So, it was all set up. Eye appointment at nine o’clock on Wednesday morning. Cover for my classes was in place and sorted. Then the phone rang. I missed the call but there was a voicemail. It was from a nameless woman who was Professor E’s secretary. Could I come in at three thirty instead of nine to see the Professor? Oh goody! I had been bumped up.
I arrived at the eye clinic feeling a bit washed out. I had woken up with a stomach bug although the worst of it had passed by the afternoon. I performed all the pre-flight checks and eye tests without fuss and sat awaiting my date with my second professor.
My first professor is at the Marsden. He’s an outgoing chap who is charm personified. His confidence is highly contagious. You leave an appointment with him feeling like you could take on the world. What would this Prof be like?
I was called in and met a quiet, methodical man who was with an eager registrar who seemed keen to please. We went about all the checks. He gave nothing away, yet you still felt that confidence. He may not have been as brash as my Marsden Prof, but it was there.
There was a slight pause.
“I’m afraid Mrs Read you now have an ulcer in your eye. But there is no infection.”
The registrar and I looked at each other.
“I have a proposal on how this could be remedied. When babies are born, they are born in a sack…”
I looked nervously at the registrar, he nodded as if to say, “stay with him on this…”
“What we now do is take this sack and dry freeze it. I can use a fragment of one of these sacks to become a membrane over your eye. This will stop further ulcers forming. Once we have completed that, you can have further surgery to put gold weights in you left upper eyelid to weight that down, so you can blink properly. I want you to come back in three weeks to discuss this further. Any questions?”
I was taken aback. So much to compute. Baby sacks over my eye? Gold weights? I merrily nodded my consent and left to confirm the follow up.
Then it got worse. I couldn’t read. I didn’t realise how much I relied on reading in everyday life. My job revolved around reading. Reading students’ work, reading text books, reading handouts. Sadly, I still could read emails. Bit annoying that.
So back to eye casualty it was, and boy was it busy. Only one doctor on and a psychotic episode in reception. Yes, it was quite bad. But there was a chink of light. While waiting, I ended up talking to a woman who was there with her daughter and two-year-old granddaughter. The two-year-old was fabulous. She was speaking in the way two-year olds do, by repeating phrases she had heard from those around her. “Nana, put that down! Good girl. Don’t do that!” it gave a weird insight into what her family life was like and it all sounded good.
Speaking to Nana, the two year old had had problems with conjunctivas. They were back in to see if the medication had worked. Of course, the reason why I was there cropped up. I gave an edited version. They took it quite well. But then Nana hit me with a story that was more remarkable than mine.
Her eldest daughter had been born with no soft spot. This meant that her skull was formed and didn’t have the space for the brain to grow. As a result, her daughter as a baby, had to have her skull opened from ear to ear to create this space. Her daughter was perfectly fine afterwards and has just had a daughter herself. However, Nana had to got in public with a baby that had a huge, angry scar across the top of her head.
“I would get looks, even comments. What has she done to that poor baby? But you know what? I couldn’t have cared less. Fear. That’s what fuels them all. They’re all scared in case they catch it. Well, boo to them. You got out with your eye taped up and drool as much as you like, duck. You’re fabulous whoever you are.”
Her granddaughter was seen, and the infection had cleared up. I was seen and given antibiotics. We joked we hoped we never saw each other again. But the morning proved that there are gems lurking in those hospital waiting rooms.