So, I'm eating lunch, reading the newspaper, and enjoying the pristine silence of Jarrah's first day at camp, when I noticed something odd. The newspaper was blurry. Not completely blurry. In patches, like I was reading it through a piece of Belgian lace.
That's odd, I thought. I rubbed my eyes. Didn't help. In fact, it seemed a little worse. I put down the cherry I was holding, because suddenly I didn't much feel like eating anymore.
Maybe I finally need reading glasses, I mused. I mean, I've had a good run--it could be time. I walked around the living room, looking at things. Close up--blurry. Far away--blurry. Hand over right eye--blurry. Hand over left eye--blurry. Okay, that doesn't seem right.
I sat on the couch, tracking around. The TV was blurry--sort of. The photos on the shelves were blurry. I needed to face facts. Everything was a little blurry, no matter what the distance.
I called David. "I think I'm going blind."
"Everything is blurry. It happened really suddenly. I'm either going blind, or having a stroke. Ohmigod, am I having a stroke?" My voice broke. I could feel hysteria rising. "Or a brain tumor."
"Okay, let's stay calm. A brain tumor wouldn't come on so fast. And you sound pretty with-it to be having a stroke. And I can't imagine what would make you go blind instantly, either."
I wasn't really listening to him. I was frozen to stone, staring straight ahead with my increasingly useless eyes.
This is it, I thought. My number is up. I'm going to die or go blind, right now, this afternoon, with no one to take me to the hospital. And if I do go blind, I'm going to wish I'd died.
Suddenly I heard David again. "Why don't you call your doctor. Maybe he can see you today, or at least talk to you."
"Okay," I managed. It was a good idea. Since I had to sell my soul to the devil to get my doctor, I might as well take advantage. I walked to the other room, noting that my legs seemed to go where I wanted them to, but my eyes were getting worse. I sat down at the computer and tried to Google my doctor. Only that was kind of difficult, because now I couldn't see the keys or the screen. It took me about 10 semi-crazed tries before I got the number into the phone.
The nurse asked me if I was taking medication, or feeling stressed. Fair questions. "No. I don't think eating lunch counts as stress."
She told me to call my doctor on his cell. While she was telling me this, I noticed that blurriness was no longer my only problem. Now there was a buzzing, shimmering line, kind of like one of those "you're not yet flat-lining" displays in medical television, bisecting my vision. That was both odd and terrifying. Also I had to admit I was losing the left eye completely. It was fuzzing over from the corner.
I am going to lose it, I thought. I can't bear this. I will lose it totally and when I wake up I will be blind.
Somehow I called my doctor. "I'm not in the office, but I can be there by 1:30." Good man. I called David, and begged him to pick up Jarrah from camp and race home to take me to the doctor. Another good man. Then I called my friend Melissa, who was minding her own business at the time, getting lunch with her 3-year-old, when she heard the following:
"Hi. I need you to come over right now. I am dying or going blind, and I need someone here with me. David is still far away. Come now and don't ask any questions." Hey, give me some credit for being clear about my needs.
I could hear a bunch of screaming as Melissa tried to reason with her daughter, but she didn't say no. She got to the house before David, and sat with me on the couch. A big shout-out to Melissa, who stayed calm, and took Jarrah for the whole afternoon so I could concentrate on my blindness.
Now I was alone, sitting on the couch, and something odd started to happen. About 30 minutes had gone by, and I was suddenly aware that the shimmering line had melted away. Shortly after, my fuzzed-over left eye cleared, mostly. And I just sat there, blinking, feeling like I'd just been tossed by the side of the road in a burlap sack after a long ride in someone's trunk.
Is it time now? I wondered. Does this mean death is coming? I tried to concentrate on whether I could be having a stroke, but I had to admit I'd just done a lot of things (walking, calling, Googling) that suggested I retained my faculties. But who knew anything anymore? I had just fallen as blind as Mary Ingalls in my own living room in the space of 15 minutes.
David drove me to the doctor, and he patiently listened to my story. He checked my eyes and said he didn't see anything, but that he was referring me "right away" to an opthamologist. I never imagined he meant "right away" as in the minute I walked out his door. It was hours later before I could fall to my knees to thank him for sparing me the emergency room. In my mind.
We drove over to the eye doctor, where we spent most of the afternoon. Readers, I have never been to the eye doctor. I know what you're thinking--"At your age?" Sue me--I have 20-20 vision. (That was reconfirmed today, by the way.) So I was new to the big metal machines wheeling towards my face with my chin in a vise, and wish I was still new to the experience of something ramming into my cornea while I was supposedly diverted by a shiny blue light.
The doctor was kindly (really, he fit that description) and gently asked me to repeat my story, which I'd now done so many times in the space of three hours it was starting to sound like apocrypha. Still, I was sort of relishing the details--"sudden blurriness," "shimmering lines," and "complete terror." Actually, I did a damn fine job with that story, if you want to know.
I didn't care for the drops. One drop makes you paralyzed, and one drop makes you blur. And the ones that Mother gives you, don't do anything at all. They told me it would wear off in about three hours, but it's been over six hours now, and I'm still a little blurry.
"Is this going to keep me from going to rehearsal?" I said as I leaned back in the big chair. "It's our last rehearsal." No, but I did have to act with my shades on, which is a bit disconcerting. Sitting there with my castmates, my vision was so blurred that I squeezed in some of my regular drops. Then I looked in the mirror, and my Bambi-wide eyes were ringed in yellow from the procedural crapcake running down my face. Lovely.
Oh, I forgot to tell you what the hell happened. Dr. Berger (my primary guy) asked if I got migraines, and I said no. He said that's probably what I had. "Uh, I didn't have a headache." He said it was some other kind of migraine, which sounded like nonsense until Dr. Thomas said the same thing--and eyes are his bread-and-butter. At this point, I had passed all his tests with flying colors (ha!) and he said everything looked great.
"You had an ophthalmic migraine," he explained. "It doesn't hurt." Something about the optic nerve, the muscle, yada yada. They don't know what brings them on. He said they can come in clusters, and that I obviously need to pull over if I get one while driving.
"But that shimmering line you described," he said. "That's textbook. Everyone mentions that. Some people even draw it." I must confess it was viscerally satisfying to have someone diagnose me with such assurance. I haven't seen much of that in my life.
"I could draw it!" I yelped. And I totally could. Except that I still can't focus my eyes. Think good thoughts for me having my normal eyes back tomorrow, and no more sudden blindness. But can you say "grateful?" At the end of the day, that's what I am.