I sure as hell hope it is.
I wrote, years back, about the Engineer’s early cataract repairs (his family apparently has a rogue gene that predisposes to cataracts, some forms of arthritis, and compulsive deployment of power tools). I remember thinking at the time that I kind of hoped I’d get cataracts eventually, because the bastard has never stopped trolling me by demonstrating that he can read the end-user agreement on the computer screen from out in the hallway, and that sort of thing. I can’t remember being able to see without glasses as thick as Little Debbies (at least until they invented polycarbonate), not ever in my life.
Back in the 90s my optometrist, a woman with skill sets beyond her professional certifications, remarked that I had the beginnings of a thing called map-dot corneal dystrophy, in which areas of the clear surface of your eye lose their normal fluid volume — it’s a defect in the osmotic pump of the hydrating cells, for you fellow medical geeks out there — and create a shifting, irregular distortion that can be seen on exam as a sort of archipelago of deflated tissue, like the Maldives, hence the nickname.
I didn’t notice anything for years, but eventually the astigmatism prescription in a new pair of lenses got into an argument with the astigmatism created by the map-dot condition, leading to an epic 45-minute phone fight with an optician who was hell bent on proving to me she knew what was wrong (narrator’s voice: she didn’t know shit). “Hello, I’m Janice. I’m the optician. That’s the lady who makes your glasses. I have a new lens blank here and I’m ready to go ahead with regrinding your right lens…” You know how you can always tell an idiot in the medical and related professions? They talk to you like you’re an idiot. I finally got her to talk to the optometrist and we stopped doing an astigmatism refraction, because the corneal condition creates an astigmatism that can change from one day to the next (think of fly’s eyes), and I resigned myself to a lifetime of 20/70 vision and seeing two or three of any high contrast road sign, license plate or traffic signal. You can adapt.
Then I did get fucking cataracts. Fine, we know they can fix that.
Then I got distortion in yet another layer of the cornea (think of double-paned glass, you know with the argon layer in the middle, or… well, more or less like that).
The world looks like what you see in a steamy locker room most days, or like looking through very diluted milk, or right after a flash goes off. I quit driving when it became clear the sun hitting someone’s metallic-painted fender on a bright day was enough to completely blind me for several seconds; hey, there was a pandemic, where was there to drive anyway? I wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy. I yell “seeing-eye boyfriend” to the Engineer six times a day and patiently explain to people that I can’t see what they’re pointing out to me, no, really, I CANNOT SEE. By now I’m using such big fonts you can probably read what I’m typing from the next time zone.
There was supposed to be a surgery in March of 2020. Instead there was a fucking pandemic. It may have been the felixest culpa of my life, because the longer I had to reflect, the less I thought of the surgeon to whom my very wonderful optometrist had sent me. Having to go to the mat with her financial office to get a refund of a four-figure deposit didn’t help. And seriously, who decides that the thing to do in a practice entirely devoted to visual deficiencies is establish a touch-screen sign-in station facing picture windows that suffuse the screen with blinding glare? That should have tipped me off right before you start.
So once I made friends with Moderna, I called someone recommended by the Engineer’s surgeon, who did a damn good job. Everyone does cataracts, it’s like you can get coffee anywhere, practically drive-thru, but corneal problems are a lot rarer. Forget finding someone who’s actually had the experience. One of the things I had time to ponder about the surgeon I walked away from was a complete absence of orientation to what I could expect and how the surgery was done. (I spent two hours in the waiting room for twenty minutes of actual examination, mostly by machines under the control of a woman whose face would have legit broken if she smiled, got five minutes with the surgeon, by which time I was exhausted, and formed my most lasting bond with the financial manager, who practically became my new best friend.)
So I have this appointment on Thursday. A couple weeks back, I dropped in on a sci-fi geekchat that I visit irregularly (we’re talking fans who forex make Doctor Who videomontages set to Elvis songs), and said something like “I wish I could see that videomontage more clearly but my eyes are due for surgery.” The usual chorus of Oh You’ll Love The Results of Cataract Surgery followed. No, I explained, it’s this other thing and no one can tell me what it’s like and I’m scared. I don’t know anyone who’s had it. “Oh, I’ll call my mom,” said the videomontage lady.
A perfect stranger in Northern California spent forty minutes on the phone with me, walking me through it all (“no, you really won’t be allowed to do kettlebell goblet squats right away”) and took the time, being medically credentialed herself, to look up my new surgeon in the databases and report back that he had, in fact, all the correct qualifications and skill sets to deal with my specific flavors of corneal defect, and maybe even get away with two surgical episodes instead of the four that Doctor Waiting Room proposed. Sometimes the human race can still astonish me.
News as I get it. I am shopping for a pirate patch on Amazon.