Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Staph Marginal Keratitis

Most of you will probably never have to deal with staph marginal keratitis. However, most of you have probably waited in a doctor's office, crammed with sick patients, who are all vying for five minutes with the specialist on hand. It's not fun whether or not you have a hungry, breastmilk dependent baby at home, but it is especially harrowing when you're constantly watching the clock, checking your much-too-full breasts, discretely (or not so discretely) checking your nursing pads to see that they're not soaked, and praying to God you don't leak when you hear the crying baby in the next room. 

They told me that there was no one in the waiting room. "Come," they said. "There's no one here. You'll be seen right away." So...I strap on my boots, wear my hideous down coat, and put on mismatching gloves and hat to beat the clock. Instead of feeding my little turkey, I sneak out and bolt it to the opthamalogist.

It's fifteen degrees outside and I realize that I forgot to wear my pants. I'm in paper thin tights and my knees feel like they are actually freezing. I'm a sad sight. I suddenly feel like Malvolio in Twelfth Night, when he dresses himself in yellow stockings and prances around the castle. With my yellow-gray striped rainboots and big black blanket of a jacket, I look like an ugly bumble bee, one that's gone blind. 

I don't normally walk in a straight line (one leg is longer than the other). I tend to veer towards the right. Now, however, I am a big mess. I can barely see. The combination of the wind and my poor oozing, cherry-red tomato eyes, I can only make out my bright boots and the glare of ice on the road. 

I've never been able to ice skate or roller skate or do any gliding of any kind on slippery surfaces, but suddenly, I am sliding and gliding all over the icy pavements in my blind state. People actually pause to look at me on the street. A few kind souls stop to ask if I am okay. I try to smile but it ends up looking like a sneer since I can't feel my cheeks. 

I try to find the office building. I call the office three times because the street numbers don't make any sense. If you have ever lived in Queens, you know what I'm talking about. I enter an apartment building that matches the address I have in my hand, but I can't find the doctor's name on the list of residents. I look again, wondering if I'm missing it because I can barely read. Just as I am about to dial again, a blast of hot, moist air shoots through a vent and completely fogs up my glasses. Now, I am really blind. I can't see a thing. In a panic, I take off my glasses and get hit by the swinging door. Instead of receiving an apology from delivery man, I get a grunted "Are you blind?" thrown my way. I couldn't make up this stuff if I tried. 

I step outside and dial the number. They tell me it's next door. Two addresses that are exactly the same? Have you heard of such a thing? 

Needless to say, I'm annoyed. It doesn't get any better when I see a huge reception room filled with patients. "Uh, I thought there was no one here. That's why I came down." No recognition. Instead, "Uh, I didn't tell you that. You must've spoken to someone else." "I just called your office about five times in the last half hour. I recognize your voice. You told me that it was empty. I have a breastfeeding child at home. I can't wait for an hour." She looks annoyed. Rolling her eyes, she tells me to fill out some forms and has me sit in the corner seat. 

I am sweating. I realize that I haven't taken off my down jacket and now my breasts are really uncomfortable. I return the paperwork and spot the doctor. "Excuse me, I really need to get going. I'm breastfeeding (hoping that my girls looked like they were filled with milk) and I need to get home soon." Doctor, surprisingly, has sympathy. "Fifteen minutes. Can you wait that long?" He looks at my breasts as though they were going to spurt out milk any minute. "Yes," I respond with relief and sit down. 

Everyone looks at me with wonder. Most people were speaking another language and they were engaged in their own conversations until I spoke with the doctor. After that, they seemed to notice my presence, my disheveled hat head, the breast milk stains on my shirt, the ripping stockings, and the crazy funky glasses I only wear in the privacy of my own home. Maybe I'm just paranoid but I could've sworn I heard the word "loco"....

Thirty minutes later, I am still waiting. A woman finally comes out and asks me come with her. Yes! I follow her and do everything she asks. I put my head in one of those gadgets and get crap misted into my eyes. I do the eye chart test. OVBDA, and other nonsensical letters stream out of my mouth until the technician declares that I have terrible eyesight. No shit sherlock. That's why I'm here. 

I have to wait again! What a farce. I'm back in the reception room with everyone else. I wait and wait, checking the tiny clock on the microwave....(Why is there a microwave in the waiting room?Are people here that long?) Doctor finally calls my name. I follow him into a room where more liquids and utensils are prodding my eyes. He tells me that I have something serious. "You could've gone blind if you waited another day. Good thing you came to me." Uh yeah. I did almost wait another day. With a baby, it's hard to get anything done. "I'm the best one who could help you. This is my specialty. You would've been really in trouble without me." What is this guy doing? He's trying to sell me something that's already been sold. "Give it up doc! I came to you! What more do you want?" I want to shout. He keeps it up. "Wow, really, this could've been bad." I ask what I had. He won't let me finish my sentence. Instead, he shushes me! He won't even give me the name of the infection. I keep asking until he finally gives up and writes it on a piece of paper. I'm gonna google this shit for sure. 

I get home and immediately type it in. He's no specialist! It's a common infection that any opthamalogist can treat. This medicine man wants me to worship him for curing my eye when all I needed was an ointment for three days. Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful that he helped me, but did he seriously have to act like a magician-Christ figure when he diagnosed me? He practically wanted me to kiss his feet. 

He forgets to tell me one important thing....You go blind for two hours after you put the ointment in your eyeballs. The first time I applied it I thought I did something terribly wrong. "Alex!" I shout. "I can't see. Check the box! See what the side effects are." I stumble to the couch and try to keep the ointment from oozing out of my eyes. He reads, "Burning, stinging, blurred vision," except that this is more than blurred vision. I literally can't make out huge objects in my room. It's a palette of colors smeared across my cornea. I feel like Monet, except that I can't paint. 

Try nursing a baby with no sight. It hurts. She keeps latching onto the side of my breast, giving me a hickey on my tatas. Ouch. 

I look pathetic and I am pathetic. I run into everything in our cramped apartment normally. Now, I'm just one big disaster waiting to happen. Alex has to follow me around with a trashbag since I drop just about everything on the floor. I don't even realize it. He's taken this opportunity to feed me things I normally detest. Ground meat, bumpy foods (don't ask), and other things he sneaks into meals I can't see. 

I'm waiting, wishing, wanting this infection to go away. I'm counting down until I can stop taking the medication that blinds me. Until then, I am feeling my way around life, trying to smell, touch, and hear my surroundings, something I didn't think I would do until I was at least eighty-five. All the while, I can hear Adele laughing, her little chubby feet pounding my thighs as she dances, and I can smell her baby soft sweet scent as I hold her, the only little person who doesn't notice that her mama can't see. 

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