A rather scary start to the day, which actually started the evening before. Picture this: I’m watching a movie late into the evening, minding my own business, when a mystery object passes through my vision. Not a small speck either, but a rather worryingly large dark spot, accompanied by flashes of light. I have my own shadow and light show, courtesy of my right eye. A look in the mirror reveals nothing. As Alice might say, curious and curiouser.
This late into the night, Google is my only option. Medical emergency, it says, get thee to a hospital, you have a retinal tear, at risk of a detached retina. Hmmm. This is not good. It’s very, very late and despite a hospital being nearby, I’m disinclined to wake Himself to take me there. My logic being that eye specialists rarely work 24 hour shifts. I opt to wait and see what the morning brings.
The morning is no better, the flashes of light are still there, albeit harder to spot in daylight. What’s more apparent is a “shimmer” at the edge of my peripheral vision. Last night’s floaters (as I’ve learned they’re called) are still there. I front Himself, the hospital it is.
The good people at Wolfsburg hospital are fabulous, leaping into action – I’m seen immediately. There’s only one problem – they have no ophthalmology department. We need to travel back some 60 km to Klagenfurt. And so we do, straight to the specialist department there, who have been briefed over the phone.
Once there, action is equally swift. Following a procedure to open my pupil, making me look like a cat at night, I’m placed in various machines and a series of painfully bright lights are applied so the retina can be examined. An aside: I’m not good with light, at the best of times. I am a creature of the night by preference, live in the dark when indoors and wear dark glasses even in the depth of winter. Even in the rain. Having intense light applied to my eyeball is akin to torture.
Finally, there’s a diagnosis: a retinal tear. A small one thankfully, which nonetheless has to be shored up, to stabilise it, so that it doesn’t expand and detach the retina.
“And how might that happen, stabilising it?” I ask innocently. “Laser”, my doctor says. “I’ll laser your retina, around the tear and seal it”. “Holy crap” I say. In my head anyway. In the here and now I squeak out an “ok” and sign a consent form listing a rather terrifying list of things that could go wrong, including blindness. Mind you, it’s also a potential side effect of having a detached retina, so it’s not like I have much choice.
Now, I thought having the eye examination constituted bright light. The laser is infinitely worse. Never mind thinking about what is actually being done to the back of my eyeball. For 10 minutes, I’m locked into a torture like contraption, with a lens inserted into my eye socket, on my eyeball, as the laser pulses away. It feels like 10 hours. I’m not proud. Tears are shed and there are more than a few squeaks of terror.
Finally I’m released, without a bill – they have no idea how to invoice an international patient. I leave them my email address instead and receive strict instructions: come back immediately if it gets worse, no sport (fat chance), take it easy, have a follow up check up in 7-10 days. It would be fair to say I’m feeling more than a little fragile by this stage. Not to mention worried. I’m blessed with good health generally – I have no coping skills when my health is threatened. Even Himself is subdued. “I thought you had a stroke” he says. Helpful.
We decide to stay in Klagenfurt, in case we have to make an emergency dash back. It’s another outrageously hot day, so we settle and I practice being still, trying not to think the worst. Later, neighbours arrive: a nice young Polish couple with cute dog in tow. His antics go a long way to taking my mind off things while we share motorhome stories with our new friends.
It’s not until the relative cool of the early evening that we venture out – I can be still no longer. Klagenfurt is in festival mode – there’s an oompa band in the main square (those poor men, in lederhosen, in this heat!) and the place is popping.
It’s a very pretty spot with colourful buildings reflecting a long history.
We explore a while, but with the doctors advice ringing in my ears, soon settle for a drink. I have something new – a cherry spritz – white wine, cherry syrup and soda, very refreshing.
A quiet but restless night follows. I suspect I have a few of those to come.