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EYE OF THE BEHOLDER...

Despite the Coronavirus lockdown, I had to go to the hospital this morning for my monthly eye injections. I’d had a call from the eye clinic a couple of days ago asking if I’d had any symptoms of the virus. When I said I hadn’t, I was informed that my eye injections would still take place and that I should keep my appointment, but that my usual afternoon time slot had been changed to a morning one as they were not doing afternoon sessions for the time being.

Emiko needs to come with me for these injections as it’s impossible for me to drive after the deed has been done. You get extremely blurred vision, sometimes black ‘blobs’ in front of your eyes and a quite painful stinging sensation when the anesthetic begins to wear off. So Emi has to drive me back home afterwards.

The trip across the city to the hospital usually takes around three quarters of an hour. Traffic can often be very dense and we always allow for that. Today, however, it felt like driving through a ghost town. Very little traffic at all and almost no one on the streets.

Nor was there a queue at the hospital car park, so we didn’t suffer our usual panic about getting to the appointment on time.

On entering the hospital’s main area, things were also different from our previous vists. Besides the absence of visitors, there was a uniformed security guard who stopped us at the door and asked if we had an appointment. I explained that I had but he said that Emi was not allowed to go to the eye department with me and would have to wait in the foyer. The whole proceedure normally can take up to three hours, especially when there are a lot of other patients to deal with, so I felt sorry for Emi having to wait on her own.

I set off to climb the stairs to the eye clinic but was stopped at the bottom of them by a nurse wearing a surgical mask. She asked me if I had experienced any symptoms of the Coronavirus. I told her I hadn’t. She then applied a very high tech looking thermometer to my forehead and glanced at it. My temperature must have been ok because she waved me past and I climbed the stairs to my destination.

The corridor in the eye clinic was remarkably empty, apart from one other patient. Chairs had been placed two meters apart. (Normally these are bunched up together and all occupied.)

The usual sequence of events is as follows: First you are called into a room where your blood pressure is taken, then a wrist band with your name, date of birth and hospital number printed on it is fitted. Then you have to do a sight reading test, a task I find increasingly difficult to complete correctly.

After this, drops are put in your eyes to dilate the pupils. You then return to the corridor and await your name being called for the customary scan of your eyes. This requires looking into an electronic device, one eye at a time, which then scans each eye in detail. All fairly painless so far.

The next step involves another wait in the corridor, (sometimes for an extended period of time,) to see a consultant eye doctor. There is one doctor there that I prefer to all the others. Her name is Susan and she always takes time to chat with me and explain things and is very kind. When you enter the doctor’s room, your eyes are examined with a device a bit like a horizontal microscope. This gizmo also shines a bright light into your eye. The doctor asks you to look towards the ceiling, then down to the floor, then left, then right. The same routine is then applied to your other eye.

After this examination, the doctor turns to her computer screen on which are displayed the results of your earlier scan. The digital image shows the amount of fluid present at the back of the eye. This fluid is basically blood seeping from ruptured cells at the back of the eye and it is this that causes the loss of vision clarity and eventually the loss of sight itself. I have both Diabetic related macular degeneration and age-related macular degeneration, plus cateracts in both eyes, so my sight is being attacked by three separate problems.

The doctor then decides, on the basis of this examination, whether you need to have the injection in just one of your eyes or both. Usually, I require it in just the right eye but in more recent months I’ve occasionally had an injection in both eyes.

After the doctor there is another, quite long wait until you are called into the injection room where two surgically masked and gowned doctor/nurses perform what I like to call ‘the eyeball piercing ritual.’ This is not exactly a pleasant experience and, no matter how familiar it has become to me over the last few years, I dread the entire thing.

But back to this morning’s appointment: There was no eye test, no blood pressure reading, no scan and no doctor’s examination. The doctor came and stood in the corridor the obligatory distance away from me and explained that, because of the current situation, I would be going straight for my injection without any preliminary examination. Furthemore, I would be injected in both eyes as this might be the last injection for about twelve weeks. Once things ease up with the Coronavirus situation, then the injections could resume at their usual frequency...provided they do ease up.

Well, this is a kind of double edged sword. On the one hand I’m glad to be given a temporary reprieve from the monthly eyeball piercing ritual but on the other hand I’m worried about how my eyesight will fare without the regular injections of the drug that attempts to keep my leaking blood vessels under control.

Anyway, I thanked Susan for her care, wished her well and went to get my injections. This time there were three gowned and masked people in the injection room, all female. They introduced themselves and indicated for me to clamber onto the reclining ‘bed’ beneath the intensely bright lamp...and the ritual began.

Having this done to both eyes takes some time as the preparation is quite involved. Lots of local anaesthetic is dripped into the eye, a mask with a hole for the eye is applied and a plastic clip then pins the eyelid wide open so that it’s impossible to blink. Then more anaesthetic drops, then iodine to stop infection, then a mark placed on the eyeball with some sort of pen to provide a target for the needle to aim for. Then the preparation of the drug and finally the injection proper begins.

The needle enters the eye and the plunger is pushed. The drug swirls around your vision as the needle is held in place for what seems an eternity. Then it’s removed and you are asked how many fingers the person performing the proceedure is holding up. After this you are allowed a minute or two to get your breath back before the same thing is done to the other eye. And, despite the anaesthetic, you can feel the needle enter the eye and there is a sharp stab of pain.

So, for the rest of the day, my vision has been blurred and my eyes feel very sore, but I know from past experience that this will be better tomorrow.

Sadly, the situation the world finds itself in at the moment probably won’t...

On a more positive and creative note, I’m about to mix another new track which will go either on ‘The Navigator’ album or on the ‘New Vibrato Wonderland’ album. Must try and reveal the titles of the tracks completed so far. Perhaps in the next journal entry...maybe.




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© Bill Nelson 2020

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