The Bee Hive
We have barely finished telling the front desk who we are, when we are ushered into an inner area. And we had barely sat down there, and we were led to an internal area. Michael tells me there were people out in the reception, quietly waiting their turn, but we had jumped the cue in a massive way. I had no idea. Obviously Alex had stuck to his word, as a staff member explained to a nurse behind a curtain that I had arrived.
I am just settling into listening to the happenings within the clinic and thinking how dark it is, and wondering how people actually work in such dim lighting, when we are approached by a young well-spoken female doctor who announces that Alex has sent her to take care of me until he can leave theatre.
With the upmost efficiency, she whisks me away to the eye-scanning machine.
Michael asks if I want him to come, but I cannot possibly wait. And I don’t want to keep the doctor waiting. And I cannot wait. As in really. I need to know now. The thirty seconds it will take for him to gather up our busy toddler are thirty seconds I don’t have. Or maybe I do, but it doesn’t feel like it. I have to go, because my life depends on it, I am thinking, as my feet are moving away from him of their own accord. I am in fight or flight mode, and I have chosen to fly.
Oh yes, I am out of my mind with fear.
I am so afraid by this point, that I can barely comprehend what is happening.
But what sticks with me was how the doctor speaks to me. It is so normal. She clearly knows I am distressed, and simply keeps communicating. She explains everything. From switching arms with me to swiping her card so, we can go through the skinny red door, to the trolley in the hallway, to the obligatory black chair in the corner.
There isn’t room for me to take her elbow, and even if there had been, I probably wouldn’t have anyway. She simply positioned me with such seamlessness, that there was no need to instruct or explain. She had this. Which was just as well, because I sure as hell didn’t. Her touch was comforting. And the more she did so, the more it helped. So screw the textbooks, because they don’t account for real life. And this was way too real.
Stand here for just a sec, I have to set the machine, she says once we reach an alcove.
I need that, she tells the people who are occupying our intended spot.
It was all I can do not to laugh. Because yes, yes we did need that. But wasn’t it someone else’s turn?
Apparently, not, as is evident when the two people before me stand up without protest and scuffle away.
Nicely done girl, I say as she manoeuvres me in the black chair.
Click clickity click click clock snap snap goes the scanny ultrasound thing.
Well I don’t think it is detached, she says as she peers intensely at the screen. But I’ll get these to Alex, and see what he says.
Umm, nope, no, I think it is fine. Just checking…
A few more photos, she continues, just to be sure. But this sends me into a tailspin. Why would she need to take more photos if everything was fine, I wonder as I sit listening to the computer whirr into action.
But she seems confident, which makes me feel a little better. As that had been my concern.
That was only one of a myriad of things, which could have gone wrong, but at least we could maybe rule it out. Couldn’t we?
One second I think yes, the next I think no. The next I think yes, the next I think no. And on it goes.
She keeps her hands on my shoulders as she guides me back through the rabbit warren, back to my husband and beautiful baby. Again, it may not be considered good practice, but the gesture is perfect given the situation.
It gets me thinking about what is good guiding. And sure, technique matters, but it is so much more than that. It is the quality of touch, it is the commentary, and tone, approach, and attitude.
Again I am sitting listening to the other patients read letters on an eye chart, and the nursing staff ask the same questions over and over again, when Alex appears from nowhere.
Hi Megan, he says as he sits down beside me, and takes my hand.
Well, it doesn’t look detached, but come on in and we’ll have a closer look.
I am so relieved to see him, and his words are exactly the words I need to hear.
Michael and Emily are looking at a picture of the harbour bridge on the wall, and baby girl is telling daddy about his boat floating in the water
Maybe she knows something we don’t, I say to him jokingly. Hoping one day, it will be true.
Do you want me to come, he asks once again.
Nope, it is fine, I reply. The place is just so crowded and skinny, and I am not sure where they will fit.
Little is being a champion, but I just want to get this sorted out. Who knows what will happen next, and it is easier to concentrate without her, and I need to concentrate.
I am still so scared. Just so scared.
The room is deliciously dark.
That light isn’t as bright as it was on Tuesday, I say to Alex, as I rest my chin on the platform with the papers, and lean my forehead against the bar.
Which as usual, takes me right back to my earliest memories of this very act. It is almost like an echo, the way it reverberates through my life.
Doctor Alex is one of the gentlest souls I have ever met. Therefore, his presence is a nice counter balance to my frantic frame of mind.
Oh, that’s cloudy, he says.
Cloudy? Cloudy? I think with increasing panic. What does that mean?
I can’t see much… That certainly is bleeding, but it doesn’t seem to be detached, he continues, before handing me over to the trainee ophthalmologist so she can have a squiz.
Look, I think you’re fine, he says. But you’ll need to get some rest.
Yes, I answer almost in a whisper. If Alex is telling me it is ok, it must be ok, I think to myself. After all, he knows my eyes inside out.
We’re not sure where the bleeding is coming from, but I think it is just a post-surgical issue, and not a retinal detachment issue he goes on to say.
It is strange to hear him refer to me as an advanced case, a high-risk case, and a complicated cataract… He is using some big medical words, which sound scary.
For example, there is the Development of glaucoma, and other such frightening phrases. Some of which I haven’t heard before in the context of me.
As I sit quietly listening to him discussing the particulars of my case with other medical staff that were popping in and out of the room, a mighty big F bomb almost escapes my lips, but I catch it just in time.
Holy shit, I think, maybe this is more serious than I understand. Should I be scared? There seems to be so much that can still go wrong. Everything is so fragile, and I am only being spooned information on a need to know basis.
I am worried.
Alex puts me at ease before leaving the room and graciously makes a b-line for my husband while I gather myself.
Understandably, I am shaken, but everything appears to be under control. There is no need for emergency surgery, or to keep me in for observation. Heck, there isn’t even any need to complete the hospital admission paper work. Which is just as well, as Michael still hasn’t finished filling it out on my behalf.
The walk back to the station is just as strange and bazaar as the walk to the hospital had been. Still I am mesmerised by the wind, and what I cannot see.
The twenty-four hours earlier seem centuries from where we are now. Why cannot I see anything?
Round and round and round my thoughts thimble in the same circular motion.
Our train trip home is certainly lighter and less intense than our trip in had been, but still I worry.
The inter-ocular pressure in my eyes has dropped, but we don’t want it to drop too much further.
There is just so much to think about.
Literally, we arrive home, and I crawl into bed, and practically don’t move from the safety and relative comfort of my darkened room for the next 90 hours.
I sleep, I listen to books, I worry, I fret, and I monitor the changes in my pain levels very very closely. Which then cause me to worry even more.
Should I call Doctor John, or doctor Alex?
Should we check my vision again?
What is a change in pain supposed to feel like?
It is three in the morning, what will we do with the baby?
Is it getting worse?
Is it normal?
My life feels as though it is balancing precariously on a knife’s edge, and it could topple over into darkness in any given second, and there will be anything I can do about it. Because once it begins to unravel, there would be no bringing it back.
Catastrophe after catastrophe runs through my head as I try to strategize about how to minimise the pending doom that is most surely around the corner. What will we do, where will we go, and how will we stop it?
The pain builds then subsides, then builds again.
I think it is manageable, and maybe in my imagination, but then it pushes against the back of my eye to the point of unbearable, before it recedes back into the background again, leaving me exhausted, relieved, and wondering once again what I should do.
Time warps in and out like an accordion’s French folk song. Seconds feel like hours, hours like minutes, and minutes like eons…
Sleep is manageable, until it is not. The dreams become too much and I need the relative stillness of my waking life to rest. But then the effort of being awake becomes too much, so I fall asleep.
The sun rises and sets and rises again, but I don’t see them.
Every time Michael enters the room, I curiously peer through the haze to see if something has changed. I wave my hand in front of my face, watching the light shift, but making nothing out.
At least I had the light now, I think. Because before the operation, there had been nothing. I could wave my hand all day, and see nothing. However I hadn’t connected the dots. Because in my mind of course I could see. I just couldn’t see that. Then of course I would end up horribly confused, because how was it I couldn’t see my own hand, but I could see other things, but I couldn’t see other things… And on and on and on it went.
But how foreign that felt even now. It had only been five days since the surgery, but it could have been five hundred years. Who am I? Where am I? And what will happen next?
Every time he turns the light on or pulls up the blind to administer my drops, I look at the light source, hoping it will miraculously come into focus, but to no avail.
Just give it time my amazing husband gently says, kissing me on the forehead.
I know he is right of course. But oh God!
What if it all goes wrong?
So much could still go wrong…