It was a big day… my first NHS appointment with the surgeon who was going to fix my eyes properly, at Moorfields Eye Hospital. That was what I’d been telling myself, anyway. My sister and I set off on the 9am train with plenty of time to spare. A few minutes into the journey, the train stopped at a station and the ominous announcement was made that due to a fatality further down the line, we would remain there for at least the next hour. Although we felt saddened at the realisation that some poor person had lost their life, I also knew that I simply *had* to make this appointment as my nerves just couldn’t stand having to postpone it. “It’s okay – we just need to find another train going into London”, I assured my sister confidently. It didn’t take us long to realise that there were no other trains going into London from that station, and there were none in the vicinity either. We headed down to the front of the train to have a word with the guard and the driver, who advised us to get a taxi to the hospital, obtain a receipt, and get a refund via a complaints form. There was another lady there who also needed to get into London for an appointment and the suggestion was made that we split the cost of the taxi and claim the money back later. This all seemed very sensible, so off we went to hail a taxi at the front of the station.
There was a queue. It was a looooooooong queue, and there were no taxis in sight. But never mind – hurrah for smart ‘phones! I quickly got online to search for taxi firms and in the meantime my sister rang the taxi driver who had driven me back from surgery number 4 in the hopes that he might be in the area. He wasn’t, but he gave us an alternative number and we were told that a taxi would be with us within fifteen minutes. Excellent! Then followed a discussion about where we would actually go to in London, as our taxi companion needed to be in Westminster, for… wait for it… a spa appointment. Unfortunately, I’m no longer able to roll my eyes effectively, but my sister told me afterwards that my tone of voice said it all. Anyway, the taxi arrived and we quickly piled in and set off. A calculation on the AA route planner informed us that the drive should take us about an hour, in which case I wouldn’t actually be too late at all. I’d already rung the consultant’s medical secretary to explain the situation and, as always, she’d been very helpful. I actually now think of her as the admin angel of Moorfields because no matter what query I contact her with, she magically obtains a sensible and satisfactory answer very quickly with the minimum of fuss.
We made it to the outskirts of London and dropped off spa day lady before speeding on into the city. Speeding on for a few minutes anyway. And then we stopped. And inched forwards a little bit. And stopped again. And inched. And stopped. And inched. And stopped. It was hugely irritating. Probably almost as irritating as reading multiple staccato sentences starting with ‘And’. Unfortunately, the compulsion to check my watch and sigh heavily every few seconds did not result in wings sprouting from the sides of the taxi and it launching itself into the skies. I briefly wondered if it would be faster to get out and run, but rapidly dismissed that idea as I realised that my non-existent sense of direction would probably result in us getting completely lost. Then we’d be lost and late. Anyway, we made it eventually at just over an hour late, gulped slightly at the extortionate taxi bill, and then rushed into the clinic praying that they wouldn’t say I was too late to be seen.
Fortunately, I was told to take a seat and I’d be called soon. We were just beginning to think that perhaps I’d been forgotten after all, when a cheerful nurse called me through for the eye check and dilation drops. Back in the waiting area, we waited and waited, very conscious of the fact that the clinic was due to finish by 1pm and the minutes were rapidly ticking away. We saw one of the doctors, who came out of the consulting area carrying a huge pile of patient files, and deduced that he’d finished his shift in the clinic. A few minutes later my sister spotted my consultant walking purposefully the same way clutching three files. She turned to me in dismay and said, “He’s going out carrying files with him – that’s not a good sign is it?” I was just about to wail, “Oh nooooo” or words to that effect, when we heard a voice behind us: “Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you!” It was the consultant coming back. We’re not quite sure whether he had overheard us or just seen my sister’s panic-stricken face, but less that a minute later he called me in.
I entered the room to find not just the consultant, but the very patient surgeon who had performed my last lot of emergency surgery as well. After the usual drill (“look up, look down, look up and right, look to the right, look down and right, look left…” etc), I was given the good news that there was no change and my eyes were still stable. He then asked me how I felt about more surgery. Not one to generally mince my words, I answered, “Scared”. He then reiterated the plan he’d discussed back in October, that it would be two more operations: one to take the oil out, remove the abnormal blood vessels and area of detachment, and then put the oil back in; followed by a further operation to take the oil out at some point in the future if all went according to plan. I was quite possibly looking like one about to be led to the gallows by this stage, particularly as I was fully expecting him to book me in for the next lot of surgery in January, but I took a deep breath and explained that regardless of how scared I am, I will always do what they advise is clinically best. He then dropped a bit of a bombshell, saying that he was quite happy to continue to monitor things for the next few months and suggested returning for another check up in February. I questioned him about the potential complications I’d been told about previously regarding the abnormal blood vessels and area of detachment, but he assured me that as things were currently stable there was no immediate rush for surgery. Wehey! I could hardly believe what I was hearing! It felt as if I’d been given a gift of time to make the most of life for a bit longer without having to face more grim surgery straight away. After a few more questions and reassurances, the appointment came to an end and I almost skipped out of the hospital feeling the need to do the clicky heels jump as I went.