9.3.12

Things they don't tell you about getting old

You may not know, but I'm a terrible hypochondriac. Anything remotely worrying or out of the ordinary in the health department sends my anxiety levels sky high, resulting in tense neck and shoulders and then headaches, making me feel a whole lot worse. Yes, we all know that as we get older, we're more likely to get ill, and then eventually die. But I'm not ready for that yet. After spending most of my youth in hospitals, I've managed to avoid them in my adulthood. I think in a way I fear any cures more than the ailments itself. So, it was with trepidation that I visited my doc on Tuesday - the first appointment I could get after experiencing a surprise big black floater in my right eye, followed by flashing lights on the very edge of my vision, especially in dim light, the previous Friday afternoon.

Of course, I did a Google search, but as with almost any symptoms, the bottom line is always get checked out by your doctor! Could be anything. What I didn't want it to be was a detached retina. A friend, Stephen R, had told me on the trip back from Holyhead last year of his brother who got that and had to have emergency treatment in Liverpool, involving lasers and needles in the eye. Not nice! When I told the doc my symptoms, he immediately wrote me a note for the eye hospital A&E - yes, they have their own. So after charging up the mobile and packing some dark glasses (I knew they would dilate my pupil) I set off on the bus. He recommended getting there around 2pm.

Brighton's eye hospital is an Art Deco building (the foundation stone says 1933) and the ED is down some stairs. I showed the triage nurse my note and she directed me to sit down in a transit waiting area. Eventually I was summoned by another desk person to give some details, next of kin etc and then directed to another area of seating. After a while I was called by a rather laconic and brusk male nurse who put three lots of drops in my eyes and told me to save my story for the doctor. After another wait, me and an elderly lady from Newick with ingrowing eyelashes were led to a bench in a corrider opposite a rack of leaflets from the RNIB. She went in to see the doc and I waited again, later joined by another couple of women. Apparently there was an emergency involving a young lad, who needed a brain scan.

So I got to see the doc who took a good look in my eye and said (not in so many words) that it was posterior vitreous detachment. He could see that big black floater fluttering round like a moth, but said that it would either sink or my brain would get used to it eventually. Although the symptoms do incude the flashing lights as the vitreous tugs on the retina, he seemed to think it was an ocular migraine. Hmm, not so sure, I've been getting them for a week now, but as I said only in dim light, when I get up in the morning and in the evening.

Anyhow, the good news is that it wasn't retinal detachment, so no lasers and needles. But... I now have to live with this black moth fluttering around inside my eye... and being short-sighted, I was always going to be more prone to it. We are lucky in Brighton to have an eye hospital and yes, I know the dear old NHS is stretched but I can't help feeing the whole visit could have been made more pleasant and reassuring (I'm a big fan of Holby City and Casualty, y'know). Not being aware of the modus operandi and procedure does make you feel a little bit you are wasting their time and cluttering up their department (although there was a wall chart aimed at kids which went some way to explaining the sequence of events). And it was an eye opener to see people worse off than you (the lady from Newick had already had several operations and only had one good eye). Here's to life's little surprises, and let's hope it'll be a while before I have to enter a hospital again.

Here's a bit of weirdness: the other morning I was having a shave and when I reached for the towel a moth flew out. I thought it had come from my eye, but it was a real one and the floater is still there buzzing around.

If you've read this far, thanks for indulging me. I find writing about these things quite therapeutic. Got a train-spotting weekend in store in Sheringham, so come back and read my write-up.
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