Dr. Khorenian returned just as the nurse was completing the vampire-like act of drawing blood from my left arm. He proceeded to collect a sample of puss from my left eye, using a cotton swab and with profuse apologies. “I must refer you to an ophthalmologist at this stage, so I’m going to try to speak to the one nearby who can be reached on Sundays. I’ll be right back.”
Sometime after he left, the same, or perhaps a different nurse turned up with a little plastic cup in either hand and offered me the content of the one in her left hand. “You must swallow this,” she said.
“What is it?”
“Its a combination of Percocet and Tylenol. They’re painkillers to relieve your distress for the time being.”
“Is Percocet bitter?”
“I’m afraid my job at this stage is to see you swallow it, nothing more.”
I gathered as much saliva in my mouth as I could in my condition, reclined my head and threw the composite pills as far behind the pool of saliva as I could, so that it might go down without touching any of my alert taste buds. Then I reached for the cup of water in her right hand. She chuckled and surrendered it.
“Shall I get you more water?”
“Oh, absolutely, thanks.”
Dr. Khorenian reappeared with news, “I did reach the ophthalmologist by phone and he’s promised to have his office call you tomorrow morning for an appointment. In the meantime, I’ll give you more painkillers and dressings to keep you comfortable till he sees you.”
I heard him instruct my son on how to applying gauze soaked in warm brine on my eyes periodically, to keep them from becoming sealed again and with that, we were dispatched home with a booty of a few Percocet and Tylenol pills, some gauze dressings and a bottle of brine.
The evening and early hours of the night were mostly quiet, but not the later hours. I woke up, or in the first instance wasn’t quite sure I had, to find myself trapped in a maze. In that instance, I was surrounded by a kaleidoscope of moving shapes with different colours, which effectively obscured the door of the bedroom. Oh dear, I thought, if only I can just open my eyes. They were held shut at that time by dried tears and puss, I suppose. When I did manage to open my left eye, I was able to differentiate between parts the wall and my bed, from the moving shapes. That’s how I managed to get out of bed, though it didn’t prevent me from first walking into the wall opposite the door, as I tried to exit to the bathroom.
The next time I needed to use the bathroom, I seemed trapped in a maze of pipes; the galvanized steel type used for erecting scaffolding on construction sites. Again, I managed to escape after opening my eyes and this time, I knew not to turn right as I walked past the bed. I woke up a third time without a need to get out of bed. I appeared to be in a glass-walled room with stained glass shapes for furniture, but no doorway. I was certain I wasn’t dreaming, because I could also make out parts of the bedroom, as I struggled to open my eyes.
Oh hell, what’s hacking my brain? I blamed it on the strangely named painkiller the ER nurse had insisted I swallow. Just keep things simple; if anything changes, its the fault of the new guy who entered your gut. If that indeed is the hacker, then this breach can’t last very much longer. I’ll reload and be back to the real world soon and will definitely deport the new guy into the toilet in the morning, which is exactly what I did, after my wife confirmed that she’d read about the side effects of using Percocet and yes, it rarely, but sometimes induces hallucinations.
I called my optometrist’s office as soon as I could that morning, which was Monday, December 11th. My eyes were in no condition for taking the sort of measurements she’d need to prescribe glasses, so there’d be no point holding the slot reserved for me during the afternoon of December 12th.
“If your eyes are swollen, then its the more reason why you ought to come and see Dr. Prentice.”
“You’re sure about that? I can hardly make out the details of objects around me.”
“Absolutely. Can you come at 2:30pm today?”
When I turned up at the optometrist’s at 2:30pm that day, her assistant mysteriously couldn’t find my appointment in her digital records, which I found altogether silly, since she’d insisted that it would be in my interest to keep the appointment. I simply took a seat and asked her to search more diligently, because she had confirmed the appointment on the phone.
“Ah yes, you’re right. I was looking at the wrong records. Dr. Prentice will see you shortly.”
The Doctor took a close look at my eyes through the microscope and didn’t like what she saw. “Look, I’m going to prescribe three different eye drops for you. I want you to buy and apply them immediately. I’ll have you booked to see me again on Wednesday, December 13th. However, if you don’t get any relief from using them by tomorrow, I want you go back to the ER with the drops and let them know for how long you’ve been using them and what you’re experiencing.”
“That sounds doable to me.”
My son received a phone call from Burnaby Hospital just as we arrived at our neighbourhood pharmacy to buy the eye drops. “The ER Doctor wants me to bring you back immediately. The lab tested the sample from your eye and reported that the pathogen is a dangerous one. He says we’re to inform the receptionist that your case has to be fasttracked.”
“Well, let’s race to Burnaby Hospital, then.”
The ride to the hospital was uneventful and our entry into ER was without drama. “Oh, there you are, we’ve been expecting you,” Dr. Khorenian said, after my son introduced himself as the next of kin who had received his call a few minutes earlier. He ushered me into one of the comfortable, high back chairs in their tents and asked me, “I notice on your record that you have an allergy to penicillin. What happens when you get a shot of it, or something?”
“I collapsed the last time I encountered that wonder drug some forty-five years ago.”
“Oh OK. We got the lab results on the sample I took from your eye. It shows that the pathogen growing on your eyes need urgent attention to contain and eliminate it. Let’s see now, try to relax your neck muscles. I’m going to tilt your head back a bit, as I examine you.” He tilted my head backwards and then released it. “Thankfully, there’s no evidence this far that the infection is otherwise than topical, which is a good thing. Neisseria meningitidis can cause meningitis too, which is why we’re going to give you antibiotics intravenously for up to five consecutive days as a precaution, beginning now. That means you’ll have to keep coming back about this time for the next four days, depending on what the ophthalmologist says when you see him.”
“I haven’t heard from him all day, contrary to what you indicated yesterday, but what about the exposure of my wife and son to this pathogen?”
“You’ll be alright, if you take the precaution of washing your hands thoroughly each time you handle things you use in common,” He said to my son, who had driven me to the hospital alone.
[To be continued …]