Last year was a notable one for many reasons, but I’ll recount a series of related experiences to illustrate the theme of this blog post. The names of persons included in my narrative are fictionalized, to respect their privacy.
Pearl Harbour Type
I was woken up in the early hours of December 9th by an excruciating pain in my left eye. The pain was hard enough to deal with at that time of the night, but my thoughts were even more disorienting. I’d had surgery in that eye 12 weeks earlier, to remove excess cataract scar tissue, in a bid to help me obviate the exfoliation syndrome. The condition caused periodic blurred vision, as loose pigment tissue floated into my line of sight. I’d been experiencing associated spikes in the eye’s internal pressure too, with attendant headaches which for many years, I’d attributed to migraine, tension headaches and any other demon I could name.
The surgery on September 15th had gone well, although it took longer than expected. The lens implant in the eye did become unstable, once the offending scar tissue had been removed, but that was not unexpected. Dr. Levesque had removed the wobbly implant and stitched a new one into place, while I totally ignored them and listened to my favorite music playlist, using the ear plugs attached to my phone. He’d been sufficiently satisfied with my post-surgery recovery and in response to my question during my last visit, had confirmed that it was indeed time to see my optometrist, for a review of my needs with regard to prescription glasses.
That was only two days ago and my appointment to see the optometrist was due in three days, on December 12th. So, what on earth had suddenly gone wrong in the eye which had hitherto recovered so satisfactorily from the surgery? Could it be that some of the stitches which hold the lens implant in place had snapped for whatever reason? Why was the eye tearing so profusely, all of a sudden? I was nothing short of terrified, in my ignorance, yet somehow, I drifted back to sleep after agonizing over my condition for a bit.
When I did wake up again, it was to the urgent call for attention through pain, but of a different sort this time. I felt a burning sensation in both eyes, accompanied by a profusion of tears and an exaggerated sensitivity to the daylight seeping through the closed venetian blinds. Now the fight was on and it was a Pearl Harbour sort of engagement, not the tame Israel – Philistine type which was settled by David and Goliath, no. I could hardly make out the details of any objects I’d look at in the well lit bathroom, after struggling to open my tear sealed eyes enough to stumble there. My vision in both eyes were that blurred and my eyelids looked, well somewhat puffy. I did manage to redial Dr. Levesque’s surgery when I returned to the bedroom though, thanks to the saved history of recent calls which is standard on mobile phones. While the surgery was open that Saturday, its gatekeeper wouldn’t let me speak to the designated assistant on this occassion. The interactive voice response system of the modern office left me on hold long enough for me to drop the phone and recline again on my pillows in despair. Should I, should I, should I … I took some Tylenol pills in the hope they’d numb the pain, but by the next day, I was sufficiently distressed to ask that my son drive me to a nearby walk-in clinic for whatever assistance they could offer me and my wife was distraught enough to accompany us and make certain I didn’t miss a step in my faltering walk. I went with sunglasses to shield my now hypersensitive eyes and dragged a box of tissues along to keep the generous flow of tears from adding more drama.
The young doctor assigned to my case took a look at both eyes through a portable contraption, while I tried to give her a run on the history of my left eye. The narrative started forty years ago and ended with the third successful surgery, now thirteen weeks past. Of course, I mentioned the post surgery eye drops I was using and included some description of the beginning of my current distress.
“I’ll be right back,” she said and when she did return after a while, “I’m going to refer you to the Emergency Room of the Burnaby Hospital for immediate assistance. Just describe your current symptoms to them and they’ll know how to proceed.” Right, no stories in ER; not even the boring one about my surgeries. They’re serious out there.
The drive to Burnaby Hospital was frustrating to me, perhaps because I could only tell it involved multiple left and right turns, by the swerves of my body in the car, yet it seemed unending. When it did come to an end eventually, I shuffled into the hospital on my wife’s arm and with my son in tow. “Yes, we just received notice of your referral,” the receptionist said after I presented my Care Card; the identification which both entitles me to insured health services in the province of British Columbia and offers service providers a single gateway to my health records. “Follow the directional signs to my right and you’ll come presently to ER.”
ER was at the end of a maze; at least that’s what I thought, but the directional signs did bring us first time visitors to it and I was relieved to be deposited onto a comfortable chair with a high back rest, in the midst of curtains and a bustle of nurses, at least one doctor and a number of patients. Some of the latter didn’t sound patient at all really, so I asked my son, “You think I’m better off going back home, for all these sounds I’m hearing?” He chuckled.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Vladileu Khorenian. I’ll be attending to you today. Let’s see now,” he said to me, “What the hell happened to you? When and how did this start?”
“I woke up in the early hours of the morning yesterday with an excruciating pain in my left eye. I took two tablets of Tylenol then and later drifted back to sleep. When I woke up in the late morning though, both eyes were sealed with drying tears, I felt a burning sensation in them and noticed the puffiness you now see. In the course of the morning, I applied the Symbrinza eye drops prescribed for me after surgery on the left eye thirteen weeks ago, but my eyes hurt so much more after that that I haven’t repeated the dosage since yesterday.”
“Why did you need surgery?”
“I’d been experiencing a frequent buildup of pressure in the eye and blurred vision from time to time. The ophthalmologists thought it was caused by excess scar tissue from a cataract removal operation forty years ago. The surgeon removed the offending tissue and inserted a new lens implant, because the old one became unstable, once the scar tissue had been removed.”
“OK. Was the pain you felt on Saturday morning sharp, or dull?”
“Good grief. It was a terrible pain, for sure. Ok, let’s try this for specifics. It started as a sharp pain in my left eye, but by the time I woke up in the late morning, it had become a burning sensation in both eyes; which is how it feels like now.”
“Do you have any allergies?”
“To penicillin, yes.”
“Well, for now, I’m going to give you a pain killer and take a swab of the puss in your eye; just for the records, together with a blood sample, oK?”
“Sounds good.” While he was gone, a nurse turned up and asked to insert a thermometer in my mouth.
“Its my eyes which hurt you know, not my mouth.”
“I know, but my job right now is to insert this thermometer beneath your tongue and record your body temperature. So, I need you to stop using your tongue for the moment and just open your mouth … good, now don’t you bite on that thing.”
“Hmm, thirty-seven degrees.”
“So can I go home?”
“No, we’re just warming up here. I need to draw a sample of your blood from your forearm. Which of your arms shall I use?”
“Draw it from the left arm; that’s the less critical one.”
[To be continued …]