Haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. Not because I’ve been on holiday although it felt like stepping out of the world (which to my annoyance carried on perfectly well without my participation – a lesson to us all). I developed a corneal ulcer and came within a whisker of losing the sight in one eye. Cue going back in time music and wobbly seventies screen effects . . . .
Monday night Husband and I had some friends over for dinner and I was rejoicing too much in the fact that my cherry cheesecake a) tasted nice and b) didn’t collapse into a mangled heap when removed from the tin, to notice that my right eye felt mildly uncomfortable. I took out my contacts, put on my specs and thought no more of it. Next day the eye felt more scratchy and sore. Now all of you lens wearers will know that it’s possible to scratch the cornea, and develop an infection in the scratch, although if you wear disposables, this is less likely. So I thought I’d scratched it and imagined it would just get better by itself. Alas, just like my mother I have an element of ‘don’t make a fuss’ when it comes to my health which I accept is deeply stupid. (If her leg was severed, my mum would hop to hospital with the other leg under her arm). I’m not quite so bad but there’s a half way house between imagining every cough is lung cancer and the other extreme where you’re scraping gangrene off your leg and soldiering on.
Wednesday I couldn’t sleep – a fork was jabbing my eye. Thursday, Husband took me to A&E who dripped a wonderful liquid I thought of as ‘eye heroin’ into my eye which removed the pain temporarily and packed me off to Moorfields Eye Hospital. It was a hot day and travelling on the tube, even with a companion was terrifying. I kept thinking I’d missed the step. I stumbled up the suddenly blurred escalators. People brushed past sweatily. Husband held my hand but I still felt jostled. My world was getting narrower and darker.
Moorfields diagnosed a Staphylococcus aureus, with fluffy edges which made it sound like some sort of Cbeebies infection. Specialists pried my eye open, and various experts kept nipping in to marvel at the fluffiness of the infection that was eating into my cornea. Most of the time they snapped from medical curiosity to genuine sympathy. Once a doctor mentioned prognosis and blindness in the same sentence. I burst into tears, picked up a tissue to wipe my eyes, and she literally knocked it out of my hand. ‘You were going to wipe the good eye’ she said. ‘You don’t want the infection to spread.’ I managed to feel shock, horror and gratefulness in about three seconds. My eye seemed to be permanently rammed open. I began to feel like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. They gave me antibiotics and told me to come back the next day. I felt they weren’t telling me something. Husband and I went home. He took over everything. I couldn’t read, couldn’t watch tv and had a pounding headache. There was no worrying about deadlines – they were an impossibility. I cancelled everything and lay down in a darkened room with damp cotton wool over my eye. I wasn’t allowed to take any eye heroin with me (it reduced the effectiveness of the antibiotics) but one kind corneal specialist looked the other way while I slipped some into my bag. It was impossible to sleep without it.
Over the next week, I went back to Moorfields every day while they monitored my eye. I got to know the stifling heat of the waiting rooms and the rabbit warren corridors. I heard people complaining about being kept waiting for more than an hour. ‘I don’t mind but I’ve got things to do’ huffed one woman. ‘Like what?’ said her husband. ‘I was going up Sidcup for the bingo’ she whinged. I sat and listened to the hum of the few working fans and felt thankful that Moorfields and the NHS existed and all I had to pay for were the drugs that would (probably) make my eye better.
On the fourth day the corneal specialist told me that they were worried the infection might perforate the cornea and lead to permanent blindness. Being myopic anyway, I’d always made feeble jokes about ‘being blind’ but this was the real deal. If the drugs didn’t work . . .If I’d come in to the hospital one day later I would have lost the sight of my right eye. But they had caught it in time. My eye was responding.
Now after a week and a half, my right eye is still blurred but the infection is shrinking and I’m feeling much better. I’m not out of the woods yet but almost. And I’m more grateful to the skill and kindness of the staff at Moorfields than I can express.