Knud Romer is almost blind: I go to the emergency room constantly

The shock shook his entire foundation, and the reaction came immediately: ‘Fuck Knud, you’re going blind’. But today he can also laugh about it.

“Everything turns into surprises. It’s going to be exciting, it’s an adventure. I’m constantly tripping, I’m constantly hitting myself. I’m like an elephant in a china shop, and you know what that is? It’s laughable,’ says Knud Romer.

With a satisfied smile on his face.

It has been four and a half years since the popular award-winning author’s life was diagnosed with glaucoma. Advanced.

He was already blind in one eye and only had ten percent of his vision left in the left.

A verdict that has been hard to swallow.

“In reality, I only have optic nerves out here, a very tiny bit, ten percent, on the far left,” he says, pointing to his left eye.

For decades, Knud Romer has lived in the mansion in inner Copenhagen, so he knows every centimeter of it.
Photo: Bax Lindhardt

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When you enter the mansion in inner Copenhagen filled with furniture, trinkets and books, the image of an elephant in a porcelain shop makes sense. But he effortlessly maneuvers around, knows every centimeter of what has been his home for decades.

If he has to describe what it is like to see the world through his eyes, he compares it to crying or having wet eyes. A membrane that prevents one from seeing clearly.

“The remaining optic nerves still make a whole picture in my brain. So I can still see the whole room,’ he explains and continues:

“But the picture is very hazy around the edges, and there’s a hell of a lot missing in it. That’s why I’m constantly getting into things.’

The eye disease is defined by a gradual loss of the retina’s innermost nerve cells

The optic nerve consists of about a million nerve fibers which transport the visual impression from the retina to the brain

The loss of nerve cells means that parts of the visual impression do not reach the brain and will therefore appear as blind spots in the visual field

Glaucoma often affects both eyes, but can develop at different rates in the two eyes

The disease is usually age related, but can also be congenital

In Denmark, over 100,000 people are being treated for glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the most frequently occurring sight-threatening diseases

In addition to eye pressure, high age, cases of glaucoma in the family, thin corneas and myopia are examples of risk factors that can influence the development of the disease

Source: Eye Association

Knud Romer has just brewed coffee in the large dining kitchen. Counted to three while pouring milk.

“Yesterday I tried to make waffles. But got to pour the whipping cream into the egg whites,’ he says and shakes his head at himself.

“I don’t hit things, I can’t find things. If I drop something on the floor, I’ll never find it again. I also find it difficult to cook because I can’t tell when it’s cooked.’

Then he laughs.

“I try to look reasonably well-groomed, but it’s very difficult when you can’t see. So I walk around all the time feeling like a disgusting old man. Because I have no idea what the hell I look like.’

But one thing has saved him. Namely, being ‘extremely reactionary’.

“I get furious when something changes. It means that I have always done the same thing. And it is a great advantage that I have lived here in the neighborhood for most of my life, since I moved from Falster.’

“When I walk out the door, I know everything. If I go to the left, there is Told & Snaps, where I eat my chicken salad.’

“On the corner is The Old Merchant. There I buy my coke, my chocolate, milk and small things, although it is a bit expensive. But I can’t find my way around a supermarket,’ says Knud Romer and describes the other small crafty places that he can move to and from fairly safely.

“I can walk here by myself when it’s dark. Then I go in my own memory.’

“I know people here and they know me. And that makes them look after me.’

This illustration from the Eye Association shows how vision gradually deteriorates with glaucoma.  Knud Romer's view is currently between the last and penultimate points.

This illustration from the Eye Association shows how vision gradually deteriorates with glaucoma. Knud Romer’s view is currently between the last and penultimate points.
Photo: Illustration from the Eye Association: Top line: Mediafarm; middle and bottom line: EyeTRU

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He has had many tangible proofs of how well they look after him.

In particular, he remembers how last year – when he had not yet gotten used to walking slowly – he rushed to the grocery store to buy a Coke just before closing time.

And crashed straight into the mast at a traffic light.

“Boing, said it! I beat the hell out of myself,’ he recounts with his eyes upturned.

‘Oh hell,’ he just said, and stormed on until one of the neighborhood ladies grabbed him, dragged him onto a chair and called the ambulance.

The blood gushed out. His forehead was wide open.

“But the crazy thing is that when I got home after being stitched up, Sune called from my publisher and wanted to know if I was feeling better. ‘Why are you calling me now?’ I asked.”

“Then it turned out that the lady who picked me up on the street is married to the hairdresser who shaves my publisher once a year.”

“She had told her husband that I had been injured, so he had called Sune, who called me. Isn’t it beautiful?” he says about experiencing that kind of security in everyday life.

“Because if you are alone on the master’s field, you are finished. I feel like it’s a village where I’m surrounded by people who take care of one.’

But he also meets helping hands outside the ‘village’. Old ladies, young guys helping him across the road, picking him up when he falls. Because he often does.

“My children think I hate dogs because I keep tripping over them and keep walking into lampposts and end up in the emergency room in cash.”

Even though Knud Romer is close to losing his sight, he refuses to use a blind stick. “I don’t want to go around looking creepy,” he says.
Photo: Bax Lindhardt

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“Now I’m starting to walk carefully, but shut up,” he laughs at her from the sofa, knowing full well that it would help in some ways if he walked with a cane.

“But people behave differently towards blind people and I don’t mind being treated differently and walking around looking creepy. I just want to be allowed to be myself as much as possible.’

Of course there are things Knud Romer can no longer do. As he laments. Like driving a car now. To read books. But he can still write. Despite his hazy field of vision.

“Whether it will be death to become blind? Nah. When you lose everything and go fucking blind, you’re bombed back to zero. This means that life is full of surprises again.’

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