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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Eye See You

Yes, I know that the title seems kind of weird. You may be wondering what has happened to the Lunatic to make her write it in such a manner. I realize it's unconventional, but I think it's also kind of...eye-catching. Okay, now I deserve some grief! But this is not a science fiction piece or some super-short horror story, it's just another slice of life. Come on in and have a taste...

My doctor, whom I often refer to as Doctor Mike, or just Mike when I see him face-to-face, has been treating me for a number of things over the years. When I was hospitalized at the age of twenty-nine because my lungs were full of fluid, he came into the room, took one look at me, and said that I had lupus. A few days, several tests and a kidney biopsy later, his diagnosis was confirmed. Systemic lupus can cause problems in any and all systems of the body, and Dr. Mike has been there to help me with all of them.

An interesting thing that I learned fairly soon after my diagnosis is that these various manifestations of lupus can have symptoms that end up being the opposite of what you'd think. For example, there's lupus anticoagulant. It sounds like something that will result in you bleeding profusely if you get a cut or bruise, doesn't it? That's not exactly the case. In a test tube, the blood won't clot like it is expected to, but in the blood vessels it is just the opposite. When you factor in the  clotting problems that seem to run in the family, I guess I didn't stand a chance of missing out on this little bag of goodies.

Mike has been treating me for this inconvenience for more than twenty years. It's been quite a journey. After several incidents of blood clots in my lower legs, he sent me to a vascular surgeon to see if there was something he could do to help me. When a doctor looks at your legs and says, "Wow, that looks pretty bad," it doesn't do much for your spirits. He proceeded to tell me that there was "nothing in the realm of medical science that can be done to alleviate your problem." My fear and anger both began to burn. He went on to tell me that I should elevate my legs when possible ("I can't tell you how much or for how long.") and if if I was lucky I wouldn't develop ulcerations on my legs and have to have my legs amputated. I hobbled out of there as fast as my sore, swollen legs would take me, and never came back again.

Some time later, one of my fears was realized. I began to see open sores on one of my ankles. For the first time in a very long time, this Meanest Woman in the World just broke down and cried. I didn't want to lose my legs. They had problems, but I still wanted to keep them. Frightened of what would come, I made an appointment to see Dr. Mike. When he examined my leg, he gave me the bad news that I did indeed have ulcerations on my ankle. He started to say that he would refer me to Doctor X, the vascular surgeon. I lost it. I started crying and yelling at Mike, "There is no way I am ever going back to that jerk! Don't you even think about trying to send me to see him!" I explained what had happened, and Mike felt terrible about what I had gone through. He promised to work with me on curing the ulcerations and saving my legs.

It was a long and painful process, and I developed more ulcerations over the years, although none were as serious as the first time around. Treatments included various creams that would be applied after I had spent twenty minutes holding a gauze pad soaked with fifty percent strength vinegar on the ulceration. To give you an idea of the level of pain, let me be a bit graphic. Imagine a sore on the inside of your ankle. It is roughly circular, and at least the size of a nickel. The skin is gone, and you can even see a tiny blood vessel in there, which is sort of cool in an icky way. Then you put acid (vinegar) on it. The pain was so great that I couldn't prevent the tears from streaming down my face when I did my treatments. After the first time I did this, Gram told me she couldn't be in the same room with me when I was treating the leg because seeing the amount of pain I was in broke her heart.

I tried all sorts of things, including a prescription cream, applying honey to the wound, using water treated with colloidal silver instead of the vinegar, and even essential oils. It took close to three years for the healing to be complete. I know in the rational part of me that ulcerations can heal and that I can survive the process, but when I develop something that looks like the start of an ulcer, it is enough to make me break down and cry for a minute or a few before I can kick myself in the behind and tell myself to take care of it. There's always something going on in life, after all, and if we're alive, we have the chance of having problems.

I didn't set out to write about the things you've just read, it just happened that way. Maybe it will make the real reason I'm writing make more sense to you. When I saw Mike in December, he gave me grief about not having had an eye exam in a bit of a long while. Knowing that I would see him again in March, I made sure to have an eye exam before that visit. When my opthalmologist (an eye doctor who is an M.D.) said that I had failed the glaucoma test, it scared me. He told me that it was probably not the same thing as the glaucoma that can result in blindness, but it was in the back of my mind until I had my return visit just this last Friday.

A test showed that I had no vision loss, but the pressure check was still a fail. The "average" normal intraocular pressure is fifteen and mine was in the high twenties. It had come down one or two points in both eyes from the even-higher twenties. My wonderful eye doctor, Dr. Kevin May, took me to another eye-examining device and discovered that the result was misleading because my corneas are thicker that average, which is not a problem. It simply provides resistance when the eye pressure is checked, making it seem as though the pressure is higher than it actually is. Ah, the relief of knowing what is going on, and that things are going to be okay, and you worried about nothing!

I left the clinic with a lighter step, knowing that I wouldn't have to worry about my eyes for now. As my less than pretty, but still functioning legs took me to the car, I was even more appreciative of seeing the various beautiful sights around me. My eyes drank in the lovely pink and white tree blossoms and the tightly furled dark purple purple buds of lilac blooms to come. I hope that I can always remember to enjoy and appreciate the body that I call my home, pains, flaws, and all. And if I have my glasses on, eye see you!