C.S.F. Baden, P.O. Box 17522, Anaheim CA 92817-7522
This hasn't been a great month for me and my poor 100,000-year-old body. (Binary's great for exaggerating truthfully...)
Shortly after my birthday party, I developed a sore throat and laryngitis. (It's mostly cleared up, and now only hurts when I laugh.) Also on Monday I fell off a fence.
I suppose I should explain that. I woke up to answer a phone call, and couldn't get back to sleep because of the loud, thunderous music coming from next door. That is, from the apartment building on the other side of the house from my room. I staggered out, and learned the hard way that the loud music was one resident's way of retaliating against another resident who screams at her kid all the time. She was trying to drown her out, in other words.
If I had realized that I was walking into the middle of a raging feud, I would have left well enough alone. But I got her to turn down the music, and started back over the fence (the shortcut between the two addresses) when I lost my balance.
I distinctly remember choosing my fate.
I knew that I was heading down, to the concrete sidewalk. I couldn't make it over the fence, and I couldn't make it back to the railing of the neighbor's porch.
I decided it would hurt less, if I could postpone the actual "drop" as long as I could. So I hung on to the top of the wooden fence, and then let go to bounce off the sidewalk.
Apart from a minor bruise on my hip, I was fine... until I looked at my hands. The fence had torn gobbets of flesh from them, and I was bleeding from numerous places.
I went in, cleaned myself off, and put on a dozen Band-Aids. The wounds stung; some of them still do, in fact. I have about 18-20 individual cuts/abrasions/what-have-you, and I'm going through bandages at a phenomenal rate.
But that's not why I'm scared.
About the same day, I noticed that my vision was blurry in one eye. It wasn't dirty glasses, either. Sometimes I find my eye won't focus right; usually I attribute it to "sleeping on it wrong." But this didn't go away after a day. The second day, I noticed it was like a gray film or shadow over the lower half of my left eye's field of vision. I left a note at my local eye doctor's office, and went to bed; on Wednesday afternoon I went in and they immediately referred me to an opthalmologist, where I have an appointment for Wednesday evening.
As I post this, I have 2 hours until my appointment, when we'll find out what it'll take to save the eye.
It sounds like some deranged Good News-Bad News scenario... I went to Dr. Dugel's office Wednesday night, and he dilated my eyes and looked around inside them. He says what I have is called Presumed Ocular Histoplasmosis. (Note to the eye-surgery veterans: it's not a Detached Retina, but it is retinal damage.)
Everybody here know what the retina is? The retina is the whole inside back hemisphere of your eyeball. My retinas have scarring, scratches of some sort on them. The scars accumulate over time. They're not really sure what causes it; that's what "presumed" means. The "histoplasmosis" means that they think it's caused by a fungus found in concentrations along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Since only the center 5 degrees is actually used for visual acuity, the retina can take a lot of scarring before it interferes with your vision... which, in my case, it has. The only visible symptom I have is the blurring of my left eye.
I mentioned that "sometimes my eye won't focus right." I'm now afraid that perhaps my focus problems in the past have been caused by this building up over time, and not by any temporary deformation of the eyeball.
It's all terribly unpleasant, and quite frightening.
So anyhow, Dr. Dugel (rhymes with Floogle) told me I should immediately get a test done at the local hospital, a Fluorescein Angiogram. (Rhymes with Thorazine, but with a soft 's'.) He told me to call them first thing in the morning, and tell them it was urgent; and if they couldn't schedule me to beep him on his pager and he'd find another place to get the test.
I had trouble sleeping that night.
I eventually got up and checked my email; I'd sent a copy of "Fumbling in the Twilight" to several friends, and I was very pleased to find a bunch of good wishes in my email box. I wasn't able to stay on very long, as it's a strain trying to see with one eye that won't focus. (Until this is all resolved, I may start wearing an eyepatch and not even try to use my left eye.)
Sometimes when I have trouble sleeping, I have a beer. (In case you were wondering, I don't exceed the 1-2-4 rule*, so you can quit worrying about that.) I didn't have any cold beer, so I made myself some toast. I'd baked a loaf of whole wheat bread the day before, and nobody was eating it... so I sliced some, toasted it and had it with butter. Then I called into the home office in Texas and let them know I had to go to the hospital/clinic/whatever to take care of my eyeball, and not to expect any work out of me this week.
I watched a video that showed the procedure, and explained some of the more interesting side-effects and after-effects. They put this flourescent dye in the bloodstream, and take pictures of the veins inside the eyeballs. They're trying to see if there's any leakage inside the eyeball -- that's what they think is causing the rippled blurry vision -- and to do that, they shoot pictures before the injection, then right after (the blood circulates from the arm up to the eyeball in seconds), and then they wait a minute or two and shoot more eye-pix. If there's a leak, then the dye will tend to collect at the leak. (Imgine you have a leaky garden hose, so you turn on the water and see which part of the lawn gets wet.)
The only interesting side-effects are immediate nausea and allergic reactions; I didn't get nauseous until late in the test, so it probably just means I was hungry. Interesting after-effects include a yellowish tinge to the vision, because of the dye in the veins of the eye; and, likewise, the dye eventually leaves your body... in the form of reddish-orange urine.
The best part is it's flourescent -- that is, it flouresces in black light. So I've got 24 hours to get a UV light hooked up in the bathroom... although I may have to settle for just knowing the effect exists. Sure makes me wish for a nice snowbank, though.
The retina specialists at the clinic (Dr. Baxter et al.) will check out the pictures taken digitally, and tomorrow they'll get the slides back from the labs (Kodachrome from A&I, by the way) and interpret the results. They'll either call Dr. Dugel and say "schedule this boy for surgery right away" or they'll take a few days if they don't think it's an immediate vision-threatening thing.
My point of view? My vision's already impaired. I don't want it to get worse. If it's going to deteriorate rapidly until the Laser Microsurgery, then let's get moving now. If it's at a stable (although unpleasant) level, I'll get an eyepatch and play pirate for a few days.
"They don't know what caused it, and they can't fix it."
Well, Dr. Boswell (not Baxter) called me today, and we talked about the results. He disagrees with Dr. Dugel; he says the nature and extent of the damage to my retinas isn't consistent with presumed ocular histoplasmosis. He thinks that maybe I had a viral infection sometime ago, and that this damaged my retinas. He can't really tell for sure what caused this, but he says it was at least a few months, possibly years ago.
In any case, there's no medical or surgical treatment for it. It's possible that more refraction or magnification in my glasses prescription will help. They say it doesn't look like it's going to get worse; but then, it shouldn't have gotten bad "all of a sudden" on Monday. They're sending me a home test kit (basically a piece of graph paper on a stick) so I can see if it gets worse.
And if it does, I can get that eye patch.
(Footnote: To continue our deranged Good News-Bad News scenario, the good news is I don't have to have surgery...)
At this point, a "blind spot" is probably the best way to describe it. (Funny how these things occur to you in the middle of the night.) Anyone remember Larry Niven's description of hyperspace and blind spots? I just try not to look in that direction (down and to the left), and I'm fine.
And so far it doesn't seem to be getting worse, although it seems to wax and wane.
I find that writing all this down helps in dealing with it. Also doing it in writing, as opposed to calling all my friends, means I can pick it up and put it down as I choose... it's easier than talking about it at length "live"... In fact, I'm limiting people to no more than one eye-problem story per conversation.
Gary Louie and Nola Frame-Gray are my role models in this. (Nola wrote up her successful eye surgery story in APA-L, complete with illos; Gary wrote all about having his stroke and recovering from it, in LASFAPA with copies of the first installment in APA-L.)
I've received a few nice comments about my writing up everything like this.
Of course, sometimes they call me asking why they're always the last to know. For example, my sister Elaine is the only member of the family who doesn't have email, so she got it second- or third-hand.
Some things to clear up: Dr. Boswell is the doctor whose name I'd misremembered as Baxter. There is no Dr. Baxter, or at least, not at the retina clinic I went to. And "The Wrong Trousers" is an absolutely delightful animated short subject (clay animation) by Nick Park. It won an Oscar in 1993, it was highly recommended by J. Michael "Babylon-5" Straczynski, and I got it at Target for under $10.
(For those who don't get out much, an Oscar is the motion-picture equivalent of the Nebula. Note that there is no Nebula for movies, although some s.f. [or sci-fi] movies have won Oscars. Such as "Planet of the Apes," which got the "best makeup" award because the judges didn't realize that "2001" hadn't used real monkeys.)
Getting back to the eye situation, several friends have (with varying degrees of emphasis) suggested additional opinions.
Some of the pictures are color slides. (Blars, would you be interested in scanning my eyeballs and putting them on your web server?)
Small World Department: Dr. Boswell has worked with a railfan friend of mine, Flimsies correspondent Dave Crammer, who's also in the med biz.
And, perhaps because this seems to be the month for it, on Tuesday this week I started having this pain in my chest. It hurts to (1) bend or stretch, (2) twist to the left, (3) lie down on my back or stomach, (4) cough or take a deep breath, or (5) laugh. So I'm sleeping on my side, and I have an appointment to see a G.P. Thursday afternoon, Dr. Anne Sullivan, who Kay recommended.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the convention.
After I saw Dr. Sullivan, I needed to get some Aleve. I drove to Thrifty Drug, bought the pills... and my car wouldn't start. Lynn came and rescued me, and after I got home the laser printer jammed up and wouldn't feed paper properly! I printed a dot-matrix copy of the previous installment, went to LASFS, and the next day I drove to Van Nuys for Con-Chord 11.
I noticed something different with my vision, especially in the left eye. Remember I mentioned that it seemed to wax and wane? It was waning... I did the one-eye one-finger test, that is I held up one finger and closed my right eye, and there wasn't any blurring. No grey curtain, no dark shadow at all.
I was delighted, pleased, and overjoyed to have this cleared up. At the convention (which was the first time I'd seen Larry Niven at a con where he wasn't on any panels), Michael Bloom suggested that perhaps I'd been experiencing Optic Neuritis, or in other words inflammation of the optic nerve. Since I was taking an anti-inflammatory drug (Aleve), my best guess is that it took care of everything.
I'm amazed at how little "play" there is in the shifting action... the tranny people said that some bolts had been loose, and I'm surprised I didn't have trouble earlier. The feel of the shifting is so different, it's like driving a complely different car. I have to get used to it all over again.
To wrap things up: my hand has healed, my laryngitis/cough/nasal drip is gone, it doesn't hurt to laugh or sleep, and my incurable vision problem has vanished. My car works, and the only inconvenience is a current lack of laser printer. All in all, life is perfect in almost every way.