Better Than A Fork In Your Eye (II)

But only just. When I said that to the ophthalmic surgeon, she said “Oh yeah! I’ve taken out a few of those! Fish hooks, too.”

It’s nice to know your doctor shares your perspective.

Unlike my f**king hips, which blindsided me (every other joint in my body seems to be about half my age, but they were around eighty-seven when they got replaced with hardware last winter), my eyes have always been headed for, well, something. I have zero memory of a time when I could see anything further than a few inches from my face well enough to read (and yes, that means I have zero memory of a time when I couldn’t read). When I was still in short pants (okay, they don’t put anyone in short pants any more, but you get me) an ophthalmologist cheerfully told my parents I might go blind because I was getting more nearsighted at such a headlong clip that you could take me for a  refraction, get the glasses made and my eyes would be worse by the time they came back and we’d have to do it over again. Something about puberty arrested this, which I suppose disproves the old saw about what you’ll go blind if you don’t stop.

Everyone expects to get a little farsighted when they get past forty, so now the reading prescription at the bottom of my lenses is only about the lower limit for nearsighted legal blindness, instead of three times that. (This has led to perplexity when I show up at Costco and tell them I’ve come to pick up my reading glasses.) What I didn’t expect was, right about the time my marriage broke up (I don’t think there was any connection), to have my right eye refuse to focus even with a spanking new prescription; to start seeing double and triple images of anything luminous or contrasty (like highway signs and traffic signals), and to have my eyeball feel like it had been doing pushups.

This is something called map-dot corneal dystrophy, which is the commonest form of a rare condition apparently, and which my optometrist (who could eat all the MD opthalmologists I’ve ever had for lunch) had spotted several years before that, even though it wasn’t affecting me at the time. Now I was seeing double and I hadn’t had anything to drink that day. Yet.

What it is, is the cornea, which is sort of your window glass, doesn’t hold fluid evenly, so that you get an astigmatism (I already had the ordinary kind that comes from an irregular corneal surface, damn, forgot to mention that) which changes on a daily basis, depending on which cells are holding water. Meaning that you get a pair of glasses made, and by the time they come back, they make it worse, and instead of proper window glass you are looking through the wavy stuff they used to put in the windows of the restrooms back in high school.

Just like old times.

This left me at about 20/70. Newsprint was out. Giant movie-screen sized monitors and enlarged browser pages were in. I am typing this on a 27-inch screen in about an 18-point font. Today only some of the letters in my field of vision are double, like what you see when you turn a calcite crystal over a page of print.

It sucks, is what.

Then I got cataracts. The only way I can hold my head up here is to note that the Engineer already had his done, and he’s fifteen years younger than I am. I was so impressed at his being able to read a digital clock in the next room without glasses (which he began to do regularly, just to be snarky) that I said, “gee, I almost look forward to having that done some day.” Never wish for anything.

Last year I developed Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy, which is the other layer of the cornea. It looks like dandelion fluff is constantly floating around in front of me.

Amazingly, I can drive. I just can’t read a lot of signs, so I stick to places where I already know where I’m going.

So: first they take out the right cataract. Then after five Hellish days of no lifting and a little more recuperation, they pop some dead person’s cornea in my eye. This squicks me out even though I know it’s done all the time. Then wait for it all to heal up before doing the same thing on the left. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I could do it any time (Dr. Fishhook looked ready to do it right there in her consulting room, using an X-acto knife and with the Engineer holding a flashlight) but I am damned if someone is sticking a sharp thing in me twice in a calendar year. Shooting for March.

She does seem very confident, even though she looks about seventeen, but at this point, so does everybody. I could shot-put her, and I had to explain what I meant about working out (no, we are not talking about the cardio pump class with a pair of five pound dumbbells) but anyone who sounds that damn gleeful about tinkering sharp things out of people’s eyeballs strikes me as likely to know her stuff. I know how I sound when people come in dithering about I have this pain right here and I don’t know if I slept wrong (is there a wrong way to sleep?) and it feels funny here and maybe I’m going to have a stroke and then I feel it when I do this and when I can shut them up for two seconds I stick my finger on the spot I know is the problem, grin fiendishly when they lift three inches into the air, and shout “Eureka!”  Like that.

Nonetheless, can everyone yell the F word for me right about now? I need it.

 

 

Consumer Dissatisfaction, or, I Can’t See This

I paid the credit card bill for these eyeglasses about ten days ago.

BUSTED

BUSTED

I swear it gets worse with time. First, back in 1997, I had to wrestle an optician to the mat, because she couldn’t believe that my haywire vision involved anything but “unfamiliarity with polycarbonate.” (For those who are lucky enough to have good vision, polycarbonate lenses allow you to have bottle-bottom correction without bottle-bottom glasses. Myopes like me know all about it.) No, it was the corneal dystrophy, a quaint affliction that gives you a fly-eye multiplex panorama of, say,  three stop lights or freeway signs overlaid on one another.

So I think I have the optometrist trained to leave out my astigmatism prescription (because on a given day it can make the corneal dystrophy twice as bad), and I buy a pair of giant sunglass frames that the optician swears are pure titanium (“why again do you need such durable frames?”, she said, petite and sedentary, unacquainted with hurtles off of glute-ham benches or Batwoman dangles from Smith machines).

And I take these fucking glasses home and treat them like newborn guppies since, aha!, I can actually read through the bottoms of them even though now the computer screen looks like a dog’s dinner, you can’t win them all, and then what do you know, I get out of the shower, open out the left bow, open out the right bow, it bends upward in my hand like an overboiled piece of capellini, I bend it down thinking WTF is it hinged like that?, and off it comes in my hand, not unscrewed at the hinge but parted in the metal, like a paper clip that’s been at the mercy of someone with bad OCD.

There ensued a characteristic farce in which Your Narrator, destitute of attire, groped her way wet and dripping to the dresser drawer containing about seven past pairs of glasses, dating all the way back to the real-glass days (a half-inch thick at the edges, with yellowing nosepads), and rummaged through them trying to find one that sort of worked, so that she could grab the phone and leave a semi-hysterical message on the after-hours machine at the optical practice. It brought back memories. Once, long before the days of cell phones that would have solved the problem lickety-split, I got out of the shower to find that another member of the household I lived in at that time had taken my glasses by mistake and left behind a completely useless pair of weak-tea reading glasses. Blind is bad enough; blind and naked makes you feel like a mole rat. Blind, naked and wondering where your glasses are in the metropolitan area… well, I think the phrase is done for the day.

So today they called me to say they couldn’t replace the broken frame, discontinued by manufacturer (wonder why?), and could I come out to look at some options? The optician measured the refraction in the old lenses that are better than my new ones (except for reading), exhibited some nifty frames that could be special-ordered in my size and preferred colors, and said she’d call when they came in so I could try them on and choose. That will be trip number four, and they’ll still have the lenses to grind. This is the part I hate most about being half-blind: not the expense, only occasionally the paralyzing panic (“my god, without modern technology I would have to tap my way around with a red cane”); it’s the unending fuckery.

If I am very very good in this life maybe in the next I will not be necessarily rich or blessed, just 20/20.

Gratefulness

Every now and then you run across someone preaching about how good for you it is to practice gratefulness and keep a gratefulness journal and like that. You know the kind of thing I mean.

I was finishing my warmup in the gym the other day and a guy named Bill Mxyzptlk or something like that (one of those Slavonic names that needs to buy a vowel from Vanna White; I can never recall it) ditty-bopped by and asked me how I was doing. “A little blinder than usual today,” I said, since the corneal dystrophy, which makes me astigmatic in an unpredictable way, had been acting up and he had caught me squinting at my workout book. He wanted to know if I was nearsighted. I couldn’t be any more nearsighted than he once was and he had laser surgery and it worked great and… I really get sick of this conversation, which someone seems determined to have every time I explain why I am squinting or putting my nose on something or having trouble with, say, the text on a cell phone.  I should have been quicker with my return politesse about how he was or just said Fine, but every now and then I make the mistake of thinking that people are actually asking how I am.

I explained that there is no sure-fire surgery for the corneal dystrophy and that having it, I mistrust any Lasik crap that would slice the corneas up, and it never gets worse than so bad, anyway. “Be grateful for what you have,” he said gravely. “My father was a physician and he had a detached retina and they didn’t get to it in time. He ended up with 20-200 vision in that eye for the rest of his life. Just be grateful for what you have.”

“Scary condition,” I agreed.

“And I knew a guy who got a screwdriver in his eye and I told him to go to an eye surgeon and he went skiing instead and he lost the sight in that eye. Be grateful you can see.”

“Oh, absolutely,” I said, starting to glaze over.

“Terrible, terrible thing,” Bill mused. “It’s so easy to lose something important like that.” I nodded numbly.

“Just be grateful for what you have,” he repeated.

I can’t tell you how beatific I felt for the rest of the day.