May 04 2015
Editor’s note: This column is not for the squeamish. If you are easily put off by images of razor blades near the eyeball, be warned.
I was not able to write a column this week. The reason for that is because we had some pesky, if not downright painful, medical appointments that consumed our entire Tuesday and occupied our thoughts for days on end.
Fluffy started the morning with a dental extraction. That is never a pleasant thing to contemplate. When you’re our age, each tooth is precious, and is not something to be given up easily. The dentist assured him that it was not nearly as formidable as the dental extraction that I had three weeks ago, but what did the dentist know?
Fluffy had been hanging onto this tooth for his entire life (well, most of his life because it probably came in when he was about five). You might say he was more than a little attached to it. Maybe the molar had only taken the dentist an hour to extract, compared to the three hours my tooth had taken, but she certainly could have told him to go home and eat lots of ice cream the way she told me.
On the contrary, she specifically told both him and me that his extraction was no big deal, and that my extraction was more important because they “had to preserve the bone” for my eventual implant. What? Fluffy’s jawbone could just be allowed to rot? I think not. So I took him home and stuffed him with ice cream, just the same way he had stuffed me with ice cream three weeks earlier.
Or I would have stuffed him with ice cream, if we had not had to go right over to the ophthalmologist’s office to find out what in the world was wrong with my right eye.
My right eye is slightly important to me, you see. Because I am a writer, you might say that my eyes are my moneymakers. My eyes are my Most Important Organs. My feet are negotiable. I can be quite sanguine about being in a pesky wheelchair as I wait and wait AND WAIT for them to awaken for what is now a two year and five month nap. They are waking up, mind you, but on their own time schedule.
You see, I do not use my feet to make my living.
But for the past two weeks, my right eye has felt as though there was a sliver of something embedded in it. I have wondered what it was. A dandelion puffball filament, perhaps? I knew it had to be something tiny, or blinking would dislodge it. But whatever it was, my eye felt the same way a finger feels when a tiny, invisible shard of glass is in it. It hurt.
When Fluffy got an appointment with the ophthalmologist and that appointment was a whole week away rather than the exact same day he called, I thought I was going to curl up and die. And I am a person who tolerates pain extremely well.
By the time we were finally driving to the doctor, I had nightmares of eye surgery. I envisioned the ophthalmologist digging into my eyeball with giant tweezers, the same way we dig into our toes, looking for splinters of glass. To say I was full of trepidation is an understatement. And there was poor Fluffy, driving me there with blood still on the corner of his mouth from the dentist. What a hero he was!
We sat in the waiting room for a full hour, and the examining room for another fifteen minutes. Then I got the dilating drops put in my eyes, and we waited for another fifteen minutes for my eyes to dilate (which it was a good thing they didn’t need to do, because they didn’t).
Finally the ophthalmologist appeared. It was apparent that she had just fought her own losing battle with an oral surgeon, because her lower jaw was purple to the extreme. Then the guilt set in. What’s the polite thing to do in a circumstance like this? Do you pretend you do not notice this, or do you make a comment? If you pretend you do not notice, are you sending a message that you do not care?
After choosing not to comment on the ophthalmologist’s purple features, which could have been caused by battered wife syndrome rather than dental surgery, and which could have made for an awkward conversation rather than just a friendly “Ha-ha, Fluffy just had a tooth pulled and I had one pulled three weeks ago, so we know your pain,” moment, we got down to the business at hand.
The ophthalmologist turned my upper eyelid inside out (now there’s a little bit of discomfort for you!) and announced that I have calcium deposits on the inside of my upper eyelid. She said these are little rocks of calcium that some people have (and I have lots of them), but in my case this one is starting to poke through the eyelid and scratch my eye.
So she took a wet Q-tip and wiped the inside of my eyelid until she couldn’t see the calcium deposit anymore and then asked me if it felt okay. I said it did, but that didn’t mean anything because I only felt the rock intermittently anyway. I gave her a dubious yes. It was the best I could do.
(Two hours later, when I was back home and far away from the doctor’s care, the pain came back. Apparently the calcium deposit had not gone away at all. It had just popped back under the skin, ready to pop itself back out when I was away from the doctor’s help.)
Then I asked what I could do to keep this from happening in the future.
She answered with what I’ve come to expect from doctors: “Nothing. You just have to learn to live with it.”
She said that when this happens in the future, I should come to her and have the calcium deposits scraped off with a Q-tip. This is the equivalent of having a dermatologist tell a pimply teenager that every time he gets a zit, he should make an appointment, wait two weeks for the appointment day, then sit in the waiting room for an hour and in the examining room for another half hour to get the zit popped.
In the words of the all-wise teenager: Yeah. Right.
So Fluffy and I went home and looked up “calcium deposits inside eyelid” on Google. It took us less than ten minutes to figure out what the well-paid ophthalmologist couldn’t, but before we found our answer we learned that other people who have been told they just have to “learn to live with” what amounts to glass shards shredding their eyeballs have come up with pretty extreme measures to treat it.
I was reassured that it’s “pretty easy” to take a razor blade and just pull out those little suckers on your own. Sorry, but the words “razor blade” and “right next to your eyeball” do not occupy the same universe on Planet Kathy. I may be suffering from Coma Brain, but even I have more brain cells than that.
No, eventually we learned that an ophthalmologist in Japan dissolves calcium deposits with a solution of 500 milligrams of EDTA in distilled water. I’ve already ordered the EDTA, and we have distilled water on hand. From what we have read, these calcium deposits can be dissolved for good in four to five days.
What beats me — not just in this instance, but in many other occurrences in my medical journey — is the total lack of curiosity I have experienced in the highly paid doctors we have encountered. We will have a medical issue. The doctors will tell us, “Nothing can be done. You’ll just have to live with it.” (And excuse, me, Dr. So-and-So, you try living with some of the painful conditions you’ve tried telling me to live with.)
We’ll go home and look on the internet. We’ll find the solution in five minutes flat. We don’t even look in any medical journals. It’s just there for the layman to find, written in plain English instead of doctorese. Usually I can order the remedy from Amazon or from my vitamin place, once I know what to order. And golly gee, invariably the insolvable “you’ll have to live with it” problem is solved.
So why aren’t the doctors aware of these cures? Don’t tell me they’re overworked. They’re paid commensurately for how much work they do. Instead, they’re under-curious. Somewhere along the way, they lose the desire to find the answers to their patients’ questions. It’s easier to say, “Nothing can be done. You’ll just have to live with it.” So that’s what they do.
And their patients go home and start popping out calcium deposits from their eyelids with razor blades because they are so desperate from the pain.
But that’s a story for another day. Meanwhile, I am learning first-hand about part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is found in Matthew 7:3-5:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
I can tell you from sad experience that I am susceptible to having that beam in my eye. It is a painful thing physically. You can only imagine how it feels to have a sliver (or even a small boulder) of something that should not be there between your eyelid and your eye.
But that physical pain is nothing compared to the spiritual pain we suffer when we unjustly condemn the people around us. It is too bad we cannot feel a physical pain to accompany it. If we felt a physical pain, the way I am feeling it now, we would never criticize others.
But no, we are expected to have the maturity to refrain from criticizing others just because it’s the right thing to do. It is our job to lift the people around us, to love them, and to hold them up. The beam in our eye is figurative. It will be washed away by tears of compassion for those whom we have been asked by the Savior to love as He has first loved us.