A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, July 13, 2007

I can see clearly now, so put down the scalpel and back away slowly....

Well, I have just been over to Polski3's place, where he has been told by his doctor to shape up. I so empathize with him and with the feeling that this kind of news engenders.

I am a reasonably mature person, of above-average intelligence, if I do say so, and the only reason I do is to underscore the fact that I strive to be reasonably informed and cooperative with the health-care professionals in my life. Intellectually, I understand that I am no longer 17, and that therefore the old chassis might require less benign neglect and more maintenance. I understand this, I do.


Picture, if you will, being trapped at a doctor's office for two and a half hours every two months. This has been my life for the last four years. During this time, I have to stick my face into all kinds of fiendish machines and look at all kinds of weird lights and am told not to blink for what seems like a half-hour at a time. These people keep refusing to believe that I don't wear glasses. They also keep refusing to believe that I have better than 20/20 vision, so they keep giving me eye exams, and I keep reeling off the letters at 20/10 and they keep making surprised noises. I swear, I oughta go up to the machine sometime and memorize the manufacturer's information down in the corner and reel that off at them nonchalantly. That would really freak them out. And since they leave me in these little rooms for half-an hour at a whack, I could have plenty of time. That might be fun.

I can see really well. I can read tiny print from all the way across my classroom with ease. I can see kids misbehave from the back of my head. And I (probably) have glaucoma.

Why do I say probably? Because of the 8 eye doctors I have seen, 5 hem and haw a lot and say things like "Hmmm!" and "Strange!" and other sorts of non-comforting words when looking at photos of my optic nerve. They do not seem to understand the effect that this has on their patient, whom they have made blind with all kinds of nasty yellow eyedrops that must have come from a spitting cobra somewhere.

How do I feel when they keep acting so shocked and puzzled? I'll tell you: I feel like the owner of a ten year old Honda whose car starts making strange noises and when she finally takes the thing to a mechanic, the guy pops the hood, takes a quick step back and hollers to a colleague "Hey Earl! Come get a load of this!" and the next thing you know they are uncoiling a thirty-foot long boa constrictor from around the fan housing. This should not be. I would rather be told that my eyes are mind-numbingly boring. But no. My optic nerves are not "normal." My pressures are low as long as I take my eyedrops every night. Yet still they act like I've got a boa constrictor under the hood. I do not want a boa constrictor under the hood. I want them to go, "Of course," and replace a belt or something and send me on my merry way. I do not want to be a medical oddity. I want them to be able to tell me that nothing is wrong, dammit.

But even of the doctors that won't definitively say I have glaucoma, two want to shoot lasers into my eyes.

So when some adorable young doctor nonchalantly tosses off, "Well, I don't think an argon-laser would work well in your case, because you don't have much pigment somethingsomething, instead I think that a mrflthump laser would work much better blah blah blah....." Now, why do I mention a "mrflthump laser?" Because the blood starts pounding in my ears every time someone mentions surgery on my eyes, and I can't hear what Doogie Houser is saying for all the thumpthumpthumping of my heart. And I can't write down what he has saying, because.... wait for it.... he's made me blind by dilating my eyes to do all these freakin' tests.

I love that. The last doctor, who is no doubt very good and very patient and everything, nonetheless kept trying to show me the tiny lines and dots on a graph of the results from one of my tests, and when I started laughing she no doubt thought that I had lost it and yes, there was a bit of the hysterical in my laugh but really it was because... I! COULDN'T! SEE! She herself had dilated my eyes so wide that I looked like one of those sad little waifs or kitties on those black velvet paintings or perhaps a lemur. So, you know, expecting me to process anything visually at that time was really a bit much.

Now, like everything else, I am of decidedly strong opinion regarding surgery on my baby blues. I am not in favor of lasers being shot into my eyes, in case you were wondering. Lasers are for killing sci-fi creatures and making cool light shows to entertain crowds of people, half of whom have been smoking something. My mama taught me when I was a wee lass that sharp things should not be tolerated near the eyes, and that advice has stood me in good stead. I agree with Mom on this one, and also on her advice that one should never allow oneself to gaze at very bright lights. Lasers are very bright lights. Ergo, this girl wants nothing to do with surgery or lasers near her eyes. I've never even put a contact in my eye. When I first had to start putting drops in my eye, it would take an average of 6 attempts before I could get the drop in without closing my eye before the thing dropped onto my cheek. I've probably put half as many drops up my nose as in my eye. I am sure that shooting a laser into someone's eye is nothing-- to them. But to me, it's like expecting me to bungee-jump. Why would any sane person want to do something crazy like that? Falling is not a form of entertainment. Falling is something that can end badly. So let's avoid that, shall we?

No one knows why my eyes are "possibly" damaged. It could be a massive blood loss I exprienced after the birth of my first child.

(And a word to the wise: if you have ever experienced a sudden blood loss, please promise me you will go get your eyes thoroughly examined. It will save you grief later. Trust me. Don't get so busy with kids and life that you blow it off, because nobody else might tell you that this could affect your eyes.)

They may not be damaged at all. They may just be weird. I am so used to being told that I am weird that this doesn't even cause a blink. But doctors are trained to act based on the typical case, and so it seems to stump them when someone comes along who confounds all expectations. But we are all individuals. None of us is perfectly normal. This goes along with the fact that I have some sort of completely safe but abnormal structure deep in my brain that was found by a CAT scan once, that I have such low blood pressure that they sometimes think I don't have a pulse even though I am in a stressful occupation and weigh more than I should, and that I can carry a grown man around in a fireman's carry even though my BMI is appalling. And my eyes are aparently the bearded lady in the carnival of opthamology.

So that's where it sits right now. I have promised to return in two weeks to sit in the doctor's office all day so they can check my pressures during the day. But hey, they say they have wi-fi. I can bring my laptop and blog to you, my friends, whilst they torture me. Won't that be fun?

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At 7/13/07, 11:35 AM, Blogger Mei said...

I have to get my eyes dilated every time I go to the eye doctor too. And he does the pressure test, which freaks me out, because I hate things coming near my eyes. This is weird, because I've worn contacts for over 20 years. BUT, at least he doesn't do that test where the machine blows a puff of air in my eye; he probably had to pull that trigger ten times (per eye!) because I would always blink.

At 7/13/07, 12:39 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Me too! It's like I had supersense and knew when the synapses fired to contract the muscle to pull the trigger to send that puff of air into my eye. I hated it.

And things coming near my eyes really freaks me out because I don't regularly put things anywhere near my eye.

At 7/14/07, 9:04 AM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

"And my eyes are aparently the bearded lady in the carnival of opthamology."

Absolutely hilarious metaphor!


At 7/14/07, 9:42 AM, Blogger Janet said...

The more I go the doctor's the more I become painfully aware of the fact that a lot of them don't know nearly as much as we like to think they do.:(

At 7/15/07, 4:53 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks CTG!

I'm beginning to wonder, myself....

At 7/17/07, 8:01 PM, Blogger EliRabett said...

If you have glaucoma, be aggressive about treatment. The eye docs work on the basis you are going to die before you go blind so they shilly shally and futz about. My mom is now blind.

At 7/19/07, 9:56 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Gee, great, elirabbett.....

So far, not too happy.....


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