As my check-up appointment at Moorfields loomed closer, the feeling of dread and impending doom increased. I’d been granted a reprieve from surgery at my last appointment but had been told that they’d book me in for it at my next check-up. So I set off on the train with my sister at the crack of dawn on Monday morning after a night of particularly spectacular insomnia, feeling as if I was going to attend an interview, sit a final exam, take my driving test, and move house all within the space of the next few hours.
Over a calming cuppa in the cafe at Moorfields before heading down to the clinic, we agreed that there were four potential outcomes of the appointment:
- They might discover something disastrous and whip me straight in for emergency surgery.
- They might decide to book me in for my next lot of planned surgery.
- They might allow me another reprieve in terms of further surgery and just continue to monitor the situation.
- They might declare in amazement that a miracle had occurred – that the retina had magically reattached itself, the PVR and abnormal blood vessels had disappeared, the lattice degeneration had healed, and the oil had disappeared of its own accord.
I was pretty sure I’d get option 2, but I’m always nervous about the possibility of option 1, whilst simultaneously continuing to hope and pray for option 4.
We trudged down the stairs to the clinic and settled in for the long wait, passing the time by people-watching and playing ‘spot the surgeon’. I tend to recognise quite a new of them now. After the initial eye check by the nurse, we moved onto a game of ‘I Spy’. This wasn’t the most sensible choice as I’d had dilating drops by this point and my vision rapidly became increasingly blurry. My sister therefore felt it necessary to give me massive hints, pronouncing, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with F”, as she stared fixedly at a spot on the ground to the left of her shoe. “What are you looking at down there?”, I asked in alarm at the intensity of her gaze, before I realised exactly what she was staring at and answered my own question with rather more pride in my own observation skills than was strictly fair to claim: “Oh! Floor!”. “Yes!”, she confirmed, instructing “Your turn”, as she sat back expectantly. We spied ‘glasses’, ‘trolley’, ‘drawers’, ‘patients’, and a number of other topical objects before she became stuck on, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with O”. My need to visit the loo had become something I could no longer ignore by this stage (a calming pre-appointment cuppa is all very well, but it inevitably results in certain action becoming necessary). So off I went, leaving her to ponder the mystery of something beginning with O. Later, she told me that she’d been looking up and down when the elderly lady sitting opposite, whom I’d recognised from my last appointment, leaned forward and asked what she was looking for. Upon explaining that we were playing ‘I Spy’ to pass the time, the lady nodded in approval. “Ah, I thought you were”, she said. “What’s the letter?” “O”, replied my sister in flummoxed tones. Our new teammate ummed and ahhed for a while before suggesting, “What about Ophthalmologist?” As usually happens when daring to visit the loo whilst waiting in the clinic, my name was called just at that point. Fortunately, I rounded the corner just in time to hear what was happening, and so hurriedly sped up in pursuit of the blurry shape of the surgeon.
We both sat down in the consulting cubicle and he introduced himself as one of the Fellows before turning to concentrate on my ever-growing file of notes. The minutes ticked by and my sister could obviously no longer contain her curiosity as she gently prodded me in the back and whispered, “Was it ophthalmologist?” “No!”, I whispered back. “It was ‘one’ – there was a giant number one on the door opposite where we were sitting.” The Fellow was obviously under the impression that we were discussing something of great importance concerning my eyes and so asked us what we wanted to know, at which point I had to admit that we’d been playing ‘I Spy’ to pass the time while we waited. Fortunately, he appeared to have a sense of humour.
Then came the usual eye examination, followed by a new experience with a dentist’s chair and a dazzling head torch to enable him to see more of the peripheral areas. He drew lots of diagrams and wrote careful notes in my file and I followed my usual rule of not interrupting his concentration as I sat there silently whilst screaming in my head, “please-let-it-all-be-okay-please-let-it-all-be-okay-please-let-it-all-be-okay-please-please-PLEASE!” Eventually he stopped writing and gave me the news: no change. Pheeeeeeeeeeeew! Then followed a discussion of proposed treatment and potential options, and he patiently answered lots of my questions about PVR before heading off to get ‘the Prof’ to have a look. They both asked me the dreaded question, “How do you feel about further surgery?” I always feel that this question is somewhat superfluous. Surely it doesn’t take too much imagination to guess how someone feels about the prospect of having their eye cut open and various instruments inserted for the sixth time? Maybe they’re just testing the limits of my bravery, but to be honest I’m just a quivering wreck when it comes to thinking about any more surgery. Anyway… I asked ‘the Prof’ what he thought was best, and he said that as things are currently stable he would advise to leave surgery for a while longer. My chin nearly hit the floor when he said that he’d see me again in six months, and then he had to assure me that he wouldn’t be saying six months if he didn’t think it would be okay to wait that long until the next appointment.
Suppressing the urge to kiss both surgeons and the receptionist on my way out, we headed up to the cafe and celebrated the good news by sharing a roasted pepper and halloumi panini and a slice of summer fruits sponge cake. Fortunately, my appetite had made a dramatic return and I demolished my share with ease and delight.
Note: For the more observant and/or curious readers, ‘something beginning with R’ is of course a reprieve! Or relief, for that matter. 😀