Monthly Archives: July 2017

The dentist’s ceiling

Nobody likes going to the dentist’s; it’s just one of those things in life that we have to grit our teeth and get on with [pun intended].  As with many day to day things which are taken for granted by most people, it’s also something which a lot of RD patients tend to worry about.  “Will the vibrations of the dental instruments affect my retina?”; “Will it be okay to lie back in the dentist’s chair?”; “What if I need treatment – will it be safe to have a filling?” .  I consider myself fairly fortunate on the dental front, unless you count the six extractions to make space in an overcrowded mouth (a clear design fault there!) and the dreaded ‘train tracks’ of my teenage years, which pushed me to the very fringes of ‘the out crowd’ at school.  As I’ve got older, a recurrent fear of my annual trips to the dentist has been, “Oh no – this time I might actually need a FILLING!”   However, one positive of RD and multiple eye surgeries is that in comparison with that horror, a visit to the dentist’s is a piece of cake.  (Cake with reduced sugar content, obviously.)  Also, as I pointed out to a friend, if I ever do need false teeth, at least they’re capable of doing the job required.  Unlike a prosthetic eye, which would function merely to preserve outward appearance.

After my first two RD surgeries, the time between my dental check-ups had stretched to well over a year, but I eventually plucked up the courage to make an appointment.  Upon being asked the customary question: “Has anything changed in your medical history since your last appointment?”, I explained that I’d had some eye surgery for retinal detachments.  “Oh well, I’ll try not to poke you in the eye then”, he said breezily, completely oblivious to my icy glare as he rattled his instruments of torture dental equipment on the little tray by his side.

I haven’t mentioned the eye surgery since that first time, although after surgery number five I did check with the ophthalmologist that it would be okay to go to the dentists, and he said it would be fine.  I still get nervous about going though, and often put off making the appointment.  This year’s reluctant visit took place a few weeks ago.  After scrupulously brushing my teeth in the loos after work (I assumed that the sign declaring, “This sink is for hand washing only; please do not put paint down the sink” for the benefit of the Architecture students didn’t apply to toothpaste), I headed off to the dreaded dentist’s.

As I’m not supposed to lie on my back because of the silicone oil in my eye, I always wait until the last possible moment before lying back in the chair.  If he doesn’t start the examination immediately, I raise my head again until he’s ready.  I shut my eyes against the glare of the huge overhead lamp as he counts and prods and pokes at my teeth.  Obviously, I understand the need for the bright overhead lamp, but something which never fails to astound me is the large flat screen television mounted on the ceiling.  So when I cautiously half-open my ‘good’ eye to peer out at various points and see what he’s doing, I have to avoid the glare of both the overhead lamp and the huge bright television screen.  “Do any of his patients actually watch the television whilst undergoing dental treatment?”, I wonder each time I visit.  Is it there as a method of distraction?  Or because he stacks up so much spare cash from his extortionate charges that it seemed a good thing to splash out on?  I really have no idea, but if anyone does actually watch a spot of telly whilst undergoing their scale and polish, do let me know as I’m rather intrigued!

Fortunately, one good thing about my dentist is that he’s incredibly quick.  So without too much ado, I was able to sit upright again and allow the slight queasy dizziness to subside along with the floaters in my eye which had been stirred up by the oil sloshing around as a result of lying back.  All was fine, although as the receptionist informed me of the amount owing for the ten-minute appointment, I opened wide without being asked to, and had to swiftly catch my chin before it hit the desk.

Note: For a far more interesting story about eyes and teeth, check out the following: http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-06-22/glimpse-of-hope-after-rare-tooth-in-eye-surgery/

 

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RD Holidays

School’s out for summer!  Well almost, anyway; I’ve seen all those hideous ‘thank you teacher’ gifts in the supermarket, waiting to be snapped up in preparation for their relocation to the depths of barely used cupboards while their proud new owners gorge on chocolates and celebrate the start of a glorious long run of freedom.  As for the University… our long summer vacation is already in full swing, for the students at least.  Less so for the staff, particularly as we’re now in the depths of appeals season.  However, the long vacation certainly makes parking a lot easier, as well as navigating on foot across campus without having to dodge the crowds or guess where people with their eyes firmly fixed on their ‘phones are about to step next.  “Look around you at the beautiful scenery!”, I want to yell at them.  “See the majestic trees; admire the rolling green slopes leading down to the cathedral in the distance; giggle at the rabbits as they defy Registry regulations and graze on the grass!”

Naturally, at this time of year there’s always much excited talk of holidays, purchasing of sun cream (don’t forget your sun specs), intensive research on Trip Advisor, packing of bulging cases, and… holiday pictures on Facebook.  A few days ago, one of my eye buddies in the RD support group commented:

“Meh. I’m not usually an envious person but I’m really struggling with seeing so many holiday posts on my FB. I can’t get away on holiday this year; surgery, recovery, no money then back to work in Sept teaching. Feeling sorry for myself 😦 Would love to be carefree with no eye sight worries. It’s shit!”

I could appreciate where she was coming from.  I also thought she was remarkably restrained in her expletive use.  My last holiday was back in 2012 – a few days in Cornwall at my aunt and uncle’s house.  After a particularly grim year in 2013 due to two close family bereavements, in 2014 I resolved to make the most of the good things in life and get out and enjoy myself.  So I booked a short city break to Berlin in April with one friend and a few days in St Petersburg (somewhere I’d wanted to visit for years) with another friend in August.  On the afternoon that I arrived in Berlin, I began losing vision.  I was diagnosed with a macula-off retinal detachment in hospital there in the early hours of the following morning, and as dawn broke I was on an emergency flight back to the UK for surgery.  When attempting to claim money back through my travel insurance a few weeks later, I had to explain through gritted teeth that no, I hadn’t enjoyed the benefits of the hotel for the first night as I’d been stuck in the hospital and then travelling back to the airport!  The trip to St Petersburg had to be cancelled due to surgery number two, after my second detachment.  My sense of disappointment paled into insignificance beside my misery and fear in my grim situation of retinal re-detachment horror, as well as guilt that my friend had to forgo an exciting trip to Russia.  (Fortunately, she was very understanding about this.)

Since then, holidays have been pretty much off the radar for me (apart from those pictures on Facebook, of course).  It probably hasn’t helped that a lot of people (including myself initially) assumed that the flight to Berlin must have caused my detachment.  Doctors have assured me that it didn’t, but of course the association lingers.  Many of my eye buddies also worry about flying and when it’s safe to fly again following surgery.  We all know that flying is forbidden when there is gas in the eye.  This is because the lower air pressure in the cabin of the ‘plane would cause the gas bubble to expand, causing a rise in intraocular pressure which would result in extreme pain and sight loss.  It is safe to fly with silicone oil in the eye, and I know that a few of my eye buddies have bourne this out, albeit very nervously in most cases.  Despite this, I’m doubtful that I will ever fly again.  Although I feel sad about this as I used to love flying and exploring places in different countries, I’m resigned to it at the moment.  I know that the stress and fear of anything going wrong with my eyes would far outweigh any pleasure gained from a trip abroad.  But I feel far more upset that RD has in effect stolen my peace of mind and ability to enjoy certain things.  I think it’s all part of mourning for our pre-RD lives, which I touched on in the blog post Crying over lost sight.  Personally, I find that it doesn’t help when people – with the best will in the world – encourage me to book a holiday in an effort to overcome this fear.  I’m sure that at some point I will be able to go on holiday again, but it will definitely be in this country and to somewhere which has easy access to Moorfields Eye Hospital, in case of emergencies.

Whilst chatting about all this on the RD support group, it was clear that many of my eye buddies share exactly the same fears.  One of them joked that if any of us decided to take a trip up to Aberdeen and experienced problems with our eyes, we’d be in very capable hands with his retinal surgeon there.  “Eureka!”, I thought to myself in excitement…  Of course, we just need to set up some kind of RD holidays exchange system, whereby we can go and stay with another eye buddy!  That way, there would obviously already be a ‘getting to the hospital in case of emergency’ plan in place.  It would also bring other benefits: understanding and empathy from a fellow eye buddy; no weird glances when doing visual checks; no irritating comments about ‘thinking positive and it’ll all be fine’, plentiful supplies of painkillers and eye drops on hand; knowledge that certain activities are off-limits; the opportunity to enjoy eating ‘good eye food’ together…  In the UK, I have eye buddies in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, London, Surrey, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire; and I’m based in Kent.  Now who wouldn’t want to enjoy a holiday in the garden of England, for starters?!  Abroad, I have eye buddies in the Netherlands and the US.  Maybe the whole world isn’t my oyster, but there are certainly a few pearls in that list…

And the prize goes to…

It’s prizes season again.  You might be forgiven for thinking that this is a good thing.  After all, prizes are generally considered to be positive things, to be greeted with squeals of excitement and delight whilst perhaps clapping hands together or indulging in a little skip.  Rather like surprises, in fact.  I wonder if that’s why the word ‘surprise’ includes ‘prize’ in it?  Well… sort of, anyway.  But enough of this etymological digression – interesting though it is – and back to the matter in hand.

In this case, the fact that it’s prizes season again fills my heart more with dread than joy.  I should probably explain at this point that it’s student prizes that I’m talking about here.  Part of my job involves the annual calculation of exam results to figure out which students are the lucky winners of certain prizes.  Apparently, the fact that they’re studying at what the TEF considers to be a ‘golden’ university [pauses to stifle a snort] isn’t enough, and we need to award them prizes as well.  Although to be fair, the prizes have been awarded for long before the TEF was even thought about.  Anyway… this particular job involves me spending hours running lists of data, linking it up with other lists of data, and then staring at row after row and column after column of Excel spreadsheets in order to work out in an extremely long-drawn-out and sometimes quite literally painful fashion, which students should be awarded which prizes.

I don’t know whether any of my eye buddies find the same, but for me Excel is visually pretty horrible to work with for extended periods of time.  All those lines and columns are an effort to focus on, and spending long periods of time scrolling back and forth through rows and columns of data make my eyes ache.  I’m getting through about three times the amount of eye drops I usually use in a day at the office, and my eyes still ache more than usual by the time I get home in the evening.  If it wasn’t so intense over such a short period of time, it probably wouldn’t be as bad.  But because this work has to be completed relatively quickly due to various deadlines, I pretty much have to just crack on with it.  As a result, I find that Excel in large doses is even worse than Dreamweaver, a program which I find quite appalling in terms of accessibility.  Even before my eye issues, I found the size of the font on the menus and files within Dreamweaver difficult to read.  These days, it’s horrendous, and I simply can’t use it for long periods of time.  Of course, there’s always the magnifier, but that’s not particularly user-friendly either, especially when trying to move between files fairly quickly in order to get stuff done.  Maybe I should start thinking about those ideas for a new job again, which I explored in New vision, new job…?

Of course, what makes prizes season worse is the fact that back in June 2014, just two weeks after I’d returned to work after my long period of sick leave following my first retinal detachment, I was starting to work on prizes again when my retina detached for the second time, leading to a mad dash back to the hospital.  So now, prizes are associated in my head with a particularly grim period of my life.  Unfortunately, being aware of this and understanding that it is merely an association does nothing to block out all the unpleasant memories.

However, I managed to plough through the dreaded task of poxy prizes last year and will hopefully manage to do so again this year, amidst much swearing, gnashing of teeth, and pausing to administer eye drops.  The final year prizes are almost done now, so it’s just first years to go once the results are published.  And as to who the prize is going to… well, quite frankly, I think it should go to me once all of this is done and dusted.  I might just award myself a £50 book voucher.  Or perhaps bake a celebratory cake instead…

Note to self: Must remember to stock up on eye drops in prizes season.  And lottery tickets.  Lots of lottery tickets.

Second note to self: Even prizes are better than more eye surgery.