A Brain Fart
Eight days after surgery, when Michael has taken Little to playgroup at my request, so she could get out of the house and play with some friends, I find myself stunned into action once again. I begin to experience flashes like a camera going off in my eyes. Which is surely never Never a good sign.
If you experience flashes, call us straight away the doctor had said. Well these were flashes. These were definitely brain jolting hurting hurting flashes.
When I ring the surgery, the receptionist has to get back to me, which doesn’t fill me with confidence. What part of I’ve just had complicated cateract surgery with doctor John, and now I am having camera flashes in my head, doesn’t she understand? How could talking to the practice manager help with that? For God’s sake, just get me an appointment straight away, and I will walk up, is what I am thinking. I wanted to scream. This was important. How did she not understand this was important, and no I couldn’t wait. I needed an answer right then. I needed her to say, just as doctor Alex’s surgery would have, that I should make my way in no question, and they would find a spot.
The culture in the respective surgeries is so different, I think as she pauses.
When I walked into Alex’s surgery, the receptionists greeted me as an old friend, even though we had never met. They seemed to almost know who I was when I walked in the door. They offered Emily a stamp and some drawing implements, and were very friendly. They would chat with us, and generally were happy.
Granted the ophthalmests were the same as we had experienced elsewhere, but it just seemed more personable in comparison.
Maybe it is because doctor John’s surgery is bigger, who knows. But apart from Anna, and Alpa, who are the admin chicks who made this all happen for me, and of course the ophthalmologists themselves, largely I found the experience in doctor John’s to be not as friendly Sure it absolutely meets the strictest of professional standards and practice, the way every eye surgery I have ever been in does. However, there was just something about Doctor Alex’s that was different. Clinical, but not cold.
I am polite on the phone, and do my best to explain to her that it is urgent, and that yes of course I will wait for her call. What else am I going to do, I think to myself.
I’ll be up in ten minutes, I had said to her when she rang me back twenty minutes later.
Oh no no, we’ll see you at 3:15 this afternoon she explains.
What the hell? I can’t wait four hours. A lot could happen in 4 hours. Didn’t she understand? I could lose my sight any second. 4 hours could be three hours and fifty-nine minutes too late. What part of this didn’t she understand? Had she tried to fit me in earlier? Had she even spoken to doctor John? These were all questions I couldn’t possibly divine the answers, but my mind was racing. The flashing was becoming more frequent, causing me to wince and jump every couple of minutes. What did it mean?
I ring my best friend Liz almost in tears, hoping she will be able to explain. Or at the very least talk me down off the ledge. If there is someone who knows about random symptomology, it is her. She is all over this stuff. And thank God, because I am not.
When she picks up, I cannot keep the emotion out of my voice. What are they, I ask in a panic. Practically shrieking into the phone. Thank God, I don’t have to keep it together with her, I think as I have almost an out of body experience.
Oh, my guy says they are just your brain trying to adapt to the extra light coming into your eyes, she says ever so calmly and casually.
Yes yes, I think. I will choose that. Brain bumps were far more likely than retinal detachment.
Bump. Ouch! Bumpity bump bump… Wince, squeam, groan.
Ok so all I had to do was be calm. I would ring my husband, tell him the story, and burrow under a blanket until he arrived.
I had a strategy. It may have involved a lot more faith than anything else, but it would have to do. Besides, if I got really really scared, I could always ring Alex’s surgery and see what they said instead. SO yes, yes I had a backup. Everything would be ok. Accept if it wouldn’t. Oh fuck what if it wasn’t. I wanted to cry.
The surgery was more subdued than usual, but this didn’t make the receptionists remember us with any greater clarity.
Good God we were here two days ago, I thought as we stood waiting to be served.
We’re here to see doctor Jenny, Michael explains as the lady behind the desk looks through me.
Still I wonder what it is about the cane, which doesn’t give it away that maybe talking to me instead of at me would elicit a better response. By this time, I am almost pulling out my hair in frustration.
Seriously, I don’t have time for this to be explained. Let’s just get those drops in, that pressure measured, and my eyes looked at by an expert. I had waited all day for heaven sake. I cannot possibly not wait any more.
Flash, jolt flash.
It is happening again, I say to Michael. The pannick rising in my chest once more.
Yes, flashes are never a good sign, I over hear doctor Jenny say to another patient. It usually means the retina is detaching.
I can barely believe my ears as I sit outside, frozen to my chair. The same chairs I had walked passed with doctor John when he first led me down the skinny hallway to do the paper work to start this snowball rolling.
Well at least they make sense now, I think to myself. Who knew there were other doors and offices along here, let alone an alcove in front of me I muse. So maybe it isn’t such a silly place to put them after all…
Liz’s gentle explanation may have saved my sanity earlier in the day, but this was enough to have me teetering on the edge of crazy.
Thankfully, Michael and Emily had gone to look at the fish tank, because I didn’t think I could deal with their presence right then and there.
I needed to be a statue. Because if I didn’t move, and I didn’t speak, then maybe all this would be ok.
I just need to sit. To sit very very still, and pray to God that she isn’t meaning me. Which of course she isn’t, because she is talking to someone else. But my reason has vanished.
My mind races. I had meant to pack a bag just in case we needed to scoot to the eye hospital, but I had forgotten to do so, as there were too many elements to it, and my brain couldn’t cope with something so simple yet so sophisticated.
What would we do with the baby?
Surely Michael couldn’t come with me. Who would we call? Holy crap, when would I be back?
Oh God, what were we going to do?
Come on in Megan, doctor Jenny says, interrupting my thoughts.
Oh god oh god oh god, I think as I sit in the black chair.
Thank God, she seems to know what she is doing, I think as I watch her go through my file.
I’ve spoken to John, she says, flicking through the pages. Now let’s have a look at this eye of yours, and see what is going on.
So I put my chin on the platform with lots of papers, pushed my forehead against the bar, and she shines a bright light in my eyes.
At least I know it is a bright light, I think. Ever on the lookout for comparisons to how it was previously.
Everything is like that. I am always comparing the then and the now of whatever the then and now happen to be. I have to be oh so vidulant for signs of improvement Or deterioration, because nobody can monitor this apart from me. I’m not sure what frightens me more. I am just frightened. Good, bad, or otherwise, it is all so unknown. But what am I meant to be looking for? How do I know what more or less vision looks like? I need a list of very very specific symptoms that I can tick off like a grocery list. More pain, what the hell does that mean? I am not equipped for this, I think as we sit silently in that dark doctors room.
I think the light is better than Monday, I murmur as doctor Jenny texts doctor Alex. But I am not sure. I am not certain about anything.
We need a second opinion, as there is just so much blood.
After a quick call to Doctor John, we head to the ultrasound machine room for a retinal scan, because maybe that will tell us what is really going on.
Unfortunately, Doctor Jenny couldn’t get a clear visual, so she cannot explain the flashes.
Please be the things Liz said, please be the things Liz said, I think as I wait for everyone to settle. What were those things called again? Charles Bonners? I cannot remember.
After much fussing, we finally get the money shot we are after. Oh no, that looks like a normal retina states the ophthalmist without thinking She doesn’t miss a beat, as it is more of a reaction than a response.
Maybe they’re not so bad after all, I think with relief. This one was actually quite nice, and she did seem to remember me from a previous visit. Even though I didn’t remember her. Go the irony, I think sheepishly as she helps wipe the ultrasound gel off my eye.
She seems as excited as I am at the result, and I like that. She seems to know that this means something. Something important. Something that means I am not going blind.
Oh thank God, I sigh. As long as the retina is attached, we are ok. I am ok.
The inter-ocular pressure is a little high, but nothing to worry about. Nothing a little medication won’t fix.
I practically float out of the room and into the soft safety and familiarity of Michael’s loving arms. Little wrapping herself around my leg in greeting, and nuzzling into me. I am not sure who is gladder to see whom. I think she knows mama is a bit stressed. She has been so good throughout this whole ordeal. Not just today, but every day. Every day every week every month and every year. She’s the best! Love you Little…
How I am not crying with joy is beyond me, but I think it is the sheer exhaustion of it, all that stops the tears. I just don’t have the energy. Not when we have to still walk home.
The late afternoon air is crisp, and although I cannot see if the sky is blue, all that matters is that I am healthy, and my eye isn’t going to fall out.
Most of my days are spent curled up on the lounge watching television with Emily.
Well she watches, and I try not to listen. After all, there is only so much toddler television a girl can handle.
I still cannot find my way around the house properly, let alone out the gate toward the letterbox. That seems as impossible as it had when I first had Little. Ten metres can be one hundred metres or one thousand metres. Whatever it is, it is too far away. What if I run into a pole? What if the bump knocks my eye out. I am paranoid that thing is going to pop at any second. The scratching sandy poppy outy feeling won’t go away I think it is where the stiches are. I try desperately not to rub it, but without little success. The eye drops are giving me a manufactured form of conjunctivitis, and I worry that as I pick the gunk out from my eyelashes that I will end up pulling them off altogether.
At least this will break my habit of putting my fingers in my eye, I think.
Good God I have been doing that forever. Ever since I met a kid in second grade who did it, and apparently I followed suit. It has been a trade I have been worried about passing on to Emily. And something I have been a shamed about for as long as I can remember. No amount of mind mapping, hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming, affirming, or any other technique has helped to break. Who would have thought we would have to remove my lense for me to stop. Because without a lense, there is nothing to protect my eye, and the risk of infection is far greater than my need to poke myself.
So infection, which would lead to my eye falling out, obviously trumps fingers. Umm, whatever works?
It seems to me I have a good minute, followed by three bad ones. One good hour, four exhausted hours. One good day, two bad, and so on. My head aches, but surely that is what it is supposed to do.
Two days later, we are back at Doctor John’s eye surgery as expected.
Weren’t you here yesterday, a receptionist asks, as we walk in.
Oh finally, recognition, I think as Michael smiles and answers with a yep, it is our third time this week. We’re thinking of moving in.
How is it? Doctor John asks, sitting down in his chair.
Well, I think you’ve got pretty fluffy clouds for lights up there, and they weren’t there the other day, I say pointing to the ceiling, in a far better mood than I was earlier in the week.
Well that is an improvement, he replies.
Yes, I think. Although it is really still very dark in there, and I can’t figure out how people actually get anything done with such dim lighting. But pretty clouds pretty clouds pretty clouds. They’re beautiful…
Everything looks good, he continues. Still swollen, still bleeding, but things are a bit clearer. I think it is only a matter of time. Do you still have the flashes?
A little, I answer. I have to admit, they at least were going away. And again, although I felt better, I had gotten us lost again on our way to the building. I mean I would have, if Michael had let me.
We had driven, because it was raining. And where we ended up in the car park, wasn’t where I thought we were.
When we had stepped out of the car, I could see a bright light in the distance. Everywhere I looked there were bright lights. But we were in the dark part. I had gotten disorientated, thinking that the first bright light I saw, was the exit, when it turned out to be the window to the train tracks.
It all looked the same.
Dark where I was. No car, no husband, no nothing, apart from white white over there. Everywhere over there. Wherever over there was. But how did I know which way to go?
As usual Michael led the way, and I wondered how I would ever do this on my own.
Were things getting better?
I just wasn’t sure.
It was like being in a dream. A black and white dream with no details.
Well, at least I had that, I supposed After Michael explained to me where we were, and I could then direct him to where we needed to go. Look for the skinny pole I said. Then we need to cross the road next to the x-ray place, but before the wide basement car-parking door. There should be a gutter you have to step over and a grey lift, then a set of single stairs to the right… We go up the stairs into the dark, passed the bar that I never been to, along and the lift to the surgery should be on our right I explained.
Sure enough I was spot on, and gleaned some satisfaction from contributing to the situation as opposed to being a passanger.
Michael had not known about the secret staircase, and hadn’t believed me that there was one. But I knew it because I used to use it as a short cut to get my good coffee.
Take that honey, I thought as he exclaimed he knew where we were, and I had been right.
So maybe things were slowly but slowly on the improve.
It was the first time I began to hope.
Granted, I still didn’t trust my body, but maybe just maybe things were changing.
Did I know it was overcast because I could smell the rain, or because I could see the light?
What was my brain seeing, and what was it making up as it went along based on all my other senses and assumptions?