Tag Archives: fear

Sod* the Tories

I had a check-up appointment at Moorfields booked for Monday 4 June.  You will note, dear Reader, my use of the past tense in that sentence.  For, late on Wednesday afternoon I received a voicemail from Moorfields telling me that my appointment had been cancelled due to not enough doctors and too many patients.  Upon receiving this news, I let out a massive internal howl of, “Noooooooooooooooooo!”, before indulging in a short fit of wailing once I reached the safety of home.  I then promptly regretted this, as it just made my eyes ache more.

As my eye buddies know all too well, my reaction to this news is about far more than a cancelled appointment.  I approach my check-ups at Moorfields in fear and dread.  The build-up starts a good couple of weeks beforehand each time, as my anxiety builds and insomnia becomes my nightly companion.  “What will they say?”, I wonder to myself.  “Will the detached part of my retina have progressed any further?  Will the 360 degree laser line be holding firm?  What of the abnormal blood-vessels – will they have worsened?  Will my eye pressures be satisfactory?  Will my cornea still be healthy, with the oil in?  And my good eye… will it be okay?  Or will it – heaven forbid – have  developed more tears?  Will the lattice degeneration be any worse?  Will they want – or need – to perform yet more surgery, or will I gain another reprieve?  How will I cope if more surgery is necessary?”  All these questions, and more, clamour in my ears like a huge orchestra tuning up for a performance.

Along with all the questions, I increase my ever-so-slightly-obsessive visual checking as the appointment looms ominously on the horizon.  I wrote about this a while ago, in ‘Pre-appointment paranoia‘.  The stress builds and builds until usually it reaches a crescendo during the appointment itself, at the point at which the consultant has finished the examination, scribbled the notes down, and sat back to tell me the results and allow me to ask as many questions as I can cram in.  Depending on the news, the crescendo is either one of glorious, melodic harmonies, or a clashing of cymbals and change in tempo as the key abruptly switches to minor.  This cancellation of my appointment is equivalent to the entire orchestra standing up and dropping their instruments onto the concrete floor with a collective crash; leaving a solitary violinist, oblivious in the corner, plucking forlornly at a broken string.

I don’t even have a new appointment date to focus on yet.  Although I rang Moorfields straight back, there was nobody available.  I rang the following day during my lunch break at work and spent most of it listening to a calm, automated voice informing me that I was “number one in the queue”.  I think they’d actually all gone to lunch and left the telephone queueing system switched on.  After about 35 minutes of this, I gave up and sought solace in my cheese and cucumber sandwiches.  I eventually got through after work, and was told that a new appointment wasn’t available yet as they had to slot everyone back in.

As with my only other previously cancelled appointment (have a read of, ‘Q: What’s more stressful than an impending eye appointment?‘), I don’t blame Moorfields for this.  Like me, anyone in the UK who has to attend eye clinics on a regular basis will be able to see clearly (even through the foggy haze of the dilation drops) how busy they are.  The clinics are always packed with patients, the consultants and doctors often have that look which means they know just how many patients are waiting and they’re wondering how on earth they’re going to get through them all in time.  The nurses hurry back and forth, and the receptionists have a slightly frazzled air about them, not helped by the occasional impatient patient asking if they’re going to have to wait much longer [pause while I tut and metaphorically roll my eyes].

So… if us eye patients with our dodgy vision can see so clearly that the NHS needs more resources to cope with demand, my question is: why can’t the government?  It needs no avid follower of the news to tell us that the NHS is in crisis.  Why isn’t the government doing anything about it?  Why is the government privatising it by stealth?  The NHS will reach its 70th birthday this July.  In today’s world, 70 is far from decrepit.  (My mum will be very glad to read that.)  There is much useful life to be lived beyond the age of 70, but many people may just need a little more care and attention.  However, the government doesn’t seem able to see this, and I can’t help but observe that this lack of vision appears to stem from idiocy rather than from myopia.  It strikes me that the government views the NHS as a particularly cantankerous decrepit pensioner, whom it just wants to shove into a grubby care home out of sight as quickly as possible.  I genuinely fear for the future of the NHS.  Further discussion on that is probably best left for another post.  But in the meantime, what should we do?  I might take out my frustrations by writing to my MP and including a free eye test voucher for Specsavers…

*Obviously I had a considerably stronger adjective in mind, but being a family-friendly blog and all that…

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Blind fear

Since my eye issues began back in April 2014, my greatest fear has been that I may one day go blind.  I’m sure that some people will dismiss this as hysterical melodrama; however, the hard facts are as follows:

  1. I’ve lost a considerable amount of vision in my right eye, which cannot now be restored.
  2. After suffering a retinal detachment in one eye, the risk of it happening in the other eye increases by approximately 12%.
  3. I have lattice degeneration in my left retina and have already had two large tears repaired.
  4. I have a cataract in my left eye.

So basically, I have good reasons for my fear and, being a realist, I’m all too aware that it would be foolish to gaze into my future through rose-tinted glasses.  This fear of blindness, coupled with the fact that I’m a bit of a worrier [understatement alert!] isn’t the best recipe for a relaxed and peaceful life.  It’s sometimes easy to get drawn into things like compiling a mental list of all the things I wouldn’t be able to do if my left eye were to end up as bad as my right.   (I won’t even get into that one right now…)   I’ve had nightmares about going blind – proper, terrifying dreams which seem so real that when I finally jolt awake I have to switch my bedside light on and check that I can still see as my heart rate gradually returns to normal.  “What could I do to lessen this fear of blindness?”, I’ve often wailed to myself.

I decided that it might help if I could actually meet someone who’s severely visually impaired and just chat to them about how they deal with certain things.  Perhaps facing the fear in this way would dilute it somewhat, I mused.  However, in order to do this, I first needed to find someone who would be happy to talk to me, and secondly I had to face my lesser worry of meeting a Scary New Person.  (Yikes!)

An opportunity presented itself out of the blue last week when I spotted a post on a VI group on Facebook.  It was someone asking if any members were in the Canterbury area as she’d like to get to know other people who were dealing with sight loss.  I bit the bullet and sent her a message, thinking it would probably disappear into that weird ‘other inbox’ Facebook has, and I’d never hear from her.  A reply pinged back within minutes, and after messaging back and forth for a while, we arranged to meet up for a cuppa in Canterbury that Sunday.  Fortunately, that didn’t give me much time to stress about it, but all the same I worried about potentially saying the wrong thing or coming across as being nosy.  (Is genuine curiosity and the desire to educate myself the same as nosiness?)  At least there was one thing I didn’t need to worry about: she’d told me that she’d be in dark glasses with a long cane, so  I told myself that at least I should be able to spot her easily!  This didn’t stop me from honing in anxiously on every person walking with a stick (why, oh why, do they make those metal walking sticks so bright?  Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned wooden ones which don’t stand out?!)  But I digress…

We met up and immediately I felt more at ease during our debate about which coffee shop to go to, as she observed despairingly, “They’re all really dark, aren’t they?!”  I was chuckling about the irony of this, because I have problems in places which are too bright.  However, it transpired that so does she!  Once we were safely seated in appropriately-lit area and sipping our drinks, we got down to the serious business of exchanging eye stories…

I learnt that she’s registered severely sight impaired and has had sight problems since birth.  When I asked what her eye condition is, she burst out laughing, before explaining that it’s so complicated that she often doesn’t know where to start!  The main issue seems to be that she has bilateral corectopia, which basically means that both her pupils are in the wrong place.  When she removed her dark glasses to show me, and I peered into her eyes, I actually gasped in surprise.  Her pupils are tiny, situated high up in her irises instead of in the centre, and their shape is slightly distorted.  She explained that they don’t dilate properly (the same as my right pupil since my last surgery), which explains why certain lighting conditions are so tricky.  She told me that because of the position of her pupils, she has tunnel vision – i.e. she doesn’t have any peripheral vision.  I realised just how bad this must be when I asked what her visual acuity is in each eye and discovered that they’re better than mine in my bad eye.  So basically, as she’s registered severely sight impaired, this means that her peripheral vision must be MASSIVELY reduced.

She also explained that her natural lenses are displaced.   She keeps getting flashes of light as a result and she’s been warned that she has a high risk of retinal detachment.  One of the reasons she was keen to meet up was to learn more about RD, which hopefully I was able to help her out with.  It quickly became very apparent that just as I’m terrified of losing any more sight; so is she.  I won’t ramble on any further here as this post is already rather long, but I learnt a great deal from our meet-up.  It was also a lot of fun – it’s always therapeutic to chat to someone who has a good sense of humour and understands certain perils of eye issues!

Blind skiing

The potential prospect of being blind terrifies me.  The idea of skiing down a mountainside at crazy speeds fills me with fear on behalf of the person doing it.  So when one of my work colleagues asked me some months ago if I’d heard of Millie Knight, a blind skier, my jaw dropped in fascinated horror and amazement.  Of course, since the Winter Paralympics probably just about everyone is aware of Millie Knight, but at that time I knew nothing about her at all.  My colleague had read an article about her in our University Sports magazine (a publication which I’d never come across before, having pretty much no interest whatsoever in sport) which she kindly saved for me.

I learnt that Millie Knight is a nineteen-year-old visually impaired skier who  participated in the Sochi Winter Paralympics in 2014.  She’s lived in Canterbury all her life and was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University in 2017.  She lost the majority of the sight in her right eye when she was just a year old, as a result of an infection.  Five years later, the same thing happened to her left eye and she was left severely visually impaired with only 5% peripheral vision.  She started skiing at that time, first using her mum as her guide and then moving on to work with professional guides.  Her current guide is a chap named Brett Wild, whom she relies on to provide her with instructions via a bluetooth headset, which they both wear in their helmets in order to communicate.  He wears a bright orange jacket which she’s just about able to make out in the snow ahead of her as she has approximately two metres of peripheral vision.  If she loses sight of this bright orange splash of safety, she lets him know via their communication system.  It really is utterly astounding and I have so many questions about exactly how they manage it but for now I think I’ll just stick with being amazed.

However something which is, to me, even more impressive is the fact that in early 2017 she had two very serious crashes which badly affected her confidence, but despite this she managed to build herself up again and get back to skiing.  She’s said that she can’t actually remember having normal sight and that she doesn’t find skiing scary because she can’t see all the hazards ahead, but the crashes forced her to confront the danger of the sport.  The crashes really do sound horrendous.  The first left her with cuts to her chin after she skidded under an inflatable barrier which reinflated on top of her; and the second left her with concussion.  She’s won two silver medals and one bronze in the Winter Paralympics, which is pretty amazing evidence of the fact that she managed to conquer her fear and get back to skiing.  You can read her full story, complete with utterly terrifying video clips of her hurtling down a mountainside at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/skiing_blind_crashing_at_70mph.

Attributes of an RD patient

Working in a university means that I’ve heard an awful lot about ‘graduate attributes’ lately.  ‘Graduate attributes’ appears to be the latest buzz phrase in the plot to try and convince students that they’re not wasting their money and graduating with a mountain of debt in vain worthy aim of higher education institutions to not only provide students with a good solid education in their chosen field, but also to make them responsible, respectable and, above all, employable citizens.  Basically, ‘graduate attributes’ appears to be a marketing strategy to boost student recruitment and improve league table results set of qualities and skills which students are encouraged to develop during their time at university.  These vary from one institution to another, but typical examples include the following: confidence, digital literacy, adaptability, integrity, effective communication skills… the list goes on and on.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if tuition fees are actually trebled soon, if students continue to graduate with such impressively long lists of transferrable skills.

But I digress.  Hearing so much about ‘graduate attributes’ got me thinking about what the typical attributes of a seasoned retinal detachment patient might be.  So I set up a working party, a focus group, and a couple of committees and then came up with the following list:

  1. Patience
    Waiting in hospitals for appointments; waiting for our eyes to dilate; posturing for hours and hours with our heads stuffed into pillows, bones digging into mattresses, and muscles aching; waiting for gas bubbles to disperse; waiting and hoping that our retinas have successfully reattached…  It’s clear from all this that it’s pretty much impossible to be an impatient RD patient.
  2. Determination
    Those hours, days, weeks, and sometimes even months of painful posturing which we force ourselves through because we know it’s the one positive thing we can actually do to try and get the sodding retina to stick demonstrates our gritty determination in the face of physical and mental torture.
  3. Resilience
    This one is particularly appropriate for those of us who have had to endure multiple detachments and surgeries.  Our vision changes dramatically from blindness, to light perception, to weird wobbly shapes and crooked edges, to underwater fuzziness.  After each detachment and each surgery we have to accustom ourselves to further visual changes, but we get up again (once we’re given the all-clear to stop posturing) and we just keep ploughing on…  In fact, the lyrics of this song’s chorus seem particularly appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LODkVkpaVQA.  If you’re an RD patient, join me right now in having a listen and singing along to the chorus REALLY loudly.  🙂
  4. Anxiety
    Okay, now I get this is supposed to be a list of positive attributes, but I like to take a realistic approach.  Clearly the same can’t be said of ‘graduate attributes’ as neither ‘getting drunk on cheap beer in the student union’ nor ‘leaving half-eaten plates of mouldy food around in a shared house’ seems to feature on any of the lists I’ve read so far.  But anyway – unfortunately, anxiety certainly seems to be extremely common in RD patients.  Eyesight is precious.  It’s the sense which people fear losing above all others.  It’s therefore perfectly understandable that we often feel anxious about the very real risk of further sight loss.
  5. A sense of perspective
    As mentioned above, RD is grim and life-changing.  Eye surgery is frightening, and its after-effects of often overwhelming anxiety can be utterly exhausting at times.  However, I have found that this has led to a useful sense of perspective when faced with other unpleasant / dull / tedious / scary things I have to do.  I simply ask myself the question: “Is it as bad as eye surgery?”.  The answer, so far, has always been a resounding, “No”.  So then I just crack on and do whatever it is that I have to do.
  6.  Awareness of true friends
    They say you find out who your true friends are when you’re going through a hard time, and I can confirm this to be absolutely true.  It can be hugely upsetting and disappointing to discover that someone you’ve known for years and believed was an old friend is actually not a true friend; however with number 5 in mind, I’ve learnt that it’s better not to waste time on such people.  Instead, it’s far more helpful to focus on the genuine people in our lives and enjoy spending time with them.
  7. Extended swearing vocabulary
    When your retina detaches again, and again, and again, and AGAIN (okay, you get the picture), a short, sharp explosion of expletives can prove to be extremely satisfying in releasing pent up frustration.  It turns out that there’s a wide variety of adjectives with which to describe a retina which won’t remain attached, apart from ‘sodding’.

So that’s my list of RD patient attributes.  If you can think of anything else which you believe should be on that list, just let me know in the comments below!  Writing this post has made me realise that I’ve learnt some far more valuable lessons from dealing with RD than I did during my three years as a student.  Never mind my 2.1 in Art and English; I just wish I could graduate from my RD experience with 6/6 vision…

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” (erm…)

Note: Musical accompaniment for this blog post can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFtb3EtjEic

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, crooned the voice on the radio as I sat at my table wrapping presents and swearing under my breath after losing the end of the sellotape for about the eighth time in the past ten minutes.  “No it bloody well isn’t!”, I declared aloud with feeling.

Suddenly, the music did that audible slow-motion type thing where it noisily jangles into silence, there was a loud bang from the radio, all my Christmas cards fell off the bookshelf, and I beheld before me not an angel but a smartly dressed man wearing a suit complete with bow tie.  He also had an expression on his face which didn’t look entirely happy.  “What did you say?”, he demanded with an American twang.  “Errr, who are you and what are you doing?”, I spluttered in response, my eyes almost popping out of my head which couldn’t be good for my retinas.  “I’m Andy Williams”, he replied, “And that’s my song you’re insulting.”  I stared at him, wondering if I’d poured half a bottle of brandy into my tea by mistake and was suffering from alcohol-induced hallucinations.  “But I thought Bing Crosby sang that song!”, I stuttered, closing my eyes and opening them again in much the same way as I switch my computer off and on again when it encounters a problem.  It didn’t work.  He was still there.  And he actually looked even more annoyed.  “Oh no – Bing didn’t sing this”, he said, “This is my song.  But what I want to know is, how can you possibly think that it’s not the most wonderful time of the year?  Most people think it is!”  He stared at me accusingly, with one eyebrow raised.  “Well I’m not most people”, I retorted.  “And it certainly isn’t the most wonderful time of the year if you’ve had five lots of eye surgery for multiple retinal detachments and have an eyeball filled with silicone oil!”  He looked bemused.  “You haven’t been reading my blog, have you?”, I accused him in turn.  He shook his head slowly.  “Well, you might want to start with the post, How it all began, I advised, “But basically, there are quite a lot of things at this time of year which are a bit of a nightmare for people who’ve had retinal detachments.”  He nodded, indicating that I should continue.

I took a deep breath.  “Well, for starters – we only get about seven hours of proper daylight in the UK at this time of year.  That means a lot more driving in the dark, which is much more difficult and needs loads more concentration than it does if your eyes are working properly.  Then along with the winter we get icy weather and I worry about falling over and banging my head, which I’ve expressly been told by a surgeon not to do.  It doesn’t help that my workplace never grits the sodding paths properly when the weather’s really icy.  And all those Christmas lights…”  I trailed off, metaphorically rolling my eyes in despair.  “They’re just beautiful, aren’t they?”, he said, admiringly.  “No!”, I snapped.  “They’re not, actually.  They’re a complete nightmare for people with eye issues.  Have you seen what my ruddy street looks like at the moment?”  He shook his head.  “Come on – follow me”, I instructed him.

I stomped off into the kitchen and flipped up the window blind.  An array of dazzling, multicoloured lights flashed and blinked erratically from the opposite houses, like a scene from ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’.  “The other day when I walked through my front door coming home from work, I saw a flash”, I told him.  “So I kept moving my eyes around and staring at the wall where I’d seen it to work out whether it was a flash inside my eye or something external.  Eventually, I figured out that it was the lights on that house opposite, shining through the tiny windows on my front door and reflecting back off part of the door frame to my living room, as they reached a certain point in their series of various flashing patterns.”  I flipped the blind closed, went back into the living room and sat down heavily on the sofa with my head in my hands.  “Have you any idea how terrifying it is when you see a flash and think your retina might be detaching AGAIN?”, I half wailed.  He shook his head, looking somewhat chastened.  “No, I don’t”, he replied honestly.  “But I think I can understand now why this isn’t the best time of year for you.  Perhaps you can enjoy some parts of it though?”, he asked, hopefully.  “Oh yes”, I agreed, “I definitely will.”  With that, he smiled and then promptly vanished into thin air, rather like the last remnants of a gas bubble after a vitrectomy.

“Well, you might at least have picked up all the Christmas cards before leaving”, I muttered to myself as I collected them from the floor and carefully stood them back on the bookshelf.  At that point, the radio crackled into life again with the start of a familiar tune.  I groaned, but surprise prevented me from switching it off as the lyrics kicked in:

It’s the most frustrating time of the year
For people with RD and rubbish acuity
Who struggle to see
It’s the most frustrating time of the year!

It’s the crap-crappiest season of all
With those slippery pathways and fear of head trauma
In case of a fall,
It’s the crap-crappiest season of all!

More darkness than daylight
Unbearable bright lights
And flashes wherever we go.
More glary than fairy
And really quite scary
For those with eye problems, you know!

It’s the most frustrating time of the year
With shops crammed with people,
More there to bump into
And music so loud!
It’s the most frustrating time
Yes the most frustrating time
Oh the most frustrating time
Of the year!

[Hic]  I haven’t really been on the booze.  Honest.  But here’s wishing all my eye buddies, fellow bloggers, friends and family a very happy Christmas and a happy and healthy 2018.  😉

Edible eyes and appointment anxiety

A few weeks ago, my sister announced that she would be holding her ‘Twinkles at Twilight’ event this year on the eve of my next check-up appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital.  “It’ll take your mind off your appointment”, she told me, optimistically.  For those readers who don’t know what Twinkles at Twilight is all about, you may like to read, ‘Twinkles at Twilight, dread at dawn‘, but basically it’s an afternoon of tea, cake and games to raise money for Moorfields Eye Charity and Marie Curie.  ‘Twinkles’ relates to a twinkle in the eye, and ‘twilight’ refers to the time at which Marie Curie nurses begin their shifts to provide night-time palliative care for patients in their own homes.  Give us a few years and I’m pretty sure that Twinkles at Twilight will become as much a part of the charity calendar as Children in Need or Comic Relief.  Maybe.

So, following my sister’s announcement that Twinkles would be held on 19 November, I donned my apron* and cracked on with the serious business of baking appropriately themed goodies and cramming them into my freezer.  Much to my delight, I’d discovered packets of edible eyes in my local Sainsbury’s, so I made an array of chocolate muffins and macaroons, decorated with cherry noses and edible eyes.  I made so many macaroons that I actually ran out of edible eyes (there are only 50 in a packet), and had to resort to raisins instead.  That was okay though – the raisin versions just looked as if they’d been sitting in an eye clinic for a while after having dilation drops put in.  I also baked carrot cake (good eye food…?) and chocolate brownies decorated with twinkly stars.  My sister’s creations included fairy cakes with little faces made of chocolate buttons and edible eyes, and giant marshmallows on sticks with cherry noses and rice paper sunglasses.  Other offerings included a beautiful selection of shortbread star biscuits, and miniature star-shaped scones baked by the Duke of Edinburgh students who volunteer at my sister’s workplace.  The process of jamming and creaming the latter naturally led to the inevitable hotly debated question regarding the correct pronunciation of ‘scone’.

A plate of macaroons with edible eyes or raisins as eyes and cherry noses.

Macaroons

Fairy lights were borrowed from various willing lenders and strewn across furniture and curtain poles; sparkly stars were stuck artistically on door frames and mirrors; and the games table was set up.  As last year, we had a tombola (50p a ticket), ‘guess the number of stars in the jar’ (biscuit-shaped stars, that is), and ‘guess where the shooting star is in the night sky’ (each £1 a go).  The games went down a storm and raised a substantial amount of dosh, as well as keeping children entertained and parents probably wishing they’d just popped to the local supermarket and bought that box of chocolates instead of allowing their offspring to have “just one more go!”

A picture of rooftops and a night sky with a crescent moon.

Find the shooting star in the sky!

We realised afterwards that we STILL didn’t have any eye related games this year, so if you have  any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below and we might use them for next year’s fundraising efforts!  Despite this small oversight (pun intended), the evening was a resounding success and thanks to people’s incredible generosity we raised over £400 for Moorfields Eye Charity and Marie Curie.  Thank you very much to everyone who came, baked, helped out, donated, and of course scoffed cake (the best bit, obviously!).

The cake-baking and event organising did help to take my mind off my impending hospital appointment, but as the dreaded day dawned, I awoke to the familiar ‘bang bang bang’ of what I suspect was a tension headache hammering away.  Usually I get these the day after my appointment.  This time, I got one the day before, on the day itself, and on the day afterwards.  “Great”, I muttered to myself, whilst knocking back the drugs** and wondering how I was going to remain alert enough to be able to process any potential bad news if the appointment didn’t go well.  Fortunately, the headache had faded by the time we got into London, which was just as well as we were then faced with signal failures on the tube and had to dash up to the street and flag down a taxi in order to make it to the hospital on time.

The clinic was busier than usual.  There was a huge queue just to sign in, and the receptionist had that stressed look of one who can’t actually see the end of the queue (and not because of dodgy eyesight).  We’d already been waiting for a couple of hours when another patient sat down next to me and sighed, “It’s a long wait, isn’t it?”  I asked her how long she’d been waiting, to which she replied with another sigh, “Almost an hour!”“Ah, that’s not too bad”, I replied, adding, “At least we still have the NHS… at the moment, anyway!”  She agreed, and settled back in her chair as my sister and I exchanged glances and agreed via sibling telepathy that she was clearly a newbie as you never, EVER have an eye appointment which takes less than two hours.

Eventually, I was called through to see the consultant, whereupon I gritted my teeth and crossed my fingers as I put my chin on the contraption and tried to remember to breathe as I followed the usual instructions for each eye in turn: “Look straight ahead… look up… look up and right… look right… look down and right… look down… look down and left… look left… look up and left…”  Then it was all repeated when ‘the Prof’ came to have a look.  To my delight, he said that everything looked much the same as previously and agreed with my view that it was better not to rock the boat by having further surgery as things were still stable and I was coping.  Of course, they’ve warned me that if I start to get side effects as a result of the oil (e.g. high pressure), surgery may become inevitable, but I really do hope that things will remain stable for a long, looooong time.  Or at least until they’ve figured out a magic solution of how to cure PVR and make the ruddy retina stick…

* I don’t actually have an apron, but I probably should invest in one, as I’d make less mess when baking.  Or at least the mess could then be wiped on the apron instead.

** Ibuprofen of course.  What did you think I meant?!

The persistent presence of pernicious Mr Pip

Mr Pip is on the prowl again.  While most of us are bemoaning the end of summer after reluctantly switching the heating on and setting the clocks back, Mr Pip looks on gloatingly as he points a skinny well-manicured finger and curls his thin lips in a satisfied smirk.  He seems to enjoy these dark, damp, chilly mornings, and takes delight in taunting me through the thick duvet just after the alarm clock has announced that it’s time to move, informing me gleefully: “It’s cold, and dark, and miserable outside.”  When I fling back the duvet in his face and pad, shivering, across the room to peep through the curtains, I see that he’s quite right.  It is cold and dark, and it makes me feel miserable.  I suspect that Mr Pip crosses the paths of a fair few people at this time of year, so you may well be familiar with him already.  If not, you might like to read ‘The unwelcome visitations of Mr Pip‘, which provides a full description of this most unpleasant fellow.  I’d strongly advise you to cross the street and avoid him if you spy him approaching.

Mr Pip is irritatingly omniscient, so as well as being aware of my dislike of the short, cold days and the challenge of driving in the dark at this time of year, he also knows fully well that appeals season – my favourite time at work – is now over and I’m suffering with a bad case of Appeals Withdrawal Syndrome.  Symptoms of this include: a reluctance to go to work, more frequent purchase of lottery tickets, increased frustration when the lottery people don’t select the correct numbers (i.e. mine), excessive yawning, and an almost overwhelming desire to hurl a stapler at my office buddy when she persists in talking to herself all day when I’m trying to concentrate.

Naturally, Mr Pip is also aware of the fact that I have a check-up appointment at Moorfields the week after next.  “They might find something wrong and want to operate again”, he constantly whispers into my ear, spitting slightly as he does so.  “Maybe they’ll whip you straight into surgery again”, he continues gleefully, “Or perhaps they’ll tell you that they need to remove your eye altogether!”  He claps his hands in delight and prods my forehead with his skinny fingers until he sees me reaching for the paracetamol, whereupon he announces, “A-ha!  A headache!  It must be your eye pressure increasing!  That’ll mean they’ll want to take your oil out.  They’ll take it out; they’ll take it out; they’ll take it out and throw it away, and then your retina will detach again!”, he sings, mockingly.  He dances around me, tapping his shiny black shoes on the floor in an irritating rhythm which causes an answering drum to beat loudly in my head.  Each time I summon up the energy to try and swipe him away, he simply dodges and laughs again as if he’s having the time of his life.

Sometimes it’s not even possible to escape Mr Pip when I go to sleep.  I’m convinced that he has the ability to shrink himself down until he’s the size of a Borrower, whereupon he creeps through my ear and into my brain where he settles down and narrates bedtime stories to me from inside my head.  Stories about being late to hospital appointments; stories about writing down the wrong information from the consultant in my little eye book; stories about being trapped in some kind of dark underground world filled with dangers;  being chased; unable to see some horrendous threatening presence looming, coming closer and closer, faster and faster, until it’s right THERE!  And then I wake with a huge jump, heart pounding, and raise my head to stare at the dim rectangle of light coming in through the curtains as I open first one eye and then the other to check that I can still see.

As is usually the case, there’s no point in applying logic to the problem of Mr Pip or attempting to argue with him.  Pleasant distraction seems to be the only thing that really works in banishing him for a while.  Fortunately, I’m reading rather a good book at the moment and retreating into a fictional world is always an effective method of escapism.  There are also cakes which need baking, in preparation for an imminent fundraising event for Moorfields Eye Charity and Marie Curie.  Despite Mr Pip’s constant whining voice telling me that it’s cold and damp and grey outside, at weekends I layer up and go out for walks, defiantly pointing out to him that the air is still fresh, there’s much beauty to be found in nature, and it’s good to make the most of these short hours of daylight.  This causes Mr Pip to sulk, and he hunches his skinny shoulders and scuffs his shiny shoes along the ground as he drags himself away like a moody teenager.  Perhaps I should treat him as such and, next time he starts whining in my ear, tell him in that particular parental tone favoured by parents who also happen to be teachers, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”  Yeah, pipsqueak!