I'll probably never know if it was the blow to the eye from a segment of woven wire that hit me in the face when I pulled it from its post or the limb that, two hours later, brushed over my left eye or even the throwing my hands over my eyes in horror two days later when our pup Liam ran into the barnyard dangerously close to the hooves of bucking and kicking horses OR if it happened simply because I'm old.
Over the past 2.5 weeks, I've learned about floaters. They're those wiggly, wormlike things or black spots that suddenly show up in one's vision, especially prominent when looking at sky or white walls. I may have had floaters before but nothing like the one that suddenly got my attention just moments after Liam escaped the barnyard and lived to dig holes another day.
Since that day, I've worried myself sick. I've tried to WISH the irritation in my left eye away. When the latter did not happen in spite of the strong desires of this tough ol' farmgirl, I finally did the unspeakable---for me anyway.
I bit the bullet, made an appointment, saw an eye specialist and overcame a second challenge this year related to deep-seeded personal fears. The first involved taking a hot-air balloon flight over the Arizona desert in February, which happened only after a lot of coaxing from my sisters and the balloon pilot.
Besides heights, I fear doctors. Not that the doctors do anything wrong; I simply don't want to learn that anything is wrong.
Stupid? Yes, but I must say that in the journey I've taken over the past couple of weeks, not one professional has chastised me because of my fears. Instead, they have exhibited understanding, compassion, encouragement and great skill.
My first appointment with "fear" occurred earlier this week with our local ophthalmologist Dr. Charles George. The good doctor had a little advance help from his friend and staff member Linda Neely Chapin who gently encouraged me behind the scenes. When the courage finally came for me to make the appointment, I asked Linda, a former student and friend, if she could let them know about my doctor anxiety.
I don't know if she said anything, but the minute I walked into the clinic, familiar and friendly faces greeted me and, each in their own way, calmed me down, including Rosalee whose friendship dates back to when, as a student in my English class, she thoughtfully brought me some baby booties crafted by her mother when Willie was born.
Rosalee and I enjoyed a wonderful visit about our families until Steve, the assistant, called out my name. He ran me through a battery of tests, provided some wonderful explanations about eye floaters, dribbled some drops in my eyes and went on to the next patient.
When Dr. George came into the exam room, he greeted me as if we were old friends. I'd come to his office decades ago when he had examined my eyes and told me it would be a while before I needed glasses.
On Monday, we talked about eyes and age, and that's when I learned that he was examining me on his 68th birthday, which gave us something in common, since I'll still be 68 for several weeks.
It was beginning to look as if I might walk out of that exam room a free woman with peace of mind that those floaters were just floaters and no need for concern.
At the last possible second, however, Dr. George quietly announced that I had a retinal tear. It has been hard for him to see, but he finally spotted it.
"What happens now?" I asked.
We'll get you to a laser specialist, he said, adding that it would mean a trip to Spokane, maybe even tomorrow.
Yup, those words accentuated any fears I'd had up to this point.
"Those guys do this every day," he told me. "You'll be fine."
Well, the gulps continued as I drove myself home, instantly realizing that car headlights behind me sure do have a stunning neon effect when you're looking at the rear view mirror through eye drops.
Bill had gone fishing for the afternoon at his favorite spot. I called him and gave him the news.
"Do you want me to come home?" he asked.
Nope, I said, there's nothing you can do. Enjoy your fishing. I knew Bill would be giving up some time for me in the next few days, so I wanted him to enjoy himself that evening.
For once, I did NOT consult "Dr. Internet" too much on what happens with laser surgery on retinas. My friend Susie had recently gone through a hip replacement, and she told me she wanted to know as little as possible about what happened in surgery.
Good idea, I thought, even though I did read one Internet segment outlining the general procedure.
Turned out yesterday was the big day. We had already spent most of Tuesday driving back and forth to Spokane to pick up Lily who had been at a stable for two weeks. We realized later that we had driven almost past the eye clinic in North Spokane on that day.
So, we took the same route.
As an aside, I must tell a "Nervous Nellie, who searches out every bathroom available when she's nervous" anecdote.
"Let's stop one more time before we go to the clinic," I suggested to Bill. Soon, he pulled into a Chevron convenience store.
"We don't have restrooms," the clerk announced.
We drove on. Bill said there was a restaurant up the road where we could stop. We pulled in, parked, and, again, I walked inside to be greeted by a sign on the Women's room (which had a key code for a lock) announcing to use the number on your receipt to unlock the door. The sign also said to knock before entering.
A first for me, the bathroom aficionado who's seen virtually all levels of restrooms!
Since when do you have to buy your bacon cheeseburger BEFORE you're allowed to go to the bathroom????
And, do those burger-joint receipts all have the same code number, obviously leading to the distinct possibility that the poor, unsuspecting person inside the restroom could be in for a surprise if you forgot to knock first.
Incredible! That's all I've got to say, coming from a town which understands citizens' bathroom needs and found a way through its "2 Reasons" fundraiser years ago to construct a community restroom in the center of town.
Well, we drove on, and thank God for Arbys (Denise, you'll appreciate this since you were an active 2 Reasons proponent. Arby's in North Spokane lets people use the restroom without a receipt for their Arby's Patty Melt).
Probably as a gesture of appreciation, Bill bought a milk shake.
Then, time came for the appointment. I walked in with purse in hand, ready to dole out the Medicare and supplemental insurance card.
A very nice lady named Dawn greeted me and told me how much she liked my bright, spring colors. Later, she told me I was beautiful. I told her I'd have to mark that on the calendar cuz I don't think anyone has ever complimented me like that.
Dawn has a soft place in my heart because of her warmth and kindness. Same is true for several people I met yesterday, unfortunately not learning all their names, except for the other "Maryanne," my nurse at the surgery center.
Bill and I sat in the waiting room at the North Spokane Eye Clinic for just a few minutes, but still long enough for my courage to be happily heightened by a lady from Sandpoint, Carleen Mikesell Wallace (SHS Class of 1961).
"Laser surgery, you'll enjoy it," she said, adding that she had gone under the scalpel with her eyes a time or two. Carleen's reassurance was music to my ears.
After a preliminary check-up and eye-drop procedure, I met my doctor, Jason Jones who knew my former student Matt Jones from Sandpoint, also an eye physician in Spokane. Jason came to Spokane several years ago from Ohio State University where he graduated top of his class.
He wasted no time examining my eyes, and I loved it when he kept saying that certain conditions inside those eyes that could be bad for my age looked good.
Then, he went searching for the tear that Dr. George had found. At first, he found only a tuft and suggested that maybe I would not need surgery, but then he called Dr. George for further reference. When he came back and searched again, he found the tear to go along with the tuft.
Soon, Bill and I were driving downtown to the surgery center, just off I-90. The efficiency in that place is amazing. I checked in, sat for a while, visited with some folks from Cheney and soon heard my name called.
The surgery center is definitely an assembly-line production, but the care by nurses is fabulous. When I learned that they'd have to stick a needle in my arm for the surgery "happy juice," and when they brought out the blood pressure machine (which I flunked the first time), I'm sure my blood pressure rose considerably.
Turns out when Maryanne, the nurse from Tonasket, took the pressure the old-fashioned way, the count was not all that bad for this Nervous Nellie. Maryanne also assured me that she had inserted a needle a time or two and that it was perfectly okay to look away.
Then came the nurse with the happy juice. All was great from then on. I may have nodded off because it sure seemed like the doctor showed up from the North Spokane clinic quickly.
"You're done," Dr. Jones said. Someone put a bandage on my eye, telling me to leave it there for at least four hours. Staff gathered up my stuff and Bill, removed the IV, gave me some guidelines, and off we went to none other than DICKS Hamburgers for a chocolate shake, Whammy and fries.
Twas a good way to celebrate the relief after two weeks of worry and fear. And, speaking of relief---though I did not need to use it---I'm sure Dick's restroom does not have a code nor a need for a receipt before relieving oneself.
When I removed my bandage last night, I learned firsthand just how weird double vision is. So, I put the bandage back on the eye and went to bed. This morning, the double vision is gone, and all is well.
More than anything, I appreciate all those people, including my patient and caring husband, who have helped me through this personal ordeal.
The world outside my window is looking pretty good this morning, and I'm looking forward to appreciating the beauty that exists there for a long, long time-----thanks to all these good people.