Appointment day dawned, and a quick peek through the curtains confirmed what I’d already suspected after lying awake listening to the hoolie which had been blowing for most of the night: the end of the world was obviously nigh. The sky looked as if yet another deluge of horizontal rain was imminent, it was bitterly cold, and part of the road was flooded. In addition to this, my head felt as if the entire family of Borrowers had crawled in through my ear during the brief moments of sleep I had actually managed to achieve and were trying to tunnel out by means of hammering an escape route through my skull with tiny pickaxes. Just to top everything off, my mum’s dog (who isn’t supposed to go down any stairs due to a slipped disc a few months back) decided to nudge open the living room door and gallop up the stairs gleefully to have a good sniff around. When I glared at him and asked him what he thought he was doing, he just gazed back and wagged his tail. It took me the next few minutes to coax him gently down again, one step at a time. Obviously I couldn’t lift him, for fear of it playing havoc with my retinas (see https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/dont-get-a-head-trauma/ for further explanation). He’s pretty heavy too. So I set off to Moorfields that morning feeling particularly out of sorts, but trying desperately to quash that irritating internal voice which insisted on running through all the worst-case scenarios as to what the outcome of the appointment might be.
Fortunately, there were no train disasters on this occasion and we arrived in plenty of time and settled down for the long wait. Eye dilation and pressure checks were duly done, and then we waited a while longer. We’d just started to wonder whether they’d forgotten me and we were debating putting ‘Operation Toilet Visit’ into action, which usually works a treat (i.e. just when one of us nips to the loo, I’m called to be seen), when we heard my name being called faintly from somewhere down the corridor and around the corner. I cautiously followed the summons, and realised that I was being called by someone I’d never seen before, which always makes me feel slightly more nervous. He asked a few questions about exactly what treatment I’d had, and then clocked my sister sitting in the chair just behind me, notebook open and pen poised. “Do you have a question?”, he asked. “Oh, we’ve got lots of questions written down here”, she admitted. “Don’t tell him we’ve got 14 questions!”, I desperately tried to communicate to her via sisterly telepathy. However, unlike my very first consultant, he didn’t seem at all phased by this and just said that it would be helpful to know some of the questions so that when he examined my eyes, he could look at the things I wanted answers to. My chin was already firmly on the chin rest of the contraption at this point, otherwise it would have dropped a fair distance. We made the most of the invitation to ask questions and then he proceeded with the usual business of “Look up, look up and right, look right, look down and right, look down, look left”, etc. He then stopped, and drew a few diagrams and scribbled notes in my file. This part always seems worse than the most effective cliffhanger in a particularly intense psychological thriller. I’m always desperate to ask whether everything is okay, but at the same time I don’t want to interrupt the accurate recording of information so I clench my teeth and force myself to wait until all scribbling and drawing has been completed. After what seemed like at least an hour but was in reality probably only five or ten minutes, he said that everything looked good (wehey!), the detachment hadn’t progressed beyond the laser line and didn’t seem to be any worse, and he was just going to fetch ‘the Prof’ to have a look.
Along came ‘the Prof’ and repeated the drill: “Look up, look up and right, look right…” etc. Much to my delight, he said that the adhesion of the retina was better than it had been when he first saw me back in October, and he also said that the PVR appeared to be less active. (Wehey, wehey!) Then he asked how I felt about the prospect of further surgery. I resisted the urge to stick my fingers in my ears, crawl underneath the nearest table and wail loudly in agonised terror, and instead settled for quietly admitting that I’m frightened of more surgery because of everything that’s happened but that regardless of how I feel, I will do whatever they advise is clinically best for my sight. To my relief, he said that there still isn’t any rush for surgery, and advised me to return for a further check in a couple of months. There was then a bit of medical talk between the two of them, which I did my best to follow but mostly failed miserably, and a discussion on whether to use oil or gas in the next surgery (“Eeeek – gas?!”, I thought), and some further questions from me on how to limit the possibility of PVR developing again after further surgery. I was then sent off to Medical Imaging for a spot of retinal photography. (Cue today’s musical accompaniment, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPQyd_kELVw)
I’d never had retinal photography done before, and it was actually really interesting. I wasn’t too keen on having my head physically pushed against the machine and having to keep my dilated eyes wide open while I waited for a horribly bright flash, but it was fascinating to see the images on the screen afterwards. The guy who did it seemed quite happy to show us the images and explain various things, pointing out the optic disc, the fovea, the macula, and then going on to indicate the marks which showed where I’d had various treatments. The areas of cryotherapy and laser were clearly visible as bright yellow blobs, lines, and dots. Being the sort of person who likes order and tidiness, I stared at the mess that was the image of my right retina in fascinated dismay. He pointed out a giant floater on the image of my left retina, and then zoomed in on some strange marks on the right one and explained that they indicated the oil in my eye. He even gave us a little history lesson of the machine itself, telling us that it was invented by a Scottish man whose son had gone blind because something had been missed in his diagnosis and so he went on to invent a machine which would take a picture of the entire retina. I was tempted to ask if I could have a copy of the images, but suspected that it wouldn’t be allowed. Plus, I’d probably just get depressed every time I looked at them. So off we went, into the windswept streets, following the green line to the tube station as we discovered that the world didn’t appear to have ended after all and that relief acts in much the same way as a warm blanket.