People often watch a visually impaired Orsmin Edwards catching the bus on her own, going about her business, and wonder how she does it. Then there are those who marvel at how she moves her hands about the body, as she gives a client a massage.
“Blindness does not mean that life ends. Because you cannot see does not mean you cannot go anywhere,” is usually her response to those interested observers.
Edwards, a qualified massage therapist, who shared her interesting story with Barbados TODAY, said that despite her condition, she had arrived at a contented place in her life.
In the 1990s, Edwards, an avid reader, decided to go and have her eyes checked after identifying words had become a problem for her.
She cannot remember the exact date, but around that same time, Edwards was diagnosed with glaucoma.
“From then my vision started deteriorating,” Edwards recalled.
The therapist said that as she faced the reality her eyesight was becoming worse in 2008, the management of the hotel where she had been employed for 16 years told her the signs she was having problems seeing were clear, and eventually handed her her papers to go home.
Her four children were all in school at that time. She was the one they depended on to provide their food and shelter.
“How am I going to look after my children now? Where am I going to get money from now?”
For many days and nights, tears streamed down Edwards’ face as she asked herself these pertinent questions at the time.
“Their father was still giving me money to help; but I was really the breadwinner. He was working with cane; so I was really the one making the money every month. It was hard. It was very hard. That was a very hard time in my life,” Edwards recalled last Friday, sitting in Heroes Square where she presented her skills at a trade show organized by the social work students of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, to give the disabled the opportunity of showcasing their talents and services.
“I used to cry a lot when my children had gone to school and I was alone in the house and it was quiet. I used to cry so much and so hard, that one day the neighbour came running over because he thought something was wrong or somebody had come in to attack me,” she explained.
But amidst those painful cries, the frustration that gave her a constant headache, and her pressing the back against the walls in her house for support, Edwards said she saw hope. “I didn’t want to be like this because I was accustomed to working.
I and also qualified to teach aerobics.”
She decided to stop feeling sorry for herself and start living again; and thus took the advice of a friend to turn to the Blind And Deaf Association for support instead.
At the association’s Beckles Road, St Michael headquarters, Edwards met not only several other visually impaired people who understood what she was going through, but also new friends who would lead her down the road to becoming accustomed to her condition, as they had already done.
“They were going through the same thing; but they looked joyful and peaceful. They were friends, and everybody lived well.”
Edwards said it was also at the centre where she learnt new skills that would enable her to function with her disability. She found the urge to get back into the massage business. Clients come to her through word of mouth –– on hearing about her commitment and good massaging technique. Edwards is capable of doing almost any type of body massage, facials and scrubs.
There are not very many clients because, according to the therapist, some people question her effectiveness, given her condition.
“You would tell me that your face hurting, or your back, and I know what to do.
I wouldn’t poke out your eye because I am visually impaired. I know the texture of the face and the body.
“But sometimes I think people are afraid that you are blind and can’t do anything any more. But to me, you become more accurate. I think I do it better,” declared the therapist who also does home visits.
“I massaged an old woman, and she said I knew just how much pressure to apply. When I touch somebody, I would know what pressure to use, whether hard or soft. I don’t have to be able to see to know what massage should ease the pain. Sometimes when I am finished, people say, ‘I feel better’,” she added.
Edwards believes that when life throws its challenges, at times it is okay to cry and sit quietly in a corner reflecting on the past, and contemplating the next move.
“But don’t stay there too long; move on,” she advised.
“I remember my neighbour’s eyes were getting down, and she said to me, ‘Orsmin,
I don’t know how you do it’. She told me if she was like me she would stay home and don’t go anywhere.
“But I told her, ‘Oh, no! You have to go on and live your life, because life goes on’,” said Edwards, who does her own housework, including cooking.
“I find that in Barbados people think blindness is contagious, and if they associate with you too long, they would get it too.
“They don’t realize that it could be in your generation. My father had glaucoma, and I got it. But I did not let that stop my life,” the therapist declared.