I was feeling about as strong and stable as a certain indecisive woman’s preposterous policies when my sister and I set off in the grey drizzle for my appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital on Monday morning. My last appointment hadn’t gone as I’d hoped, and I was convinced that they’d be booking me in for my much-feared sixth lot of surgery this time. With an eye full of oil and rising intraocular pressure, it seemed that the only way was up (baby!) in terms of the latter.* I’d spent the previous week or so in a state of mounting anxiety, and things weren’t helped by a run of stonking headaches, increasing queasiness and belly ache as the dreaded day loomed closer. Just in case I was in any doubt about my state of inner turmoil, my subconscious saw fit to remind me of it in the form of nightmares on the rare occasions that I managed a bit of decent shut-eye. I dreamed of being trapped in my house as the sea roared and raged ever closer, flooding my garden in giant waves and seeping into my place of sanctuary. I should add at this point that the sea is about a mile away from my house, so this was a most unlikely scenario. However, it felt so real that once I’d woken and calmed my thudding heart, I peered through the bedroom curtains to check the windows for salty spray. Drumming home the point, the following night I had a terrifying dream in which I couldn’t see properly out of my good eye. Each time I tried to blink the floaters away and focus on something, it appeared as a blurry mess of confusion – just the same as the vision in my bad eye.
Things weren’t improved on appointment morning, when we missed the train we were aiming for and, upon arrival at Moorfields, discovered that the grumpy receptionist was on duty in the clinic. (Well, it was a Monday morning to be fair, so she had every right to be grumpy.) Lucy somewhat gleefully pointed out that it was All My Fault that we’d missed the first train, as I hadn’t been as punctual as her in getting myself ready. I protested that the reason for this was that I’d been trying to force my breakfast of peanut butter on toast into my churning stomach (much to the dog’s benefit and subsequent surprised delight). My taught nerves required me to pay an urgent visit to the facilities before we descended to the clinic, so Lucy went ahead to book me in. The grumpy receptionist lived up to her name when she stared at Lucy in disdain and demanded, “But where is she?”. Fortunately, I appeared shortly after this and she waved me through without further interrogation.
We settled down for the usual long wait but were taken by surprise when the nurse called me through within the space of a few minutes. Visual acuity was as expected, and then came the pressure check, which I’d pretty much been worrying about ever since my last appointment back in January. I held my breath. Then I reminded myself to breathe, in case holding it affected the pressure. I opened my eyes wide and stared straight ahead as the nurse advanced with the pressure monitor and I waited for it to flick against the surface of my eye. As always, she took a few readings in each eye and then stood back and declared, “21 in the right and 20 in the left.”. “Ooooh, it’s gone down again! That’s good, isn’t it?!”, I exclaimed. She agreed, and proceeded with the dilation drops. I smiled through the stinging and watering as I felt myself relax ever so slightly.
We headed out to waiting area number 2 and settled in again – it’s always best to expect a long wait and this time we weren’t disappointed. I dampened my sandpaper mouth and we ate bananas, discussed politics, and played ‘I Spy’ as my pupils dilated and my vision blurred. Each time a doctor appeared carrying a particularly bulky file, I braced myself in expectation, as we waited… and waited… and then waited some more. After a while I gave up on watching out for thick files and eventually I was called through by a doctor I’d never seen before. I already knew that my consultant – ‘the Prof’ – was away that day, as we’d spotted it noted on the whiteboard as we’d entered the clinic. This did nothing to calm my screaming nerves. We later discovered that he was away at a conference, so I like to think that he was sharing ground-breaking research about a cure for PVR.
The doctor I saw was extremely patient, giving both eyes a thorough examination before checking my right eye over a second time. Much to my delight, he was very receptive to questions, which we naturally took full advantage of and obtained answers to even more than the nine on my pre-prepared list. My shoulders slackened slightly as he told me that everything looked the same: the area of detachment beyond the laser line hadn’t progressed any further, the abnormal blood vessels were the same, and the oil wasn’t causing any problems at that point. He emphasised that I must return to A&E if anything changed, adding that I would know in my gut if I experienced anything which needed to be checked out. He then went on to pronounce that word which is far more meaningful when coming from the lips of a retinal surgeon: ‘STABLE’. As my eye was stable (aaaah… bliss!), he didn’t see the need to rush into further surgery and therefore asked me to return for another check in six months. Resisting the urge to kiss him, as I suspected this would be frowned upon, I thanked him warmly instead and headed out to make my next appointment with the grumpy receptionist.
The grumpy receptionist took the full force of my delight and relief, as I gleefully told her that I didn’t have to return for six whole months and added that I felt as if I’d been given a wonderful present. She smiled, and I observed in a most uncharacteristically chatty manner that we usually saw her in my previous clinic rather than ‘the Prof’s’ clinic. We were treated to another smile as she explained that someone was off sick, and then she ominously remarked that she’d seen my name on the list that morning. Considering the huge numbers of patients she must see, and knowing that in my own job I only tend to remember the names of people who are either very nice or incredibly annoying, I briefly wondered which category I fell into. However, after further chatting as she made my next appointment, she smiled again before bidding us goodbye. We skipped out into the London streets, where we discovered that the grey drizzle had given way to weak sunshine.
Word that I was in celebratory mood had clearly spread, for as we piled onto the tube and sat down, two men clutching saxophones (soprano and alto) climbed aboard along with another guy who turned out to be the singer as they broke into a jazzy version of ‘Hit the road, Jack’. Ignoring the stony-faced feigned oblivion of most of our fellow passengers, Lucy and I grinned at each other and bopped along in delight, receiving a nod and thumbs-up from the singer in return. We continued to celebrate my good news by treating ourselves to posh sarnies from M&S (good eye food ones, obviously). I demolished my share with gusto as we journeyed back on the train; my appetite having made a welcome return.
*You may like to check this out if you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOMvs_1UFCk