It’s been a long week. The Baroque Obama concert went swimmingly, even though I was looking out at the audience through those new, largish floaters in my left eye. We raised over $1400 to send to the national Obama Campaign and sang to almost 300 people.
I still haven’t figured out how to post an mp3 file, so while I have a recording (it’s 39 minutes long and includes all of the pieces, including the three that I sang on), I can only email it to folks who ask. So, ask if you want it.
( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Back to the floaters. They were bothersome, but not worrisome enough to do anything about on the weekend (or so I thought). They would come and go.
On Monday morning, I headed to yoga. At about 11:45, right before we were to head into a practice version of handstand, a LARGE black, snaky floater showed up in my left eye and a smear on the lens. I felt like I was looking through a camera lens that had vaseline smeared on it (a technique I learned while in photography in the 8th grade in the mid-seventies). I finished yoga class and headed out to the local Urgent Care, which happened to be less than a mile away. On the way there I make a quick call to Mark and Megan (Mark’s at work, and Meg’s home sick) to let them know what’s happened and that I’m going to go get it checked out.
Urgent Care seemed to panic about my eye, got me in quickly (ahead of others who were sitting there). The doc checked out my eye and said, “I need to send you up to Opthalmology so they can check your retina.” As he was rushing me out the door he said “You don’t need to worry too much about this.”
“Too much?” I laughed, nervously.
Up the stairs I go to find Opthalmology. . . I check in, the assistant at the front desk says “I’ll get you in as soon as I can, the doctor just headed in to see someone, but will see you as soon as she gets out.”
I starting to get pretty nervous now. People are sounding concerned but also confused by my symptoms.
Now I sit in the office waiting area, looking at a picture of the desert, with that lovely black snaky floater waving hypnotically back and forth, through the smeary film. It’s quiet in the waiting room, I’m getting hungry, because it’s almost 1:00 now and I ate scrambled eggs at 7:00 this morning.
The assistant at the window calls me over and tells me that I’ve got an appointment at 1:45, but not to leave because I might get called in early. Huh? I thought this was urgent, but now I have almost an hour to wait. Reading doesn’t seem like a good idea, so I stare at that picture.
I do get called in early, by a woman who doesn’t seem to understand that this isn’t just a regular, routine visit. When she tells me that they’ll need to dilate both eyes, I panic and say something like “but I live a half an hour from home and I’ll be stranded.” Which of course, makes no sense to anyone, including the woman who had been treating me like a grade schooler and now starts treating me like a young toddler. She says that they dilate people all the time and they drive right afterwards. Uh, okay. That’s not what I’ve heard from the eye doctor, but I want to find out what’s going on, so I’m certainly not going to refuse.
Another long wait as my eyes dilate, then the eye doc comes in. She’s a breath of fresh air. Confident, treating me like a reasonable adult (of course it helps that I’m now acting like a reasonable adult rather than a panicked small child).
She pokes around, looks at my eye with a very bright light and then puts numbing drops in the left eye saying, “You’ll feel some pressure now.” She doesn’t mention that she’s now got a needle in her hand and she’s approaching my eye.
She’s right. There’s pressure. There’s also beautiful fireworks. Lots of those gold dots, mixed with many other colors of dots, and pressure as she moves that implement around, looking at the back side of my eye.
“Are you a diabetic?” she asks.
She chuckles, says something about my getting suspicious and goes back to moving that implement around and inducing more fireworks in my eye. It’s trippy and beautiful at the same time. And I’ve got nothing better to do, so I enjoy the view.
“The reason that I asked about your being diabetic is because there are some blood spots. That’s what’s causing the blurry effect, and you have a horseshoe tear in your retina. I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure that you’ll need laser surgery today. I’ll have my assistant set up an appointment for you. The office is only two miles away, but you should have someone drive you.”
Okay. It’s real now. I call Mark to let him know what’s up and ask if he can pick up Kyle from school (because it’s almost 3:00 now and Kyle gets out in 50 minutes, there’s no way I can get him). And now it’s scramble time. I need to get to the office two miles away. Oh wait, that office is closed, so is their Watsonville office. The only other retinal surgery office is in Campbell.
Now I’m crying. I’m feeling helpless and stuck. Through a number of gyrations (that don’t actually take that long, but feel like forever), our buddy Matt comes to the rescue. Picks me up, gathers up the information on where we’re headed and starts driving.
I’m on the phone with Grace (my fabulous yoga instructor) who’s talking me through something called “intentional resting.” This is a godsend. It’s a way of putting your attention on what’s currently going on in your life, and consciously choosing to “intentionally rest.” So, I use that meditation practice on the ride to the retinal specialist.
Matt finds the place with no trouble, and helps me up the stairs and down the long hall. I’ve got sunglasses on because my eyes are still dilated and bright lights are painful. More boring details with filling out forms (Matt writing, me answering questions). And then more waiting. I get brought back to the exam room where they test my vision again and give me more drops to keep my eyes dilated and send me back out to the waiting room saying “We’ll try to fit you in.” It’s now close to 4:00. It becomes apparent that I’ll not be fit in, but rather added to the end of the day, which is at 5:00 (for which I’m grateful, they could have been a late working office and I could have been waiting several more hours).
5:00 I get called in by the tech again. Left in the darkened room once more, but this time rather quickly a doc comes in. Asks me a few questions:
“What do you do? ”
“I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
“A hockey mom?”
“God, no. But I am from Alaska.”
“Can you dress a moose?”
“Can you undress a moose? Why would people want to dress a moose in the first place?”
By now I’m belly laughing. It’s a good release for all the tension I’m carrying in my body at this point.
He leans the chair back and says: “Let’s let this settle down, I’ll be back in a bit.”
Settle down? There are no new drops. Not sure what he expects to settle down. Me? Maybe.
He heads out, I can hear him consult about some other situation for a bit and then comes back in.
He brings out the same small bright light/magnifying glass sort of thing and starts to look around at my eye. No needle this time.
“Well, Dr. Nguyen made a good call. You do need surgery and now. There aren’t many nerves back there, so we don’t need to give you an injection, you’re lucky about that.”
We head to the room with the proper equipment (after a quick potty break before which Dr. Ward says “make sure you don’t tear that retina all the way off going to the bathroom.”
He’s not really joking. . .
Now he’s got on this bizarre headgear with goggly eyes and he turns off the lights.
“This is green laser. It’s the most gentle form of eye surgery there is. I’ll give you a few test flashes so you can get used to it. As we work around the eye, repairing the tear, the intensity of the laser will increase.”
He’s not kidding. Yeah, there aren’t very many nerves back there, but there are some. This is one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve given birth to two children. At one point, near the end, I felt like I would have passed out if I had been able to close my eye. It was a funny thought, because of course passing out doesn’t require closing one’s eyelid, but I definitely felt like I didn’t want to be in my body any more.
About three quarters of the way through the “welding” he said “I don’t know how you sing [I’d told him about teaching the singing workshops], but you’re an excellent laser surgery patient. You’re the best!” And then he kept going with those bright flashes. They started out green, but quickly moved to white. I think the actual laser flash was probably still green, but my brain had turned it to white. I got to see the “relief” view of the veins in my eye in many different colors. It was quite beautiful, when I could get beyond the intensity of the experience.
Two-hundred and sixty-three laser “welds” later, he put a patch over my eye, told me to stay flat on my back for the next three days and to see his colleague on Friday.
More tomorrow. My eye is starting to ache and I really don’t want to do damage to the repairs. He did say that it should take about 6 weeks for the “welds” to be completely healed and that in the meantime, while my eyes are getting progressively better, they’re not healed. Also, I get to keep the blur and the floaters. The surgery can’t fix that, but it does keep me from losing the sight in that eye. Seems like a fair trade to me. . .