Opening envelopes, closing suitcases.
I now have a whole new vocabulary about eyes. Myodesopsia, operculum, vitreous humour, entoptic phenomena. Wonderful words and especially relevant to aging myopic people such as myself. Then there's the less delicate word 'floater', which makes me think of a jelly fish.
I acquired my first floater just under two weeks ago. I was driving to work and a little dark thread swam across my left eye. I wondered if it was a migraine aura, though I don't get visual disturbance with my migraines. It wasn't. It persisted during the day in a delicate and fairly unobtrusive way. On the way home, I dropped in at our local chemist and asked the pharmacologist whether I should be worried. No, he said. Very common. For some people these things float about all their lives.
And the thread did reduce to a little blob with a grey dot in the middle of it. I got my GP to take a look at my eyes -- just in case -- and she said everything looked fine. Her parting words were: 'But if you ever get something like a curtain descending over one part of your eye, a partial loss of vision, come back right away. We'd need to act on that quickly.'
I am a natural optimist and a pretty healthy person. No curtains for me. Or so I thought . . .
A week ago yesterday we drove off for a week's holiday, with a lot of books and the potential for miles of sleep. We arrived. We unpacked. Suddenly I got a little, rather pretty, flashing arc to the right of my right eye. Like a small firework display. I sat down for a bit so see whether this was a migraine sign or what. Nothing much happened. It came and went, specially when I moved my head quickly from side to side.
While reflecting on this, I poured a small glass of wine and went to the cupboard to get some crisps. Only I didn't get the crisps, or drink the wine, because suddenly there were swirling black rings in my right eye, so dramatic they made me giddy. It was a case of NHS 24 -- could we find the number?
It was not a calm evening. We ended up -- after conversations on the phone with nurses, and senior nurses and one doctor -- in Aviemore (about 12 miles from where we were staying) just after midnight. There's an all-night health centre there -- who would have thought it? And the following morning, after a few hours sleep, I was in Raigmore Hospital in Inverness seeing an opthalmologist (actually two, one in training and one Master Chef).
The fear, of course, was that I might have a retina seeking to detach itself. However, that hasn't happened.
What was going on was bits of vitreous humour coming away and, in my right eye, that had caused a bleed, which manifested as black swirls. It is now more like looking through a bucket of dirty water with black floaty bits in the middle and these have, as the consultant suggested they would, diminished somewhat. I hope they'll diminish more because working on screen and reading is a lot less comfortable than it was.
I can see. I spent the whole of the holiday week appreciating being able to see more than I ever have in my whole life, even though I can now see less well than I could before. I kept thinking about the doors of perception and how they can close. Somehow that made me more aware of all of my senses, especially touch. And the amazing smell and colour of the wild thyme on the hills. . .
And despite all the doom and gloom about cuts and health service and so on, what marvellous medical support! It could not have been better. Each of the professionals who spoke to me -- from the NHS 24 Call Centre to the man who opened the Health Centre door in the middle of the night in Aviemore to the two opthamologists (junior and senior) in Raigmore Hospital to the hospital nurse who chatted to us in the corridor while my pupils were dilating -- was so very kind and perceptive, explained so well. I felt enormously cared for. We human beings, so widely reported for atrocity and violence on the evening news, are minute by minute responsible for numerous unreported acts of kindness.
I was in the middle of writing a poem when we went away so I swiftly memorised it, just in case I couldn't see to read it. It struck me that this would be an excellent way to slow poets down, especially those poets who write in huge swathes. There would be a new law which would decree that people could only write as many poems as they could commit to memory. Annually, they would be tested, just to check they hadn't sneaked in a few they couldn't recite on demand. What about it?
Overwork didn't lead to the eye thing. Excessive reading and writing didn't lead to the eye thing. Why first the left and then the right within a week? No idea, said the consultant. Matt, who is a mechanic by training and experience, pointed out that both my eyes were the same age and this struck me as a better answer.
But I think I will be reading a little less. And at the computer screen a little less. I was going to say 'and in the garden a little more' but this morning rain is hurtling down as if to reproach my temerity for watering the hanging baskets last night . . .
Lots of orders have come in so that's task one. Lots of submissions, several of these rather interesting and some of the poets even knowing my name. And Sphinx reviews to get online this week.
I am in good humour and I hope my vitreous is too.