Adventures in the Eye Clinic

The allotted day and the allotted hour had arrived.  I stood in the queue awaiting to be checked in.  A lost looking ambulance driver was wandering round and round the eye clinic, trying to find his stricken patient.  A nurse finally escorted him to one of the clinics. I didn’t see him again.

I reached the head of the queue and readied myself for the pre-flight checks.  Apart from stating your date of birth and the first line of your address, the eye clinic also throws in your GP’s name and the last four digits of your contact number.  This can throw people sometimes, but I was prepared.

I was called in for an eye test.  This is the eye clinic equivalent to weighing you, which happens at other clinics.  It’s done.  It’s noted and never referred to again.  The nurse sat me down and began reading a letter.  It was a very long letter.  It looked like it had been written by Mr Q.  I had done some dyslexia training at work where the tutor gave us something to read, and then spoke instructions at the same time.  It was impossible to read and listen and the same time, which was the point they were trying to prove.  Aware of this I sat silently… for five whole long minutes.

She looked concerned.  I was not what she was used to.  We did the eye test and I did quite well.  She took me to a set of chairs where I sat and waited.  I was called through quite quickly and Mr Q was sat there, looking chirpy as ever.  I wondered how he managed to get into the clinic without any detection.  Maybe he tunnelled in or transported his way in as on Star Trek.  Mrs P, the eye consultant, was also there and looked a bit flustered.

I gave my history and got the impression that Mr Q was taking a back seat in things.  It wasn’t his clinic after all.  After listening we went through the options.  It involved two operations.  The first one involved tightening the lower eyelid.  I won’t describe the gruesome details but it would be done in day surgery and involve heavy sedation.  The second op would involve gold implants being inserted in my upper eyelid.  Once that had been done, Mr Q would rush in and sort my mouth out.  I would be knocked out for that one.  Phew.

So that was it sorted.  Mr Q rushed off saying that he would confirm dates with Mrs P and that was that.  As she started completing the consent form, Mrs P stopped.

“You know, I think the damage is so severe, we may be wasting our time with the eye op…”

What?  There was a pause.  It was like she was prompting me to decide about it.  I stayed quiet.  She looked at my notes.

“You are seeing Mrs T… what does she feel about it?”

I said that she hadn’t really given an opinion on any kind about it.

“She’s in clinic today.  Do you mind if I discuss this with her?”

I nodded and five minutes later a smiley Mrs T appeared.  She seemed the happiest I’ve seen her.  I guess she prefers being around other doctors rather than awkward patients.  They started speaking medical gobblegook to one another.  Then a decision was made that could be explained to me in English.

They would do the first op on my lower lid but not the one on the upper lid.  Mrs P seemed quite happy with that.  Mrs T left the room and the drafting of the consent form recommenced.  The op would take place in November or early December.  I would get a letter confirming it all.  She would let Mr Q know of the change of plan.  How he would take it? Lord knows.  Thankfully I had booked another appointment to see him in September just in case he hadn’t been able to make the appointment today.  We could discuss it all then.

I left, consent form signed to have before photos taken to be scrutinised by eager medical students.  It’s the pics after that I felt slightly apprehensive about…

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Wanted Down Under

Wanted Down Under is a daytime staple.  For the uninitiated, a family from the UK go “down under” to either Australia or New Zealand for a week.  During the week, they weigh up the pros and cons of emigrating.

Over time it has become rather formulaic.  The family compromises of a husband, wife and three kids.  Normally it’s the husband who is the driving force behind the move.  He’s had a gap year down under and yearns to relive that experience.  The wife is not that keen.  As for the kids, the youngest is up for it, the middle one is won over during the week but the older teenage one, refuses point blank to shift.  The mum won’t go anywhere without all the kids in tow, so there is a stale mate.

Wanted Down Under flies the family over and puts them up in a lovely house.  They spend the week perusing houses, jobs, schools, way of life and the difference in costs.  All the while the oldest teenager pouts their way through.  When it comes to the climax at the end, most of the family votes for life down under, while the teenager remains undecided.  And then it ends.  We are left dangling wondering if they ever went.

There have been episodes where we do find out what happens next.  In those episodes, we find out that life down under isn’t all sun, sea and surf.  It’s bloody hard work, living so far away.  That’s the thing with these types of programmes.  They are selling a dream.  Work is work no matter where you live, even if it’s sunny.

As my appointment with the plastic surgeon looms, I can’t help viewing it all with a bit of caution.  Like the people on Wanted Down Under, I feel at times that I’m being sold a dream, that might not necessarily come true.  I have a nagging feeling that it may be harder to recover.  No one seems to know how the radiotherapy will affect the healing. But the drooling is getting worse and worse.  It’s getting so bad that I can’t say more than five sentences without someone handing me a tissue.  It’s not so bad with friends and family, but when you are talking to all those neutral people in your life, shop assistants, delivery men, builders, it’s just plain annoying.  Of course, everyone is far too polite to say anything. But weirdly, I kind of wish they would…

The League Of Gentlemen

Life seems to be becoming ever more like the life in Royston Vasey.  For the uninitiated, Royston Vasey is the fictional town where the League of Gentlemen is set.  The League of Gentleman was a comedy series that followed the lives of several of the citizens of Royston Vasey.  Many of the characters have weirdly morphed into real life.  The most obvious example of this are Tubbs and Edward who run the local shop for local people.  Extreme Brexiteers before the term was even formulated.

My favourite character has to be Pauline.  Pauline is horrific.  Pauline, brilliantly played by Steve Pemberton, is the tutor of the finding a job programme at the Job Centre.  She enjoys the power she has over the job seekers and regularly threatens to stop their benefits if they question her in anyway.

There are certain similarities between Pauline and my line of work.  In the first episode, she asks the group to shout out names of jobs, only to tell them they don’t have a hope in hell in getting any of them.  This was quite like a class where I got my learners to do an A to Z of jobs, although I wasn’t quite as dismissive about their job prospects.

Pauline shows how ridiculous some of these courses are.  Mickey, one of Pauline’s jobseekers, gets an interview.  However, it’s in the middle of the course.  Pauline threatens to stop his benefits if he goes to the interview as he must finish the course first.  Sadly, this mirrors what happens in reality.  On our courses, if a learner is enrolled to do an exam, there is an expectation that the learner will sit that exam come hell or high water.  If the learner gets a job, becomes ill, has a baby, we are expected to drag them in to complete the course and do the exam.  It’s all about the spread sheet darling.

The spread sheet has spread into all aspects of life.  Obviously when you are dealing with inanimate objects, they serve a purpose.  Yet humans aren’t like that.  Humans change.  We are an evolving species after all.  Yet the gap between those who scrutinise the spread sheet and those who are on the frontline gets wider and wider.

It’s all been a bit quiet on the health front recently, spread sheets aside.  However, the drooling is getting worse and worse.  I went to a concert with my sister in Hyde Park.  We tried to take the obligatory selfie.  I looked awful.  “Try opening your mouth a little.” I did. I still looked awful.  So now I have become like Mariah Carey in photos.  Mariah Carey is famous for never showing the left side of her face.  If it’s good enough for Mariah, it’s good enough for me.  Bring on the face lift!

Never Forget

We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high.  And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye. And we’re still so young and we hope for more.  Yes, it was Take That time again.  Roughly every year since Take That have reformed, my sister and I have seen them in some form or other. At their maximum, there was five.  Now two have jumped ship and they are down to three.  As we’ve seen them so often, I’m now on the pre-order ticket list.  For pre-ordering their album, I get to access the tour tickets a couple of days before the hoy polloi get them.  Sweet.

For some reason, they seem to announce their tour dates for the upcoming year during the October half term.  They know that their main client base must be teachers both practising and retired.  Every year my sister and I have the same argument.  I want to stand and she wants to sit.  Every year my sister always wins out. Oh well maybe next year…

So, there we were last Saturday, in the O2, up in the Gods, sweltering away.

“Hello London! You’re looking fabulous on a Saturday night!” announced Gary Barlow in the way that Gary Barlow only can.  The opening chords for Greatest Day rang out and up we stood.  Half way through a woman whose head were in front of my feet, started shouting at me.

“What?!?”

“You’re spilling your beer on my head!”

“Oppss! Sorry!” I said and put the mouthful of beer I had left in my plastic pint glass into the drinks holder on my seat.  I stopped singing.  I knew it was far worse.  It wasn’t beer that had gone on that woman’s head.  It was drool.

My drooling has reached epic proportions.  I am drooling everywhere.  On student’s work, random women’s’ heads, on the dog, on nurses’ iPads, you name, I’ve probably drooled on it.  The reason for the drooling is my mouth.  As I have no facial nerve on the left side of my face, the left side of my mouth is drooping quite badly.  It’s happened quickly.  Only last year in photos, I’m grinning away celebrating my 40th birthday.  Now it’s all lopsided.

People are noticing.  When I went to the local tip to get rid of some gardening stuff, the old bloke who works there asked if I had had a stroke.  I told him a condensed version and he looked horrified.  You can forget how bonkers it all is to civilians. So, it was a bit of a blessing that after Take That, I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon.

I decided to take some moral support so my husband came with me.  We managed to squeeze in a trip to Costa to discuss tactics beforehand.  I had decided to go with the bog standard hoik up.  I wanted to stop drooling asap and to-ing and fro-ing to Birmingham wasn’t going to help that.  We arrived bang on time and an hour later we were called in.

My husband has a weird theory about medical professions.  He thinks you can tell a lot by looking in their eyes.  They either have sharp, focused eyes or dull, lazy eyes.  Thankfully Mr Q’s eyes are firmly the former.  I told him of my preferred option and the reason why.  He nodded and didn’t try and change my mind.  In fact, I think he agreed with it.  Now came the tricky part.  We arranged for him to come to my appointment at the eye clinic in August.  There both he and the eye surgeon would discuss further what to do.  Then, hopefully, I would have one operation where both my eye and my mouth would be hoiked up.  The stitches would finally come out of my eye and the drooling would stop.  It all sounded good.  We shook hands and arrangements were made to meet at the end of August.  My drooling days were numbered.

Bonkers Part 2

The allotted day had arrived.  Even worse it was Tuesday.  Tuesdays are rubbish for me.  Luckily, we are in exam season.  So, I left my class in the hands of a bemused admin assistant to invigilate yet another mock exam for them.  They took this quite well apart from my manager who still signs off any email I send her about my appointments with, “if you could rearrange this when you are not teaching next time.” Yeah, right.

The ENT department is split into two reception areas.  Normally I am in the second reception area around the corner.  I approached the first reception area, feeling nervous.  The receptionist was on the phone speaking loudly.

“Yes, it’s on the FIFTEENTH.” Pause. “Not SIXTEENTH.  ONE FIVE.” Pause “We’ll send you a letter.  A LETTER.”

She hung up and rolled her eyes.

“Yes?”

I said my name and Dr Q’s name.

“Well it looks like you are here today.” She said sounding quite surprised. “Take a seat.”

I obeyed and got my book out.  After about twenty minutes I noticed something.  Patients were being called out two at a time, going through some double doors and not returning.  Bit worrying that.

After about forty-five minutes mine and another patient’s name were called.  We were escorted by a nurse through the double doors into yet another waiting room.

“I’m sorry but it’s another hour wait from this point on.”

I was on my own but the other patient had his wife with him.  We all sighed in unison.  He reached for his phone and both his wife and I resumed our books.  We were lucky.  After about twenty minutes, the couple were called through.  This took the wife by surprise. She spent a good deal of time faffing about much to the amusement of the nurse and her husband.  I smiled and carrying on reading.

After another twenty minutes, I was called through.  Where had the couple gone?  It was my turn for a bit of awkward faffing.  The nurse led me to a room where sat Mr Q looking immaculate as ever.  I sat opposite him. The nurse took a seat in the corner of the room, facing me.  Mr Q and I exchanged pleasantries.  The nurse looked bored.  I was the last patient in the clinic so it must have been a long morning.

“So, can you remind me why you are here?” asked Mr Q.  I gave him a detailed account of the last six years.  It felt quite strange being encouraged in giving such details.  I have become so used to giving quite a watered-down version of events.  He listened and made notes.  After my history, he asked me to do various facial exercises so he could check out how much movement I had in the left side of my face.

“OK.  What for you is the most important thing to be done?”

I was flummocked by the question.  I’ve never been given a choice before.  I remembered our previous appointment.  He had said the he didn’t want to tread on the toes of the eye people.  So, I said I wanted my mouth sorted and then maybe the eye.

He looked puzzled.

“If you want my opinion, you need to get the eye sorted first.  I’ll refer you to Dr S to advise you on that…”

He outlined a possible procedure that involved cuts to my lower eyelid and weights that could be either gold or platinum, inserted in my upper eyelid to ensure my eye closed properly.  Crikey.  But this was merely the beginning.

Once I had had my eye sorted, then work could start on my mouth.  There were three options:

  1. A hoik up. This was the easiest procedure. He would cut along the smile line on the left side of my face. Hoik it up. Cut behind my ear and use a bit of my thigh to replace any facial tissue he had to get rid of.
  2. The thigh nerve. He could take a muscle from my thigh that had a nerve in it. He would attach this to my face and attach the nerve to the nerve endings near my temple. I then could have a faint smile. I think he ruled this one out as he felt that I didn’t have enough nerve endings in my left temple. Lovely.
  3. The nerve graft. The complicated one. A piece of my right facial nerve would be stretched to the left side of my face. Once it had been grafted over, a piece of muscle could be attached to it and over time, I would be able to smile. This would involve two operations. Although he had done the procedure before, he felt I would be better going to a specialist centre for this op. The centres were in Newcastle, Birmingham and…erm… East Grinstead.

It was a hell of a lot to take in.  I was used to no options.  If there was an option there was only one and I had to have that otherwise I would die.  Part of the reason why our house is in a state in disrepair is because my husband and I are rubbish at making choices.  We are both ditherers.  Now I was being asked what choice I wanted to do with my face.

Mr Q picked up on my anxiety.

“Listen.  There is no rush in any of this.  We can take our time.  Come back and see me in a months’ time and we’ll talk about it further.”

I nodded and looked to the nurse for some reassurance.  She looked blankly at me and escorted me out of the building.