…So sang the Beatles (have a listen, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMwZsFKIXa8), and unfortunately money can’t buy me a new retina either. I did have a quick check on Amazon and eBay just incase, as apparently you can buy *anything* on there, but upon typing ‘retina’ into the search bar, I was presented with a list of items relating to the ‘Apple Macbook Pro Retina’, which clearly isn’t any help at all [tut]. However, there was one thing which money could buy me, and that was a private consultation with a surgeon specialising in complex retinal redetachments and PVR. I therefore screwed my principles regarding the issue of private healthcare into a little ball and tossed it aside for a while, as I went ahead with booking a consultation, simply with the aim of obtaining more time to get my many questions answered. When I first rang to enquire about a private consultation, I was told, ‘Oh yes, you have all the time you need – there’s no rush at all!’ This was a somewhat foolish thing to say to a serial questioner such as myself, and upon expressing my delight at the prospect of limitless time for gathering information I was given the far more cautious answer, ‘Well, usually it takes about half an hour, but we allow up to an hour.’ After hearing this, I abandoned my plan of turning up with a packed lunch and sleeping bag and instead set about compiling a list of questions and highlighting the most urgent ones, with the aim of obtaining as many answers as possible.
My overheated imagination had pictured the private suite of Moorfields as being terribly posh, with deep carpets, plush armchairs, and filter coffee on tap. In reality it wasn’t really very different from the main hospital at all. We had to press a buzzer to get in, the waiting area was smaller than that in the main hospital (but there was slightly more leg room per chair), there was a collection of magazines which my sister approved of, and a free hot drinks machine. However, the process was far more speedy than in the NHS clinic. I was only halfway through completing the registration form when the nurse called me for the sight test and eye drops, but he casually told me not to hurry and returned once I’d finished. Once the dilating drops were in, I only had to wait for about the amount of time it took my sister to sample the free coffee before we were called into the consultant’s room.
He started off by asking what I hoped to gain from the appointment, which was fortunate as it gave me the opportunity to explain that it wasn’t that I was doubting anything in my treatment so far (Moorfields have been excellent), but just that I had rather a lot of questions and worries as the complexity of my case has increased and the potential treatment options seem to be diminishing. I also explained my fear following my previous appointment when the consultant thought there may be a tear in my left retina. He proceeded with the usual examination of both eyes, and then asked me to lie on what I think of as ‘the dreaded bed of doom’ so that he could have a look ‘using different instruments’. It was at this point that the metal cocktail stick type implement put in an appearance again, although fortunately I couldn’t actually see it at the time. When he warned me that I would feel some pressure, I braced myself for the pain felt previously when this had been used, but this time it wasn’t painful, just somewhat uncomfortable as I could feel my eyeball being maneuvered around. Finally the examination was over and I stumbled back to the chair half-blinded by the bright lights and weird effects from the oil as a result of lying on my back and moving my eyes around constantly for the past what seemed like about half an hour but was probably only ten minutes.
As he scribbled notes and drew diagrams I waited with baited breath and tried not to shake whilst sending my sister secret signals which she correctly translated as, ‘don’t let me forget any of the questions!’ Once he’d finished writing, he told me with a reassuring certainty that there were no tears in my left retina and although there is lattice degeneration, that has been present since my original diagnosis and no treatment is required at present. ‘Phhhheeeeeeeew!’, I exhaled in my head, and suppressed the urge to whoop in relief. Next, he said that if the oil were to be removed at this stage, it was highly likely that the retina would detach again due to traction caused by PVR which has been present all along and was the cause of each redetachment. He also explained that I do still have some abnormal blood vessels, and this is also linked to the PVR. This was somewhat confusing, being contradictory to what I’ve been told after the last two surgeries, but it did make sense with what I’ve read on the subject. He therefore advised following a more cautious approach which would involve two further surgeries: 1) vitrectomy, retinectomy, laser, and oil back in. 2) oil out at some point in the future.
After some further explanation, he sat back slightly in a more relaxed pose and asked, ‘Does that answer all your questions?’ My sister failed miserably to stifle her laughter, holding up the sheaf of papers containing the carefully prepared list of questions and revealed that we actually had a grand total of twenty-six questions for him. He looked somewhat taken aback and raised an eyebrow, but did agree that it was sensible to write them down and proceeded to answer a good few more. As the time ticked away, I tried not to gabble in speaking more and more quickly in an attempt to squeeze as much useful information as possible out of the remaining minutes of the consultation. We managed to get most of the important ones answered, and he was certainly very patient in explaining things. Once it was clear that inquisition time was up, we headed out and scribbled down as much as we could before we forgot exactly what he’d said. We had mooted the possibility of taking some kind of recording device in with us, but decided against it as legally we’d have to ask permission to make a recording and we thought it probably wouldn’t go down too well. I paid the bill, and as we headed out I reflected that although money can’t buy me love or a new retina, it had bought me a certain amount of understanding and a small portion of peace of mind…