Things are NOT Always what they Seem

By Dianne Kemp BA, RN

Originally Published on May 23rd, 2018.

We have all heard the old saying “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover”.  Have you really thought about what that means?


To me it means that the cover of the book can show one thing and the contents of the book can be totally different and unexpected.  Until you look at the contents and really examine them and get to know them, you cannot compare the book and the inside.

This phrase hit home to me for the first time in 1982 when I gave birth to my third child.  He was born with multiple physical and mental disabilities. One of his most difficult “defects” for me was facial paralysis – he could move his jaw, but the rest of his face was motionless.  Think for a moment what you do when you see a baby – do you talk to him and watch and wait for him to smile? When that smile happens, you smile back and are satisfied. You got your expected outcome.  My Matthew could not give you that outcome and I cannot count the times I had to tell strangers that they would not be rewarded with a smile – and the confusion and disappointment I saw as they walked away.  And the pain I felt.

Fast forward to 2011 when I experienced a retinal detachment followed by multiple surgeries and finally legal blindness in my left eye.  This left me with no depth perception and, of course, no peripheral vision on the left. Now people could not judge me by my “cover.” The grocery store is a good example.  I often bump into people on my left. And when I reach for an item on a shelf, with no depth perception, I tend to misjudge the location of the item and have often knocked down boxes and cans.  Again, I apologize and try not to act embarrassed. Other areas of panic for me are escalators and stairs. Oh, and dim lighting – the retina is what lets light into your eye – thus dim lights are an issue.  I look like I am fine – but my vision has made feel so different and vulnerable. I have often said I wish I could wear a button that says, “I cannot see out of my left eye.”

Then, on May 8, 2018, another unexpected medical incident happened to me.  I woke up at 7AM, felt fine and decided to sleep for a bit longer. When I woke up at 9AM, I realized that my right ear felt odd – like it was plugged and I could not hear anything in that ear.  Thinking it was a wax buildup, I went to the store and bought some Debrox and used that for the rest of the day. I was uncomfortable all day – nauseous and off balance.

I woke the next day feeling worse and still without hearing in my right ear. I called my doctor and was lucky to get an appointment for that day.  I entered the office walking like I just got off a boat – weaving unsteadily. The doctor looked at my eardrum, cleaned out the tiny bit of wax that she saw and told me I needed to see an ENT. I was lucky to get an appointment the next morning.  This time I took a cane to steady myself. It felt like miles to get from my car to the office door – I was scared and vulnerable. Fast forward to today…..I have had a two-week course of steroids to try to decrease in inflammation that the doctor thinks is causing the hearing loss.  It is suspected that this was caused by a virus – maybe. I have also had an MRI and received a steroid injection into my middle ear through my ear drum (not as bad as it sounds). The doctor was honest with me and told me after all of this, he doubts if my hearing will return.

I am still unsteady on my feet, but it is not as bad.  I am legally deaf in my right ear and legally blind in my left eye.  I often do not hear people talk to me if they are on my right side. They have told me (after they get my attention) that they thought I was ignoring them.

You see, I look “normal” – but I have disabilities.  I wake up every morning and am so thankful when I open my eyes and I can see out of one, and I listen and can hear out of one ear.  I know it certainly could be worse.

I am writing this not to get sympathy or attention – I am lucky to be healthy, active, independent and alive.  I am writing to ask you to “not judge a book by it’s cover.” That person you are judging may look just fine but you cannot know if there are hidden issues – physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever.

Smile, say hello, offer assistance if it is appropriate and count your blessings.


Dianne Kemp was born in Detroit and moved to Lexington at age 9. She received her Associate Degree in Nursing Science in 1972 from SC4, and a Bachelors in Healthcare Psychology from Graceland College (Iowa) in 1996.
Dianne’s career developed from her love of babies. She was a Maternal Child nurse for 45 years – developing and teaching childbirth and parenting education classes, working as an RN in Mother Baby Care and was the first lactation consultant in the county. She is now volunteering as a chaplain at River District Hospital since losing her vision in her left eye due to a retinal detachment in 2010.
Dianne is the proud mother of three children (one who was disabled and passed away in 2007) and two grandchildren.

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  • Thanks for the great article Dianne Kemp! I often think of you, as I was one of your former students at Mother Well Fitness! I was fortunate enough to have you for my first two pregnancies and I didn’t have you for my last. It happened to be my most difficult pregnancy. LOL. I am the proud mother of three awesome boys! Thanks again for giving us inspiration just like you gave all of years ago while taking your class! Sincerely, Lauri Pringle

  • I have fond memories of you Diane.
    You were so helpful and funny with your prenatal classes, even offering to watch the babies after they were born just to give a break to the Moms! I remember I
    Made a basket of Doritos and Coke for you to have a secret stash for you!
    I used to cut Matthews hair, Sandy C.
    Would bring him in and he had his own
    Ways to make us laugh. I wish you well!

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