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What happens when a ProBlogger gets sick

I’ve had one of those 24 hours.

Last night I went to bed with sore eyes after a long week of work.

This morning I woke up unable to look at anything brighter than my clock radio without my right eye bursting into tears.

Going outside was painful – watching TV uncomfortable, looking at a computer screen almost unbearable (here I am blogging with sunglasses on! If only you could see me now.)

The doctor thinks its a virus or allergic reaction and ‘hopes it will pass’. I’m sure it will but it got me thinking…

It’s been a bit of a freaky experience – lying in my darkened room this afternoon my mind began to wander towards some ‘what if’ scenarios – ‘how would a pro-blogger survive without sight?’

It’s a bit of a fatalistic and depressing train of thought to follow but it’s worth considering I guess. We take our health for granted so much. Working for yourself means there’s no sick pay, no health cover etc – luckily we’ve been putting some money aside for such emergencies – but I’d like to see some discussion around what provisions other solo-entrepreneurs put in place to cover long term illness/injury etc.

I’m fine – don’t worry. You’ll probably not hear from me for the rest of the weekend – but I’m interested in your thoughts.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I’ve wondered that same question as a professional software developer. While blogging is my cash-hobby I pay the rent from writing code. How would I possibly be able to check my semicolons and braces if I couldn’t see?
    I think a pro-blogger might be able to make do without sight but they’d have to do a couple of things:
    1) develop a very tight computer system. Just as blind people know exactly where every piece of furniture is in their house you’d have to have a system that has hotkeys tied to bring up a new empty post for a specified blog. It would have to be a very pricise and systematic system.
    2) It would also have to be all original material. It’s a little hard to quote other sites when you can’t read them. This doesn’t mean a blogger couldn’t make a living off of purely original material – quite the opposite. Aside from the obvious choice of ‘stories of a blind blogger’ you could do personal memoirs in the form of Dooce or other anecdotal blogging.

    I suppose I should throw in a third: find somebody you trust to do your website layout ;-)

  2. Tony E says:

    ‘how would a pro-blogger survive without sight?’

    Wow, I was thinking the EXACT same thing the other day! Hope you feel better Darren, take it eeeeaaasy.

  3. Ben Helps says:

    Firefox + FoxyVoice (for M$ anyway) ;-)

    Seriously though, even for sites that are generally well designed in terms of alt tags and the like, the order of the layout would have a big impact.

    Imagine a blind person wanting to have someone’s blog read to them. What if they couldn’t jump to the first blog post and have it start reading there? They’d often be subjected to hearing all the menus, links, blogrolls, etc before they reached the article. The only way they could possibly skip that would be to have the RSS feed itself read to them.

    Actually I wonder if that would work … >>testing<< … hmm, not very well. Maybe an RSS aggregator with built-in TTS support.

  4. Sorry to hear about your woes, Darren. Funnily enough, I get exactly the same reaction when I persistently overwork. It’s a signal by your body, I’m told, to stay away from the world. It’s been diagnosed as a hypersensitive allergic response. In other words, it’s there in the background all the time at a very low level, but flares suddenly when your defences are low. It’s sometimes called “pinkeye” and it can be very painful. I do commiserate. Get well soon.

  5. I read somewhere “Eyes are Gods Gift. Take care of them and they take care of you” So true…

  6. Redkite says:

    OK, I’m not going to write this for a 3rd time, there seems to be a problem with IE and your non-spam authentication page.

    Anyway, I hope you get well soon. try some voice recognition and text-to-speech from Scansoft.

    I don’t work for ScanSoft but I know they bought Rhetorical which has excellent text-to-speech possibilities.

  7. Nicholas says:

    I guess you could say that blogging for a living is like surviving in the wild. You control whatever you do and do what you please, but when you get hurt…you’re pretty much on your own unfortunately.

  8. Cashmore says:

    Ben, FoxyVoice isn’t that great yet – we need to create voices that are less robotic. Talkr is fairly good. But isn’t the obvious option for a blind blogger simply to become a podcaster? You could put ads on your site and in the podcasts themselves.

    Anyway, hope you’re feeling better soon, Darren.

  9. Steve says:

    Well, obviously this isn’t a question that applies only to probloggers. Most people who work for themselves – plumbers, roofers, photographers, taxi drivers – would all be similarly incapable of carrying on. Blogging for a living is no different, so you have to do what all those self-employed people do – plan for the unexpected with insurance or a strict saving regimen.

  10. David says:

    You could always get into podcasting. :) Your voice is not too bad :)

  11. Jon says:

    Darren, I’d recommend going to a specialist [not an eye doctor, but a real specialist: opthamologist ]. My wife had something similar and ended up with permenant damage to her eye [extreme light sensitivity] when she was misdiagnosed by an optometrist.
    Take care of those eyes mate!

  12. Jake says:

    Thats happened to me many times, take the weekend off, it works wonders. Hope you feel better soon Darren!

  13. There are blind programmers and blind bloggers and blind people that use computers and the web everyday. I’m sure it must be tough, and probably would be even tougher for a previously sighted person to suddenly figure out how to use screenreaders and access keys and all the other work-arounds, but it’s doable. Certain things like captchas would definitely pose a problem, though (good reason to use alternative forms of spam elimination).

  14. Brandy says:

    You may also be sleeping with your eyes very slightly open. I should know, it’s what I do! It feels like a huge scratch on your eye, you can’t stand light, and your eyes water uncontrollably. It happens more frequently when I’m very tired or when the weather is dry. When it first happened, the emergency room doctor thought I was nuts, because they couldn’t see anything. I ended up in the eye hospital here (we have one!) and they used their nifty machines and figured out very quickly what happened. It actually helps a lot to wear an eye patch when you actually do it. Try stuffing a washcloth behind your glasses to mimic it. You’ll be able to do things and your eye will feel better much more quickly.

  15. chen tong says:

    Hope you get well soon.

  16. Dave Starr says:

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Darren. Your post brought up several great issues all worthy of some serious thought and discussion on their own … hmm some fodder for next week, perhaps ;-))

    First, what would a blind blogger do? As several have already noted (and a number have never thought about), computers have been very popular with the blind since the early PC/Apple/Commodore.et all days.

    Those of use visually blessed can’t begin to imagine the pre-PC world as it existed for the sightless. Nothing to read unless funding was found to convert a document to Braille. No one to talk too at a distance unless you knew them in advance and had their personal phone number (and you could work them into a mutually agreeable time zone match). The current popular standards efforts such as “Bobby” and the US Section 508 initiatives have a lot more behind them than ‘just another standard’. No matter if someone blogs just for personal expression or uses a blog as part of an ecommerce effort accommodations for the visually challenged could easily provide a good ROI.

    Second, you question on health insurance cover seemed very timely. I was just reading a thread on SitePoint yesterday, same subject, and I was really taken aback. As an older guy and someone who clung to a government job long enough to earn a retirement I have been covered by comprehensive health insurance for many years, But many (apparently) youngish web entrepreneurs who posted in the forum mazed me with their apparent ignorance of health care, health care coverage costs, etc. It’s wise to think health care through along with all the other pros and cons that have to be considered when deciding between a ‘conventional’ job and a shot at ‘probloggership’. Even those of us who have left youth far behind go through most of our days feeling ‘bulletproof’, but one instant can chafe all that … and especially if one has family responsibilities, the lure and promise of six figures coming in may go sour in a heartbeat. It’s an issue well worth consideration.

    Best regards
    Dave

  17. How do blind people manage? There are voice programs I assume. Can’t blind people use computers?

  18. ChrisH says:

    Read this article that appeared on Wired earlier this year about a blind guy who plays computer games… really, really well:

    “Blind since birth when his optic nerve didn’t connect because of Leber’s disease, Mellen honed his video-game skills over the years through patient and not-so-patient playing, memorizing key joystick operations and moves in certain games, asking lots of questions and paying particular attention to audio cues.”

    http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,68333,00.html

    It is amazing what that the human being can achieve.

  19. Mariano says:

    What if you are allergic to blogging?? NOOOO!!

    Get well soon :)

  20. Dehumanizer says:

    Since one of the biggest passions of my life is computer / video gaming, I, too, have thought several times in my life about how I would live without sight. The thought scares me… a lot.

    Anyway, hope you get better soon, Darren. And get some rest.

  21. Marcus says:

    Darren –
    we know that God works all things out for the good of those that love Him.

    ~m

  22. Marti says:

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  23. james says:

    The “what happens when” problem is common to most microbusiness owners — there’s no backup. My solution is to have a few posts ready to go in draft form. That way, I can curl up in bed and feel sorry for myself after spending a couple of minutes scheduling them for the next day or two. It won’t be the best couple of days content, and I’ll probably miss a few interesting and timely things around the ‘net, but at least I won’t lose alienate readers while I recover.

  24. Ben Helps says:

    I’m sure we’ve all let ourselves imagine what would it would be like if we went blind/deaf/lost a limb. I think I could still manage to be a programmer/sysadmin if I was blind – as Jennifer says it’d just be a matter of rigging up apps and tools to suit. As for the captchas, I’m sure there are many and varied nefarious apps out there to circumvent them, which could be put to this legit use.

    I think what I’d miss most terribly would be my motorbike ;-)

  25. pcunix says:

    My grandmother lost most of her hearing in her 80′s and said that she would have rather lost her sight – you miss much more without hearing..

    But.. now that you are thinking about people with vision difficulties, consider what your site offers to a blind person. If it’s “Lynx friendly” (it can be read and understand with a text browser), it’s blind friendly. If not.. it isn’t. Little things like titles on links and alt tags for graphics make a difference.

    And I’ll second the advice to see a specialist if you can. I have severe astigmatism and am told that I could develop serious problems because of the stress and tension from the deformities. I’m therefore very aware of my vision and don’t fool around: regular checkups from the expensive guys, I always wear sunglasses in daylight, etc. I’d survive if I wre blind, but I’d rather not have to.

  26. pcunix says:

    My grandmother lost most of her hearing in her 80′s and said that she would have rather lost her sight – you miss much more without hearing..

    But.. now that you are thinking about people with vision difficulties, consider what your site offers to a blind person. If it’s “Lynx friendly” (it can be read and understood with a text browser), it’s blind friendly. If not.. it isn’t. Little things like titles on links and alt tags for graphics make a difference.

    And I’ll second the advice to see a specialist if you can. I have severe astigmatism and am told that I could develop serious problems because of the stress and tension from the deformities. I’m therefore very aware of my vision and don’t fool around: regular checkups from the expensive guys, I always wear sunglasses in daylight, etc. I’d survive if I wre blind, but I’d rather not have to.

  27. jim says:

    Feel better man but a less fatalistic scenario is what would you do if you broke your hand? (or both hands!) A friend of mine who was studying computer science with me broke his hand and was forced to withdraw (just that semester) because he couldn’t really type code anymore. I suppose if a problogger were to break his hand, you could just struggle to continue typing.

  28. Stuart says:

    Darren,

    I think that it’s a timely warning to anyone who makes their income online – or for any small business person for that matter.

    Everyone in that situation needs to assess what their MTBU time is (maximum time to belly up) in relation to various scenarios. Once they have established that they then need to start working on some contingency plans that they can put in motion of a serious problem arises.

  29. chrispian says:

    I often wonder what I would do without either my hands or my eyes since my job pretty much requires both. I know I could probably do it without one of the two, but I don’t know how well. Scary though though.

  30. ChrisH says:

    Here’s a question…

    What about the opposite scenario? What if blogging suddenly became the only way you could make money – and you didn’t actually have a blog yet? How long before you’d starve to death?

  31. Hendry Lee says:

    Get well soon, Darren.

  32. Lei says:

    I often get eye/wrist strain from too much time on the computer so I can sympathize. Hope you feel better soon!

    As for a financial safety net, thank gooness I can rely on family.

  33. I am a composer and sound designer. My fingers are much important. If I loose these I will need to find a new job.

    Don’t worry change, can create good things. But Darren, I am sure you’ll be okay within a couple of days. Good luck!

  34. Tim says:

    I’m a friend of Darren’s and just wanted to let people know that he’s actualy quite sick. His wife took him to hospital today after he took a turn for the worse. I’ve heard he’s actually lost site in one eye, has been having blackouts and is in a bad way.

    He’s been admitted and they are doing tests. I’m sure his family would appreciate your thoughts and prayers at this time.

  35. Shawn Rymer says:

    Sorry to hear you’re sick Darren. I wrote an article at my blog that may cheer you up. I think you will like it and it may make you smile while you’re feeling under the weather. Talk soon.

    Shawn http://mpdsthoughts.blogspot.com

  36. Darren

    hope you will fell good asap

    best regards from France

    Claude

  37. Tim, that’s dreadful news. When Jeremy said two b5ers were “deathly ill” I though he was exaggerating, especially when Duncan bounced back full of form. Maybe you can keep us informed. People are often reluctant to talk about other people’s illnesses, but Darren is such a vital figurehead in the problogging movement, I’m sure we’d all like to know how he is.

  38. jayvee f. says:

    my prayers are for you darren. you get well!

  39. Yzabel says:

    It’s hard to imagine what it’d be to lose one’s sight and not be able to access websites and blogs the way we know them… actually, trying to do so gives me the creeps.

    Right now, though, I’ve just read Tim’s comment, and I seriously hope that you’ll be getting well again very soon.

  40. Working for myself, my goal is to always keep 3 months worth of maximum expenses in the bank, as well as keeping my debt as close to 0 as possible (and no credit card debt).

    So far this has held fairly close to true. In an extreme situation it wouldn’t be ideal, but if I had to change jobs or something it would provide a cushion.

    Get well Darren, we’re all pulling for you.

  41. Arieanna says:

    Our thoughts are with you Darren. We all know how hard you work, and a few days off is not such a bad thing!

    And I agree w/ Jeremy… no debt, no financing, and a dedicated bank account w/ some ‘what if’ money. For us, we use ING. Not the best investment, but higher than most in “ready cash.”

  42. Capetown says:

    Hope you feel better. This morning (SA time) your site was having problems loading. Maybe it got sick too ;-) Thanx for still keeping the fire burning…

  43. Jon says:

    Being healthy is a blessing.

  44. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    The same thing happens in the business world. If you get sick, how long with a company let you stay on the job before they find some way to get rid of you. (Even with anti-discrimination laws, they can keep a file of every mistake, late check in, etc. until they had enough to justify firing an employee).

    If there is a will to prevail, there is a way to make it happen.

    Being the owner of a blog puts you in a better position since you can always hire someone to help out. (Maybe a clerk/transcriptionist to input your ideas into the blog).

    It’s an interesting question and something to think about.

  45. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    The same thing happens in the business world. If you get sick, how long will a company let you stay on the job before they find some way to get rid of you. (Even with anti-discrimination laws, they can keep a file of every mistake, late check in, etc. until they had enough to justify firing an employee).

    If there is a will to prevail, there is a way to make it happen.

    Being the owner of a blog puts you in a better position since you can always hire someone to help out. (Maybe a clerk/transcriptionist to input your ideas into the blog).

    It’s an interesting question and something to think about.

  46. Ahmed says:

    Feel better man – I really enjoy the tips and content of your blog, keep them coming!

  47. Part of my contingency plan is to pool in with my partner John (who is not self employed like me), and through deductions from his salary we both have insurance cover against “permanent disability” – I am certain there are Insurers out there who offer the self employed (only) cover for permanent disability.

    You ease up a little bit please, your body is talking to you, and I second the view to seek a specialist opinion.

  48. James says:

    Somethings flying around Melb at the mo… I had it last week… hope ya feel better soon Darren!

  49. ChrisH says:

    Darren, praying for a rapid and full recovery. Remember too, Paul went through a bit of this on the road to Damscus and went on to become one of the most famous writers in history. All the best.

  50. Jamsi says:

    I’m a bit hesitant to believe “Tim’s” comment as we have no way of its authenticity.

    Either way, Get well soon Darren – we miss ya already !

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Anyhow, have a great weekend … get better Darren and I’ll catch you all later. [...]

  2. [...] Well, today I found my ’someone’. Darren over at ProBlogger has some visual problems at present (not meaning he ‘looks’ bad…I mean problems seeing) and while he says he can still read his alarm clock, maybe he should just listen to it read the blogs he’s watching .. erm .. not watching … erm … well, you know what I mean. [...]

  3. [...] One comment on the post, from his friend Tim reads thus : I’m a friend of Darren’s and just wanted to let people know that he’s actualy quite sick. His wife took him to hospital today after he took a turn for the worse. I’ve heard he’s actually lost sight in one eye, has been having blackouts and is in a bad way. He’s been admitted and they are doing tests. I’m sure his family would appreciate your thoughts and prayers at this time. [...]