Monday, September 19, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons

Well, truth be told, I had really wanted my first post from our new digs to be about things other than this. But, as it often does, life had other plans.

Saturday night when I washed my face and got ready for bed, I noticed that my right eye seemed awfully red. I've had a head cold and headaches that I had attributed to the cold for the past few days and because of its history of illness, that eye is easily affected by those types of things or allergens in the air. I chalked it up to that and went to bed. When I woke up (WAY too early...THANKS A LOT ELLIE!) the next morning and stumbled sleepily from my dark bedroom into the bathroom; I noticed that everything was very dark and foggy on my right side. I quickly covered my left eye and held up a shampoo bottle to the right side to see if I could read anything. I could barely make out a few letters. Warning bells started going off in my head right away.

I called my friend whose husband is a doctor in the ICU at the Naval hospital here. After I explained to her what was going on I asked her if she would mind describing to her husband (who happened to be at work) what was going on and ask his opinion on whether I should go to the ER. It was Sunday after all and I knew from past experience that going to the ER on a weekend, or any time for that matter, would probably mean that the majority of my day was shot. My friend texted me back quickly and said that both her and her husband thought I should go to the hospital.

I made up excuses in my mind why I shouldn't. It's just the debris in the back of your eye. It's shifted again and that's why you can't see. But it's THE WEEKEND! It's your last day to have your husband around to help you unpack! sigh...not again.

My gut said I'd better go, and so for the third time in three years I grabbed my purse and file full of information on my medical history with Toxoplasmosis and drove myself to the ER. When I walked in, the nice but daft young man at the front desk asked what I was there for. "To check myself in," I replied.

"But, look at you, you're fiiiiiiiiine"

Boy, you better hold up 'fore I take off my shoe and whack you upside the head with it!

But instead I gave him a brief description of my medical history and told him they might want to go ahead and page the Opthamologist on call. They did not.

So, I sat and I waited and I waited and I sat, praying that the debris had just shifted. Finally, it was my turn and I was taken to a room where I waited to see the doctor. When he saw me, we went through my symptoms and he looked at my eye. "I'm going to page the Opthamologist on call, I'll be right back," He said. Yeah, I could've told you that. So I waited in blissful silence under a blanket that came out of a heated cabinet (LUXURIOUS!) and I actually even slept for a few minutes before they came and told me that I could walk upstairs to meet the eye doctor.

It's a strange and guilt-ridden feeling to be in a mostly empty hospital and meet a doctor who looks like you've just pulled him from a beach barbecue where he had been surfing. I sat in the chair that I have grown very familiar with over the last few years and we talked a little bit about my history and my eye. (For those of you who may be new to this here lil blog, you can read about it here and here.) He dilated my eyes and we went through the whole rigmarole of looking into the back of my eye.

He looked into my left eye and quickly said look up, look up and right, look right, look down and right, look down, look down and left until my eye had made a complete circle. Then he moved onto the right eye.
Look up....hmmmmmm
look up and right...long silence and my eye burned from the light he was shining into it.
Look right...more silence

I already know what he's seeing because this scene is all too familiar. It's something most of them read about in textbooks but never actually get to see live and in person. I remember sitting in Bethesda and all of doctors and teachers and parasite textbook writers hovering over me as I cradled a tiny Ari in my lap, waiting for their turn to have a look. I'll never forget one of them said in a thick accent, " It's really quite beautiful...if it wasn't so terrible."

Now here I was again, Except this time I sat alone with a doctor in a mostly empty hospital on a Sunday afternoon on a tiny island in the middle of a great big ocean. He pushed his chair back and looked at the papers on his desk. "Soooooo?" I asked

"It's definitely back, the toxo. And I can see that you have a cataract now forming from the scar tissue leftover from previous infections"

And then, despite my most courageous efforts to the contrary, I began to cry. I started to hold my breath as the edges of fat tears threatened to roll down my face, I knew he was going to want me to talk, that we needed to discuss what would happen now, but if I opened my mouth I wasn't sure what kind of sound was going to burst out of it. Slowly, I let the breath seep out from between my teeth, like a slow leak in a balloon. I filled my lungs again this time through my nose and even though I knew he was talking to me, I didn't hear a word of it.

Sometimes our first reactions are our most visceral, our most human. In those few moments after I heard the words I had dreaded and prayed against, all I could feel were waves of sadness. Why? Was it something I did? Did I not wash my hands enough? Was it all those steaks I ordered medium rare? Was it the mud pies I made when I was three? Was it the cat I had when I was eight? Was it, was it, was it? I don't know, and neither does anyone else.

And then, as I pushed the breath out through my teeth, I let it all go. All the sorrow, all the pain, all the questions, and along with them I let go of my eye. Dear God, be with me right now, I have no one here to hold my hand, so hold all of me in your arms. I'm afraid of gong blind, and I'm repulsed by cataracts in a thirty one year old eye, but... I trust you more than I'm afraid, so take all of it. The fear, the guilt, the sadness, and most importantly take the care of my eye into your hands. You can have them all, because you told me to cast all my cares upon you because you love me, and you told me to come boldly before the throne of grace, so here I am. Thanks. Invisible hugs. *Your favorite child, Jill.

And like always happens in those moments, I was given the strength to go on, but more importantly than that, I had peace in my heart. I asked the doctor what my options were and he told me that he would refer me to the retinal specialist on the island but that he was leaving the island the next day for a week and so I would have to refer to the optometrist in his office from then on. Or...there's the option of Med-evacuating you off the island to seek treatment elsewhere. The closest retinal specialist in San Diego. I then asked him if I could assume that this would continue happening to me. He said YES very matter of factly. I gulped and accepted this new reality.

I left his office armed with a handful of prescriptions, the names of which I was all too familiar. Prednisone, Sulfadiazine, Clindymiacin, and some drops for my eye (WELCOME BACK ROBOT EYE!). After we got them filled I had some blood drawn to monitor my white blood cell counts because two of the prescriptions, which they didn't have in stock in the hospital, can seriously affect my bone marrow. Jeremy came to pick me up because I couldn't see to drive from the dilating drops. I ordered him to drive directly to Yogurtland and don't even think about stopping anywhere else on the way. I then promptly filled the medium size cup (I was going to do the large, but really, why be a glutton, it's not like I have CANCER!) and put myself into a yogurt coma.

When we got home the opthamologist called to inform me that the retinal doc would be off island for one or two months but that he could still treat me when he got back, until then I could be under the care of the optometrist. It didn't take me long to reply to him with an emphatic: MED-EVAC! OK, he said, I'll start filling out the paperwork and the other doc can finish it when you come in tomorrow.

So, this morning I went back to the hospital and began the process of the Med-evac. In the meantime I was told to try and get the other two prescriptions filled somewhere else on the island. I called every. single. pharmacy. on this damn island and not one of them carries it. Can you hear me screaming now: MED-EVAC! I'm told I have a tentative appointment on Monday or Tuesday (states time) with the retinal doc, which means I will have to leave here sometime tomorrow. Jeremy is taking leave to stay with the girls and I hope they have a fun time with their daddy. Although I am leaving instructions for pizza and ice cream no more than twice a week. I have a feeling that I won't be able to get back in the house for all the empty pizza boxes when I return.

My mom is planning on meeting me in San Diego. THANKS MOM! So, that's that. I have accepted my apparent fate and I know that just like we killed it with powerful drugs last time, we'll do it again this time.

And now....a collection of photos chronicling a small portion of this crazy journey:

This is during my first round...I look pretty much the same right now, except I combed my eyebrows today. ;)

SO. SO. Pregnant. And on steroids. Who you calling a pirate?!?!

Now, if that a'int sexy, I just don't know what is. Hey Baby. How's about me, you and those chins get together sometime?

I've given a lot of thought to more children considering the fact that pregnancy seems to be a very opportunistic time for toxo. I look at pics like these and I tell you, even if I got ten cataracts and went totally blind (in ONE eye) it's totally worth it.

I mean seriously, who is this person? Someone very special, that's who!

And the rabbits were worth it and the cats were worth it and the ducks and ponies and doves and all the critters were worth it. The LOVE was worth it.

Sometimes in life (especially at Christmas) you need to just stop and eat the batter. Now just watch me go and get Salmonella, sheesh!


Mom Cooper said...

Oh Jill, you are so in my prayers. I know your faith will get you through this latest ordeal. As you know, our God does not give us any trial that he knows we cannot handle. So keep the faith, and leave the rest to God.

Damyon said...

My heart goes out to you and your family. Divided from your family by so many miles must break your hearts. I send you all my wishes for the best outcome.


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