penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

A crack in the glass

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Unfortunately when you are a woman of a certain age, you must go and get things checked out regularly by professionals.  Unfortunately those professionals look increasingly younger and you begin to ask yourself, “My gawd, do you have your driver’s licence, let alone your doctor’s licence?” But I digress.

Noticing that I was having a wee bit of trouble seeing thing far away – and who are we kidding? Close up, and well, just seeing in general – I decided to book in with my optometrist to see what was happening with my eyes.  The last time I had seen her she had said that things tended to deteriorate rather rapidly after the age of 40.  And boy, was she not kidding.

Happily ensconced in her darkened room, in the chair of torture, she did her usual black magic.  “Can you see this?” she whispered.  Then fiddled with the instruments of doom “Now this? Which is clearer? One or two?” she breathed. What is it with optometrists that they only speak in quiet tones and whispers?

Then she did the dreaded test – the one where they freeze your eyes a wee bit and then poke right directly on them to determine the pressure.  I actually don’t mind it too much – I simply can’t keep my eyes open.  It figures that the only place I have super-human muscles is my eye-lids.

Then the optometrist started humming a bit, and took a closer look into my eyes.  Hum, hum, hum.  Well, well, well.   What have we here?

“Well,” she tells me. “You need a stronger reading prescription, but not full time glasses just yet.  But, I think you have narrowing of the angles, which may mean a possibility of glaucoma.  Good thing you came in. We’ll book you an appointment with a specialist right away.”

Glaucoma. Now, just wait a darn second, isn’t this something grandparents get?  My grandfather surely did, but aren’t I a bit young?

A couple of weeks later and I am sitting in the ophthalmologist office. Sure enough, I am by far, the youngest person there in the waiting room.  What am I doing here with the blue-rinse set? I shake my fist in the direction of my grandfather’s genes which are surely to blame for this.

The doctor is a bit brusque, but straight forward.  He looks deep into my eyes and hums too.  And quickly concurs with my optometrist.  Then, he begins to tell me some interesting things I did not know.

“What kind of glaucoma did your grandfather have?” he asks. I do not know.  Random glaucoma? “Ah, well there are about fifty different kinds.” Wait, what?  I thought glaucoma was like, glaucoma.  Who knew?

“Yours is called ‘narrowing of the angles.’  Imagine a door, where the fluid flows in and out of your eye. Imagine that door closing, and then suddenly shutting. The pressure builds up rapidly.  Suddenly, you have a medical emergency.  You will be writhing in pain the hospital. You will go blind. And we might not be able to fix it.  Right now, that door is closing, there is a small crack in it,” he explains.  “But, we can do something in advance.  We take a laser and we poke a hole in the door. Now it does not matter if it is closed, the fluid can still pass in and out.   It’s easy, it’s fast and it beats being in the emergency when we can’t do anything about it,” he finishes.  Then, a funny addition “Your left eye is worse than your right. It makes sense, your left eye is short.”

My brain suddenly feels pummelled by too much information at once.  I could be blind, but frickin’ laser beams can fix it. I don’t feel anything now, but could be imminently blind and in severe pain.  I have a short eye ball. No wonder I am so bad at sports. How the hell does that happen and why has it taken so long for someone to tell me?  Then the doctor says something I have never, ever heard a medical professional say before.

“You should look it up on the internet.”

Hallelujah and pass me a mouse.  I can’t count the number of times doctors have said “DON’T look it up on the internet. It will only freak you out and then I will have to talk you out of a tree in my most calm-I-have-several-more-degrees than you manner.”  It’s like a miracle – and I tell him so.

“Well, most of the people here are a bit older, so I don’t actually expect them to do it,” he admits.

I head out to the receptionist to see when they can book some time to poke some holes in my eye balls.  “How about tomorrow?” the receptionist chirps.  I look at her stunned – how is that for a wait time in our northern country where all anyone complains about is how long they have to wait to get a surgical procedure done?  On my request she books me for two weeks later – after I have time to look at the interwebs.

And look at them I do (interested in this?   Look up “laser iridotomy”). What a horror show of every possible thing that can go wrong.  The biggest complaint is a “white bar across the vision.”  Apparently the cure for this is a tattoo on the eye.  I try to imagine a white bar so severe that would require an actual tattoo on my eye ball. Then I imagine a dragon tattoo on my eye. But I digress (although I think a dragon tattoo on you eyeball would be cool).  In the end I think, going suddenly, painfully blind (also clearly laid out on the interwebs) trumps any side effects that could be imagined.

The day I am to be lasered, I have brought sun glasses and my parents bring me because I won’t be able to drive afterward and they are horrified when I suggest taking the bus.  Gawd love me, my mom still has her chemotherapy strapped to her in the little bottle of poison at her side and I think really, in the relative scheme of things, this laser to the eyeball thing is pretty minor.  The cancerous looking after the blind – how does this happen?  When I arrive, the nurse puts some drops in.  I go sit in a different waiting room. Suddenly older people start to arrive with bandages over their eyes from other more intense surgeries.  The man beside me is very agitated and clearly worried about what is going to happen next.

Suddenly the drops take over and everything is super, ultra clear and in sharp focus.  I can see every stitch in my jeans. The floor looks very close and I can see every fleck in the linoleum. I head to the bathroom.  My pupils are tiny pinpricks and I can see all the colours my iris has to offer – greens, golds and browns.  I look intently – I may never see my eyeballs this way again.

As I am sitting in the waiting room, suddenly the ophthalmologist passes by with his Starbucks coffee in hand.  Then I realize – if all I did was work on eyes all day long, I think my job might get pretty mundane after a while.

I hear my name being called.  I walk in and sit in a chair not unlike any other optometrist or ophthalmologist’s.  The doctor asks that I keep my eyes wide open while he fiddles with some kind of key board.  The hardest thing is to keep my chin against the chin rest.  Then “pow!” I’m hit in the eye by a super bright light.  It’s like a blinding flash and it’s over.  Then he turns to my other eye and I’m giggling nervously because he asks me to open the eye and I say “well it is” and he tells me it’s not, so make an effort and “pow!” I’m hit in the other eye.  And that is it.  No real other instructions and the ophthalmologist sends me out into the wide world.  Except I can’t see out of one eye.  It’s super fuzzy. Like I’ve been hit in the eyeball.  “Just give it a minute,” he says, not too gently.

I wobble out to my parents.  By the time I am in the car, with my sunglasses on, I can see again.  I head to my parents home and take a nap.  When I wake up two hours later I think “well, that wasn’t so bad.”  I have a pretty good headache for the rest of the weekend. Whether it is a left over from the drops or being punched in the eye I am not sure. I am glad to rest without children crawling all over me and talk to my mom about how she is feeling about her gut wrenching chemo sessions.  I feel humbled.

Since then, I have discovered I have one minor, long-term side effect.  In some lights, particularly when the light is reflected, I get a line across my eye.  Not the dreaded bar I read about on-line and imagined, but just a hairline, a feather, an eyelash of white occasionally in my vision.

It is like crack in the glass.  A minor fault in the mirror of life.  So tiny, it does not matter in the relative scheme of things.

Certainly not worthy of a tattoo.  And small in comparison to the thought of being painfully, suddenly blind.

But if you see me blinking in the sunlight, you will know why.  Me and my short eyeball are seeing things a bit differently.

And we want you to know, right now, it’s World Glaucoma Week.  When did you last get your eyes checked?  You don’t have to be a grandfather or a grandma to get glaucoma.  It could be happening to you.  Don’t wait – make that appointment to see your eye specialist. Because you don’t want to be that person who finds out too late that there is nothing they can do for you.


Written by pennyinacastle

March 16, 2014 at 3:21 am

Posted in Random thoughts

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Hallelujah and pass me a mouse! This is a great phrase. Also enjoyed “the cancerous looking after the blind.” Also, good work taking the time to point out that an eye exam is a simply and necessary visit for all. Great post. Most enjoyable read.


    April 16, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Its true – regular “well” visits to health care professionals can head off bigger problems and nasty surprises later. In this case it really did come as a surprise too – and the results if I had not fixed the issue could have been pretty severe.


      April 17, 2014 at 2:59 am

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