Vision through the gas bubble

Last week, a fellow RD patient left a comment on my blog post, ‘Do you see what I see?‘, in which she asked questions about looking through the gas bubble and how much of what she was seeing was ‘normal’.  So I thought it might be helpful to write a post about that very topic.  It’s worth pointing out at this stage that I’m not an ophthalmologist (I’m pretty sure I’d fail the eyesight requirements) or even an optometrist, and I’m just writing about my own experiences as a long-suffering RD patient as well as what I’ve learnt along the way.  If you’re worried about any visual symptoms after undergoing retinal reattachment surgery, it’s always best to get them checked out by a qualified medical professional.

I’ve had two gas bubbles so far – the first was a long-acting one which I was told would last for six weeks but in fact it lasted for nine.  A year later, I had a short-acting gas bubble, which would probably have lasted for about two and a half weeks if my dratted retina hadn’t decided to re-detach yet again.  Following each of these surgeries, once the eye patch was removed I was able to see light but everything else was a crazy blur – a bit like when you open your eyes under water.  It’s impossible to read or make out any detail at all at first.  However, it should be possible to detect a moving hand, when waved around in front of your face.  It can be very scary at this point, and personally I also felt very unbalanced and dizzy at times.  My depth perception was completely screwed and I was terrified that I wouldn’t get any vision back.

Once the gas bubble starts to disperse, things begin to get interesting.  The rate at which it disperses will depend on whether it’s a long-acting or short-acting bubble.  However, the effects are pretty much the same for both.  When sitting up, you’ll start to notice a sort of line at the top of your eye, over which you can see things more clearly.  It looks a bit like a spirit level and the line will gradually move further down your eye each day and you’ll start to see more above it.  Below the line, it will still look as if you’re trying to see underwater.  The bit above the line probably won’t be perfectly clear – people often see tiny dots or the odd floater, and colours and lines often appear distorted.  For me, colours were faded and very different to how they appeared when looking through my good eye, and lines were slightly crooked.  For example, the straight edge of a door frame would look as if  it had slight kinks in it.

As the bubble disperses further, the edge of it takes on more of a curve, which can appear as a thicker dark line.  When the bubble is small enough, if you lie face down and open your eye, you can see it as a perfect circle.  At this point, you’ll also find that it acts as a magnifying glass, and if you try to read something through it, the text will appear much bigger than when you try and read it ‘over the top’ of the line of the bubble.  You’ll see all sorts of odd visual effects caused by reflections from the bubble, including shafts of light, which can be very off-putting.  Another weird thing is that the bubble, when it’s at a certain stage, can cause you to see certain objects as if they’re upside down.  I’ll never forget watching the dog wandering across my vision and seeing him as if he was upside down!

Gradually, the bubble will get smaller and smaller and will appear with a dark line around the edge of it.  At this point, many people find that it will start to split up.  Sometimes it will split off into a few smaller bubbles which separate for a while and then merge back into the main bubble.  I found that I kept seeing a ‘baby bubble’ which would scoot around the edge of the main bubble and then disappear again.  Towards the end of my long-acting gas bubble, it became very tiny as I saw it right down at the bottom of my vision.  There were a couple of mornings when I woke up and looked for it thinking that it had finally gone, only to have it bounce back into view a few hours later.

Many new people on the RD support group on Facebook get frustrated by the bubble and can’t wait for it to disappear.  There’s no doubt that it results in some very bizarre, off-putting, and quite scary visual effects at times.  But the bubble is there to push the retina back and hold it in place as it heals.  Therefore, the gas bubble is your friend… be patient with it!  Below, you will find two photos, which are my visual attempts to describe what it looks like as the gas bubble starts to disperse.

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Evil Count Pollen

It’s been a tad hot in the UK over the past few weeks.  The usual British summer consists of perhaps a day or two of temperatures in the high twenties, swiftly followed by grey skies and drizzle.  So although this long, hot dry spell first proved to be something of a novelty, it’s now lost that status entirely.  So much so, that the newspapers are no longer proclaiming, “Phoar, what a scorcher!”, and I’ve even heard people actually starting to complain about the heat.  As a lover of nature, I’m certainly not a fan of the oven-like atmosphere we’ve been experiencing lately.  My normally lush green garden is rapidly turning a sickly shade of yellow; there are cracks in the clay soil, and the fields down the road resemble more a barren wasteland than the promise of delicious harvests to come.  Kent is known as ‘the garden of England’… the desert of England doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

For those readers who are wondering what the heck this has to do with eye issues, fear not – I haven’t switched my theme to meteorological matters.  You see, the very hot weather has a negative impact on my poor peepers, just as the very cold weather does.  (Seamless link there, you’ll note.)  The heat seems to make my eyes ache more and feel tired more easily.  Sometimes I get a gritty sensation in them and I’ve been getting through so many bottles of lubricating eye drops that the staff in the pharmacy now recognise me and remember that I ask for two bottles at a time.

Another impact of the ridiculously hot weather is that Evil Count Pollen has been on the prowl far more than usual.  From a cursory glance, the Count seems to be quite a colourful character.   He wears a long flowing multicoloured cloak and a top hat encircled by a wide yellow ribbon tied at the side in an extravagant bow.  He has so many flowers tucked into this band that from a distance he might be mistaken for some sort of mobile garden.  As if that wasn’t enough, he carries a large bouquet of hundreds of varieties of flowers with him. Each time he passes an unsuspecting victim, he waves the bouquet under their nose or plucks out a flower and presents it to them.  His fingernails are painted vivid, clashing shades of red, pink, orange, and purple, and a cloud of overwhelmingly strong perfumes fit to rival that ghastly shop, ‘Lush’ surround him wherever he goes.  He leaves behind him a trail of fine yellow powder, interspersed with petals which have fluttered from his person.

Fortunately, I’ve always been fairly immune to the charms of the Count.  But many people are not so lucky.  His unwanted attentions can cause a number of symptoms which range from the mildly irritating to the downright unpleasant.  Symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, stuffed up sinuses, sore or tickly throat, and itchy, sore, red, watery, or dry eyes.  I know that Evil Count Pollen is particularly nasty in the way he insists on tormenting some of my eye buddies at times.  I’m guessing it’s because our eyes are often more sensitive after surgeries – particularly those of us who have undergone multiple surgeries.  However, there are certain things which can be done to reduce the unwanted attentions of Evil Count Pollen.  You can find some useful tips and information from Moorfields at: https://www.moorfields.nhs.uk/news/hay-fever and from the NHS at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/.

Of course, the one thing which Evil Count Pollen simply can’t bear is water.  It plays absolute havoc with his outfit, you see, and he’s terribly vain.  I’m absolutely delighted that this weekend, all my efforts in perfecting an effective rain dance finally seem to be paying off.  The parched garden of England has seen its first proper rain for weeks.  But there’s still much work to be done to fill those cracks in the earth and transform the grass from sickly yellow to healthy green.  So wherever you are in the world right now, dear Reader, just pop your favourite music on, hold your arms up to the skies, and join me in dancing around like a lunatic as you sing, “Rain… rain… RAAAAIN!!”

“Always look on the bright side of life”…

… but not too bright, for those of us with eye issues!  Musical accompaniment to this blog post can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUHTzEv9V-s and is, of course, provided by the motley Monty Python crew.  Naturally, being British (although in the current political climate I hesitate to admit that), I’m no stranger to the concept of using humour – often of the black variety – to cope with difficult circumstances.  It was often the best method of defusing situations with my Gran, when she was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.  Of course, occasionally this approach can backfire, as I discovered the time I informed her, with a perfectly straight face, that Winston Churchill was the prime minister and she believed me.  Fortunately, she quickly overcame her confusion and readily forgave me when my mum explained, with a glare in my direction, “No he’s not – don’t worry, it’s just Emma being silly again.”  (The addition of ‘again’ implies that I’m often silly, which obviously I vigorously refute.)

Anyway… looking on the bright side in the manner of Monty Python has helped me in my ongoing RD journey, and I know it’s helped many of my eye buddies too.  So I thought it might be fun to share some of my favourite examples of the importance of humour in getting through the horrendous RD journey…

Plan B
After my third lot of surgery, in January 2015, one of my friends posted a cartoon-type picture of herself offering me a tray with a couple of eyes rolling around on it, with the caption: “Even with every confidence in Emma’s recent surgery, Debbie put forward a fantastic plan B.”  Luckily, even in my groggy post-op posturing state, this did make me chuckle.  However, I must point out that I’ve had two more surgeries since then and my friend still hasn’t come up with the promised goods.  (Tut!)
A cartoon-type picture of my friend offering me a tray with a couple of eyes rolling around on it, with the caption: "Even with every confidence in Emma's recent surgery, Debbie put forward a fantastic plan B.".

Eye-related gifts
One of my eye buddies once caused great hilarity in the Facebook support group I belong to by posting a picture of a Christmas present he’d just received from his mum: a framed copy of a Snellen chart (the eye chart used to test visual acuity).  It’s just as well no-one’s ever done that for me, or I’d have it hung in a well-lit area with a chair placed precisely six metres away to enable me to test myself daily!
Speaking of this particular eye buddy, you can find another example of his humour in my post, Pre-appointment paranoia.

PVR ?  Nooooooooooo!
When sharing humorous eye-related incidents on the Facebook  RD support group, one of my eye buddies related a story which made me gasp in horror before giggling slightly hysterically.  It’s best told in his own words:  “The funniest thing that happened to me, as you may remember, following my RD surgery was when I visited my optician in a worried way at one point following a sudden onset of a shower of new floaters in the RD eye – it occurred about three months after my op. “OK, could you read these three letters on the eye chart please?” he says…..I look up at the eye chart with my good eye covered and immediately read the letters “P V R”. I quickly look away with a kind of groan and say “No….I don’t even want to THINK about that!”. He laughs, slightly embarrassed, and says “Well at least I can see that you’re managing to see the letters all right”. (He knows I’m reasonably knowledgeable about eye problems). Exam turns out to be totally clear with no problems found.”

Eye jokes
Then, of course, there are the eye jokes…
Q: “What’s the scariest thing to read in braille?”
A: “Do not touch.”

“Whilst cooking today, I accidentally rubbed some herbs in my eyes.  I’m now parsley-sighted.”  [G r o a n !]

Or this one – a picture of a patient sitting in front of a Snellen chart and holding binoculars up to his eyes, as the white-coated doctor barks, “No cheating!”.  (Don’t we all just wish we had a pair of binoculars at times, when squinting and scrunching our eyes up to try and decipher the letters on that chart?!)
A patient sitting in front of a Snellen chart and holding binoculars up to his eyes, as the white-coated doctor barks, "No cheating!".

Blind driving
The only thing which has ever made me actually laugh out loud when specifically discussing eye issues and driving is this little gem, posted by one of my eye buddies: http://imgur.com/gallery/fIVfPwG.  It’s a short video clip which could accurately be captioned, ‘driving with a long cane’.

Puns
Then there are the little puns which come up in day-to-day life… for example:
A couple of years ago, over a Boxing Day game of Scrabble, my sister surveyed her tiles and casually remarked, “I don’t want to make you jealous, but I have three ‘i’s!”
And:
During a recent chat with an eye buddy, I observed that he seemed to be a bit hyperactive.  “It’s called humour”, he shot back, “I used to have some in my eye!”.

‘Blind’ man predicaments
Finally, another one which made me gasp is a spoof video of a ‘blind’ man getting into all sorts of predicaments whilst walking with his long cane, available at:  https://www.instagram.com/p/BevMNizHvCm/. This one was sent to me by the VIP* I met up with a couple of weeks ago.  (*Very Important Person, that’s right!)  It’s not so much the man himself, but the reactions to him by passers-by which are so entertaining to watch!

If you have any eye-related jokes or humorous incidents, please do give us all more to laugh about by sharing them in the comments below… 🙂

The accidental OCT scan

The morning of my much-anticipated rescheduled check-up appointment at Moorfields (have a read of ‘Sod the Tories‘, if you’re wondering about the rescheduling) got off to a somewhat ironic start when I mistook the shampoo for shower gel during my morning shower and only realised when I started hunting for the shampoo to wash my hair.  I’m sure the lettering on toiletries is getting smaller and smaller these days… naturally, my dodgy peepers aren’t to blame!

My sister (aka eye secretary) and I reached Moorfields in plenty of time and settled down in the clinic for a long wait.  We’d already spotted the whiteboard, which declared a waiting time of two and a half to three hours, so we were fully prepared for an extended game of ‘I Spy’.  We therefore both audibly gasped in surprise when the nurse called me through almost immediately.

I peered at the Snellen chart with my bad eye, desperately trying to focus on the two letters on the second line down as I hazarded a guess, “Is that an X?  I think it’s an X.” and then rattled off the penultimate line with my good eye – yay!  My eye pressures were the best they’ve been for a while (yay again!), and then came the stinging dilation drops, which always seem to sting more when I’m tired.  Considering that the previous night had been broken by a series of nightmares, I wasn’t surprised that the drops were more uncomfortable than usual.  At this point, the nurse instructed me to go off for a scan and then return to the clinic.  “A scan?”, I asked in some alarm, “I don’t usually have a scan – what kind of scan is it?”  Upon double-checking my file, she nodded and assured me that this was correct before pointing us in the direction of Medical Imaging.

Off we went, and sat down in another queue.  We didn’t have long to wait until I was called through, whereupon I immediately started questioning the poor guy doing the scans about what scan it was (OCT, I was informed) and why it had been requested.  Scan Man (far more impressive than Batman, because he could operate an OCT scanner) consulted my file and informed me that it was because of VMT.  “VMT?”, I repeated in confusion, “What’s that?!”  “Vitreomacular traction”, he informed me, before proceeding to talk about PVD.  “But no-one’s told me I’ve got VMT or PVD!”, I replied in alarm.  “I have got PVR in my right eye though – maybe that’s why the scan’s needed?”  I stared at him through dilated eyes and saw my look of confusion reflected back at me as he asked, “What’s PVR?”  “Proliferative vitreoretinopathy”, I explained.  “It’s a complication of retinal detachment surgery.”  I was tempted to refer him to my blog post, ‘The curse of PVR‘, but managed to refrain.  “Oh”, he replied, sounding almost as baffled as me, before proceeding to do his stuff with the scans: “Look at the green cross… keep still…”  He showed me part of the scan on his computer, but it didn’t answer any of my questions and I concluded that perhaps I shouldn’t really have started asking questions in the first place.

We returned to the clinic again and settled down to a game of ‘I Spy’, whereupon we managed to pass a full ten minutes as my sister attempted to guess “something beginning with S”.  A series of clues revealed the obvious answer, “Spectacles!”.  Eventually, the Prof called me through and got on with the business of the eye examination: “Look up… look down… look left…. look right… look up and right… look down and right… look up and left… look down and left…” etc.   I sat with bated breath and kept my fingers crossed below the examination contraption as he delivered the best news I could have hoped for in the situation: everything was still stable and he didn’t see the need for further surgery unless the oil started to cause problems.

He reminded me again that two further surgeries would be necessary in any case – one to get the oil out, do another retinectomy, sort out the abnormal blood vessels, carry out more laser and put more oil back in.  Then another surgery at some point in the future to try and remove the oil if my eye behaved itself.  Considering the fact that my ruddy retina has misbehaved from day one, I’m not particularly keen to rock the boat by having more surgery before I absolutely have to.  So, although I was disappointed that no miracle had occurred, I was enormously relieved to hear that things were still stable.  I was even more relieved to hear that the OCT scan appeared to have been a mistake in that I hadn’t actually needed it and there was nothing further wrong with my pesky peepers… phew!  The only slight blip was the news that the cataract in my good eye had worsened slightly.  He reassured me that this was nothing to worry about for the time being.  So naturally, me being me, I worried…

Millie-spotting

It was just a standard grey work day – albeit a Friday – and I was engrossed in working on a student appeal when one of my work colleagues sidled through the office door with a guilty air about her.  My heart sank as I wondered what had gone wrong with the ruddy website this time, but she surprised me by informing me in a somewhat overawed whisper, “I’ve just seen Millie Knight!”.  “Whaaaaaat?!”, I exclaimed in disbelief, “Where?!”.  “She’s buying something from the street kitchen!”, replied my colleague.

Without further ado, we both raced as fast as we could walked sedately back down the other end of the corridor to my colleague’s office, which offers a panoramic view of the rather misleadingly grandly named ‘Jarman Plazza’.  This is the outdoor area between the Jarman and Marlowe buildings, whose cold grey slabs pretty much just merge into the cold grey buildings on either side.  It floods whenever we have heavy rain and becomes a skating rink in the winter.  But anyway… I dashed over to the office window and proceeded to do that thing you see in films where the policeman parts the slats of the blinds and peers through suspiciously.  At this point, my colleague marched across the room and vigorously yanked the entire blind up by its frail cord.  We gazed out of the window, and there she was: Millie Knight, the Paralympic skier, wearing a dark blue GB sports top and ordering something from the street kitchen (a little mobile fast food outlet at one end of the ‘plazza’).  She was shortly joined by another lady and they sat down together with their food at one of the picnic benches.

“Ooooooh, I want to go and say hello!”, I squealed like a teenager at a boy band concert.  “Do it, do it!”, cried my colleague, with a huge grin on her face and all but clapping her hands in delight as she egged me on.  “Oh, but what would I say?!”, I wondered aloud in sudden panic.  “And I can’t really interrupt their lunch, can I?!  That would be a bit rude.  She must get sick of people bothering her.”  “Nooooo”, encouraged my colleague, “Just go!”.  At that point she had to leave herself – off to the University Sports Centre for a spot of netball practise.

I gazed out of the window once more, before reluctantly trudging back up the corridor to my own office, wondering if Millie would still be there when I went out for lunch at 1pm and how I could possibly manage to say hello if she was.  Upon asking various people for advice on what to say, I received replies ranging from the brief, “Congratulations” (on her two silver and one bronze medals in the recent Winter Paralympics), to the rather more detailed, “Hi Millie, my name’s Emma and I write blogs about RD (retinal detachment) and I wrote one about you called ‘Blind skiing’, as I think you’re so inspirational and incredibly brave.”

Needless to say, I (as usual) spent far too long thinking about it rather than taking action, and by 1pm Millie had vanished.  On the way to meet my friend for lunch across campus, I bumped into my aforementioned colleague who shall henceforth be known as ‘the Millie spotter’, returning from the Sports Centre.  “Did you say hello?”, she asked me.  “No… she’d gone!”, I wailed.  “You didn’t see her at the Sports Centre then?”, I asked hopefully.  “No”, she shook her head.  “Oh well, I might go and loiter outside for a bit just in case she’s there”, I said.  However, we agreed that it was probably unlikely that she was partaking in exercise after a street kitchen meal, which tend to look pretty substantial.

Despite loitering suspiciously outside the Sports Centre, there was no sign of Millie Knight and it became clear that I’d missed my chance.  I had no-one to blame but my own nervousness about meeting Scary New People and my irritating tendency to overthink everything.  But next time, I told myself firmly, I would be brave.  Next time, I would leap out of my seat and march across the Jarman Plazza with purpose.  Next time I would go and say hello.  Hmmm… I wonder if I’ll ever get the chance again…

Note: You can read more about the amazing Millie Knight in my post, ‘Blind skiing’.  Or, of course, you can just Google her and watch some of the incredible videos of her in action.  Warning: you may need a cushion to hide behind.

Tears and tears

One of the positive side effects of life as an RD patient (stop spluttering dear Reader – I’m not a negative person, despite what some people say) is that we get to meet other RD patients and by doing so we sometimes get to know people that we would otherwise never have crossed paths with.  Chatting to other RD patients brings many benefits: we share tips and information; it makes us feel less alone as we’re all going through or have been through similar experiences; we celebrate each others’ good news and support one another through the grim times and the many blips along the way.  There’s a certain member of the RD support group on Facebook who often says that if it wasn’t for that group, we’d all be alcoholics by now.  She has a point, and I’m not even a fan of alcohol!  So when I got chatting to a new eye buddy via a comment left on this blog and we had a discussion about tears, I asked him if he’d fancy writing a ‘guest blog post’ about his thoughts.  He was still in the grim recovery period after posturing but before being permitted to return to ‘normal’ (for some) life, so naturally I thought writing about eye related matters might take his mind off things a bit.  This may seem like chopped logic, but writing can be very cathartic.  Much to my delight, he agreed with alacrity and so without further ado, here’s his blog post…

Hi my name is Simeon and I’m a comparative RD newbie. I recently had emergency surgery for a detached retina at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (Moorfields?? Pah!!). I had to posture for a week, 18 hours per day on my right side. After devouring all I could about RD on the Tube of You and skating the interweb, I had run out of information. I happened to stumble upon ‘RD Ramblings’, a poorly written and mediocre blog…( oh thanks Emma, [pockets £20 note] where was I???) Oh yes, I was amazed by the eloquence and humour (no eye pun intended) in the writing.

Emma has unfortunately amassed an extensive knowledge of retinal surgery due to her ongoing complications. However, rather than dwelling in self-pity she has written all these wonderful stories with a playful eye (the good one). After pocketing the bribe, I complimented her on all her stories. I had read at least 3 each day when posturing and could quote lines from each of them to her! They made me smile whilst at the same time informing me about various surgical techniques, PVR, lettuce degeneration (a fridge is handy) etc.

She told me later that she cried tears* of joy about my comment, but also tears* of sadness for my condition. It made me think of how the same word “tear” can have different meanings. If you think of the sentence; “The man awoke in the eye hospital with a tear in his eye”, the average person would assume he was feeling sad. However for those of us who have had RD surgery and are panicking at every black dot we see… well we would see that word “tear” and feel a sense of dread. Which made me think…

Tears* are good for us, they help to lubricate the eye as we blink and wash away any foreign bodies (I have a couple of ‘foreign bodies’ in my back garden but shhhh!!). Tears* can be a sign of great joy at the kindness shown by others, but also helping to release stress when feeling great sadness.  You can have tiers on a wedding cake… yum!  Tears* may also be found in the eyes of the groom as he views his amazing new wife or ponders his new lack of freedom! It all depends on how optimistic or cynical you are…

However, tears** is quite a brutal word, similar to when you rip or burn music to and from an audio CD. You can use force to tear** something open or apart, or tear** very fast along a road, which implies excessive speed. If you’re an ant, you can move quickly across the top of a cereal box…(tear** along the dotted line). And of course, our old favourite the retinal tear** eek!!

I thought it would be interesting to share how the same word can mean completely different things to different people. Most of us reading this would unfortunately have experienced both tears** and subsequently floods of therapeutic tears* at the same time. So next time you see the words tears* or tears** ask yourself which description immediately pops into your head…

Thank you Emma for your amazing, wonderfully funny and informative blogs [no we agreed on £40… ahh thank you!] xx

Note 1:
Tears* = the clear salty liquid secreted from the glands in a person’s eye when they cry or when the eye is irritated.
Tears** =
a hole or split in something caused by it having been pulled apart forcefully. These definitions have been taken from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Note 2:
Huge thanks to Simeon and all my wonderful eye buddies for being so amazingly supportive – I honestly don’t know how I would get through this eye crap without you guys.  If any of you fancy doing a ‘guest blog post’ about something, please give me a shout as I think this could be quite a fun thing to do now and then! 🙂

 

Sod* the Tories

I had a check-up appointment at Moorfields booked for Monday 4 June.  You will note, dear Reader, my use of the past tense in that sentence.  For, late on Wednesday afternoon I received a voicemail from Moorfields telling me that my appointment had been cancelled due to not enough doctors and too many patients.  Upon receiving this news, I let out a massive internal howl of, “Noooooooooooooooooo!”, before indulging in a short fit of wailing once I reached the safety of home.  I then promptly regretted this, as it just made my eyes ache more.

As my eye buddies know all too well, my reaction to this news is about far more than a cancelled appointment.  I approach my check-ups at Moorfields in fear and dread.  The build-up starts a good couple of weeks beforehand each time, as my anxiety builds and insomnia becomes my nightly companion.  “What will they say?”, I wonder to myself.  “Will the detached part of my retina have progressed any further?  Will the 360 degree laser line be holding firm?  What of the abnormal blood-vessels – will they have worsened?  Will my eye pressures be satisfactory?  Will my cornea still be healthy, with the oil in?  And my good eye… will it be okay?  Or will it – heaven forbid – have  developed more tears?  Will the lattice degeneration be any worse?  Will they want – or need – to perform yet more surgery, or will I gain another reprieve?  How will I cope if more surgery is necessary?”  All these questions, and more, clamour in my ears like a huge orchestra tuning up for a performance.

Along with all the questions, I increase my ever-so-slightly-obsessive visual checking as the appointment looms ominously on the horizon.  I wrote about this a while ago, in ‘Pre-appointment paranoia‘.  The stress builds and builds until usually it reaches a crescendo during the appointment itself, at the point at which the consultant has finished the examination, scribbled the notes down, and sat back to tell me the results and allow me to ask as many questions as I can cram in.  Depending on the news, the crescendo is either one of glorious, melodic harmonies, or a clashing of cymbals and change in tempo as the key abruptly switches to minor.  This cancellation of my appointment is equivalent to the entire orchestra standing up and dropping their instruments onto the concrete floor with a collective crash; leaving a solitary violinist, oblivious in the corner, plucking forlornly at a broken string.

I don’t even have a new appointment date to focus on yet.  Although I rang Moorfields straight back, there was nobody available.  I rang the following day during my lunch break at work and spent most of it listening to a calm, automated voice informing me that I was “number one in the queue”.  I think they’d actually all gone to lunch and left the telephone queueing system switched on.  After about 35 minutes of this, I gave up and sought solace in my cheese and cucumber sandwiches.  I eventually got through after work, and was told that a new appointment wasn’t available yet as they had to slot everyone back in.

As with my only other previously cancelled appointment (have a read of, ‘Q: What’s more stressful than an impending eye appointment?‘), I don’t blame Moorfields for this.  Like me, anyone in the UK who has to attend eye clinics on a regular basis will be able to see clearly (even through the foggy haze of the dilation drops) how busy they are.  The clinics are always packed with patients, the consultants and doctors often have that look which means they know just how many patients are waiting and they’re wondering how on earth they’re going to get through them all in time.  The nurses hurry back and forth, and the receptionists have a slightly frazzled air about them, not helped by the occasional impatient patient asking if they’re going to have to wait much longer [pause while I tut and metaphorically roll my eyes].

So… if us eye patients with our dodgy vision can see so clearly that the NHS needs more resources to cope with demand, my question is: why can’t the government?  It needs no avid follower of the news to tell us that the NHS is in crisis.  Why isn’t the government doing anything about it?  Why is the government privatising it by stealth?  The NHS will reach its 70th birthday this July.  In today’s world, 70 is far from decrepit.  (My mum will be very glad to read that.)  There is much useful life to be lived beyond the age of 70, but many people may just need a little more care and attention.  However, the government doesn’t seem able to see this, and I can’t help but observe that this lack of vision appears to stem from idiocy rather than from myopia.  It strikes me that the government views the NHS as a particularly cantankerous decrepit pensioner, whom it just wants to shove into a grubby care home out of sight as quickly as possible.  I genuinely fear for the future of the NHS.  Further discussion on that is probably best left for another post.  But in the meantime, what should we do?  I might take out my frustrations by writing to my MP and including a free eye test voucher for Specsavers…

*Obviously I had a considerably stronger adjective in mind, but being a family-friendly blog and all that…