you
having a great life – only you can.

(You can also read about Francis Isaia at I’ve Been Proposed To Five Times)

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