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Date: 07/03/11

Eye, Eye!

Funny things, days. You can never be sure quite what they're going to bring you.

Take today. I mean, I knew that I had an appointment with the opth...the ophthla...the Eye Department at the Hospital this afternoon. I'd had a scan for retinopathy a month ago, and the people who did that suggested that I make an early appointment with the specialist. So I did. Today was the day.

Unfortunately, the earliest appointment I was able to get was for 16:20 this afternoon. Now, I usually finish work for the day at 14:30 and go home, but I saw little point in doing that today, and the options were either start work at my usual time (07:45) and work until just before 16:00 (even though that would take me well over my contracted hours) and then attend the appointment, or go home at the usual time and then have to come straight back into town again.

There was a third option, which was the one I took. That is, I had a lie-in (which is always welcome on a Monday) and got into work shortly after 09:30. This meant that I could leave at a good time to make the appointment. So that's what I did.

I got to the Eye Department about ten minutes before my appointment and took a seat. I had to wait until nearly 16:40 before being prepped and told to wait outside the consultant's office, but that's about par for the course.

Two or three of us were chatting there together; me, a woman in her late sixties, and a very pleasant and attractive girl of about nineteen. The girl was called in first to see the consultant, and she came out about five minutes later all of a lather, because the doctor had told her that he wanted to do laser surgery on her eyes there and then. The elderly party was then called in, and she came back out having been told the same thing.

Then it was my turn. Yep, me too. Crafty buggers! Because if they'd have told any of us that that was the reason we had been called in, chances are at least two of us would have pleaded a prior engagement.

Anyway, after a little while, the woman was called into the room with the laser operating equipment in it. She emerged some five minutes or so later, slightly unsteady from not being able to see very clearly.

Then it was my turn again. I went in the room and waited with the nurse for a few minutes while the consultant did something across the corridor in his office. Then in he came, the lights went down and I was there, with my chin and forehead resting against this metal contraption while the doctor inserted a lens thingy into my left eye (I'd been given anaesthetic drops by that time so that all I felt was the presence of the lens). There were a lot of extremely bright lights and the occasional series of flashes. I didn't feel anything, to tell the truth, although I would have been scared to contemplate the possibility of something going wrong as a result of my recoiling at a crucial moment or something untoward like that.

When I pulled away from the apparatus and opened my left eye properly, the room was a sort of bottle-green colour (the woman who'd been before me said that everything had been pink when she'd had it).

Then it was the turn of my right eye. The same procedure again, only this time I did feel a little twinge when the laser was firing off.

And then it was over, and I went out into the waiting room to join the other two. The young girl was taken into the room, still very much of a dither, but then had to sit there while the consultant saw a couple of other patients in his room. This didn't help her mood very much, despite our attempts at reassurance.

She was very brave, really, and eventually the doctor re-emerged and went in to the surgery room. We - the elderly woman and me - had determined that we would wait for her come what may, and were reassured by the laughter which was percolating into the corridor from behind the door.

By this time, our eyes were coming back towards normality. The ceiling lights started to look more white than the sort of greeny-yellow they had appeared to be when I had first come back into the waiting room. Things were still blurry, but I put that down far more to the effects of the dilatory drops, which I'm used to anyway.

Anyway, after a few minutes out came our brave young heroine and - after giving her a few minutes to recover a bit - all three of us headed for the exit. A nice bit of human solidarity that, I thought. I finally got home shortly before seven.

I'm typing this about two and a half hours after the surgery. Things are still a little fuzzy - and lights are both blurry and flary at the same time - and I'm still having some trouble reading this as I type it (I'm not a professional touch-typist, but I can shift a bit in that direction when I need to) and it's giving me a bit of a headache, but I'm sure that'll all come right later on and overnight.

If you're ever required to have laser surgery for retinopathy, for goodness sake don't worry about it. If you feel anything at all from the procedure, it's nowhere near as much as you feel from the eye-drops.

All the same, I'm rather glad that they didn't tell me in advance.

Be seeing you...