> “I having a problem with my eye…”, my awesome mother said one morning, as she sat down to coffee. “I’m seeing a semi-circle in one of them.”
. “Fuck.” sez I. “You have a detached retina!”
. No, I’ve never been to medical school, but I am one of those savants who knows a lot about a little and a little about a lot. Somewhere in my life’s investigations, I picked up this tidbit of scary information. (If you’re suddenly seeing a circle or semi-circle out of one eye, you probably are suffering from a detached retina- a very serious condition, as it can quickly lead to blindness in that eye.) I told Arline as much, and insisted she take action at once. She agreed, but opted to wait a day to see if the issue resolved itself, persisted, or worsened the following day…
. Nope. A little worse, if anything. There was no accompanying pain, but it was an annoyance, and a real cause for concern. Luckily, she was able to make an appointment to see her quack… er: doctor, in the tiny Irish seaside village of Glengarriff, the following day. Though his bedside manner (or complete lack thereof) made him a less than ideal physician, Jeremy did have a “surgery” (office) just up the road a piece, which is convenient when you are about to turn 87. He took a look, admitted he was not the best judge of eye issues and suggested she get an appointment with her ophthalmologist in Skibereen, opining that it was probably just a case of “floaters” on the eye. And since floaters are usually no big cause for concern, she left the office somewhat reassured… falsely reassured. “Floaters?” I erupted in dismayed disbelief. “FLOATERS? Look I’m no doctor, but I know enough to know floaters do not cause the symptoms you report!” She called her eye doc and discovered that she was going away on a two week holiday very soon, but could fit Arline in in two days time.
. Luckily, my brother (JK) was visiting from the states at the time, and he was able to shuttle her the 90 minutes into Skibereen for her exam. I had only just arrived myself, and JK was nearing the end of his stay. He is a professional driver half the year and I was suffering from jetlag coupled with nasty lower back pain from the long flight. Additionally, my nearly yearlong illness was flaring up on this morning, so I opted to stay behind and recuperate. I’m sure my brother didn’t like my decision, but it was something I needed to do. There was no way I could endure the jostling bumpiness of the back seat on that potholed road to Skibereen, and I was confident Arline was in good hands with him.
. The day passed. The sun set. Twilight fell. And they had not returned. I was beginning to get a bit concerned, when the phone rang. “Toad Hall,” I answered. “Kevin speaking…” It was my bro- and the news was not good. “We’re in Cork at the university hospital. Mom has a detached retina. She’s having surgery tomorrow!”
. Again: “Fuck!” I knew it! What her doctor, er: quack, should have said was: “Get thee to the Cork hospital at once. You probably have a detached retina!” But no- he reassured her with the fantasy of benign floaters, understating the danger egregiously. I was furious, that if he knew the imminent danger to her eyesight, Dr. Jeremy did not communicate it. What use, his medical degree?
. JK arrived home late, and filled me in on the details before our traditional heated argument.
. The following morning, while my brother slept off his nightly bender, I awoke to the strange sensation of a motherless Toad Hall- a sad and lonely sensation. That morning she would have her surgery. Arline was under the knife of a very skilled surgeon, but only time would tell if it was successful. (Even if the procedure was a perfect success, it could take as long as 6 months to know just how much eyesight she would retain in that right eye.) The evening of the day, JK and I shared our intense checking-in, (detailed in MISSIVE, Part 1), and again, he drank himself to sleep while I struggled with the usual insomnia.
. Thankfully, I only had to endure that lonely morning absence one more day, as the hospital rang in the early afternoon saying mother was ready to be retrieved. So JK took the car back into Cork. When they returned around dusk, (which lasts until 10 PM this time of year in southwest Ireland), mother was able to shuffle in, cane in hand, on her own accord. I was surprised to see no eyepatch, just one very bloodshot eye. She was exhausted, naturally, and went straight to bed. That night, to our mutual pleasure, JK and I managed to avoid our traditional brouhaha. In fact, the rest of our mutual time in Glengarriff transpired peaceably, now that we had a mutual interest in nurturing our mother’s recovery.
. Over the next four weeks, Arline would have a medical protocol that required my assistance to execute: For the first week she would need to sleep on her back with a plastic eyeshield taped over the affected area. Additionally, she would require a regime of various eyedrops- 14 of them, four times daily- something she was unable to administer herself, meaning it was a damn good thing someone was there to help her at this unfortunate time- a fact which painfully underscored the reality that my mother is getting a bit old to be living alone now, and might be at that point where a regular or live-in caretaker might be required. This first became apparent on the final night of my last visit the previous year, when she took a sudden, nasty fall after dinner, banging her head noisily against the kitchen cabinet on her way to a heap on the floor. Again, I was/am willing to be that carer, if need be- but I certainly don’t relish the idea of enduring the Irish winters, which can be hellishly cold and soggy… Time will tell.
. As I continued to suffer from my own intestinal maladies, I received pressure from my mother, her housekeeper and my siblings to go in and see Dr. Quack myself, but these well-meaning people simply didn’t get it. Why on earth would I want to see the same doctor whose bad advice could have cost my mother her eyesight in one eye?! I am under the care of my own quack back home, who has ordered test after inconclusive test in a vain attempt to diagnose and treat my persistent problem. What could mom’s local MD do that my physician back home could not? Without access to the results in my medical file, Dr. Jeremy Quack would simply order those very same tests be done again- likely with the same ambiguous results. Then what? By then, it would be time for me to go home. And who would PAY for all this? Back home, as among the poorest of the poor, 100% of my doctor visits, tests and treatments are paid for by Medicare. Here? No coverage whatsoever. I simply did not have the resources.
. At the end of all this, some very good news! Though Arline struggled with double-vision and an utter lack of depth-perception that made everyday tasks like reading and making coffee a struggle for her, and prevented her from driving, gradual improvement was pretty much a daily thing- until now, she can apply the final eyedrops herself, and though reading is still a challenge, sweet, good-natured Arline can do her beloved crossword puzzles- and if need be, she can drive short distances.
> And I can’t even BEGIN to describe what a blessing that is!
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© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.