02 November 2009

So, where was I?

Hey there.

So last Thursday I had my surgery to repair my eye, and it was, for the most part, a success.

On Wednesday Elaine's parents took us to dinner in Toronto then dropped us off at the Super 8 at Dundas and Spadina. Surprisingly really nice hotel, considering there were about 5 fishmongers within view of our room. Couldn't smell them, at least.

Oh, yeah. On the car ride to the city I became nervous. I think that's fair. So I started to bite my fingernail. Not two bites in I heard a kind of "crunch", then I felt something thin and hard in my mouth. I figured it was part of my nail, which I admit is gross, but I was going in for surgery, I will have none of your judgment. No, this bit of detritus was a piece of my goddamn tooth. Night before major surgery, I chip a tooth. I've been trying to figure out the Karmic reason for chipping my tooth, and I've narrowed it down to either my fighting the cat a lot, or because I almost spit on a guy a few months ago. That's probably the one.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't sleep all that well. Hadn't for about a week. We packed up and headed to Western, only a block or so away. It's a long block if you're going in for surgery. We got to the waiting room, watched some "Married: With Children" and then they called my name. They got me into what honestly looked like a gay Jedi's robes ("The Force is with you, and it's fabulous!"). I even had to put soft little booties on, which had a bit of a curl at the toes. So, here I am, the blind, gay Jedi of the lamp, freezing in the prep room with a bunch of others with the same poor wardrobe thrust upon them. Elaine and I did some crosswords (she read them, I answered), and then a nurse came over. She checked my blood pressure, which is normally bang on normal. "It is a little high, I think, you normally have high pressure?" "Uh, no, not really." "Your temperature high too, you have fever!" I had a minor panic at this. Was I going to be denied the surgery if they thought I had the damn swine flu? I asked her what the temperature was. "Thirty-seven point five." That's like one degree over. Either this woman has never met a nervous person before or she's the world's biggest hypochondriac. I feel sorry for her kids, if that's the case.

"Mr. Barra? Barra-Berger? Daniel? Barra?" I love having so many names. And usually only "Daniel" is pronounced properly. Anyhow, after going through the list of titles, I figured they meant me. I stood up. "It's time, Mr., uh, Daniel. Are you ready?" "No." I said, matter-of-factly. "Well, we're ready for you, so let's go."

Keep in mind I'm hungry and freezing at this point, what with not having eaten for the previous 15 hours or so. The path to the operating rooms includes a walk-by of the nurses' lunchroom. Good god it smelled delicious, and I almost banked a hard right into the break room for a bit of, I don't know what it was, falafel it smelled like. That's not a kind thing to do to people doing the hospital march. I would have made a run at it, too, but Elaine and the strangely strong East Indian nurse had a good clamp on my arm.

Once you've gone from the cold, uninviting waiting room, you are taken into the even colder, even more uninviting pre-op room. I don't know if that's what it's called, but there you are. You're plopped, unceremoniously into a giant uncomfortable leather chair reminiscent of the Emperor's chair in "Return of the Jedi". In the Emperor's throne, though, you command the 501st Stormtrooper legion to ambush "that rebel scum" on Endor's forest moon. In this chair you get an IV put in and a "warm blanket" that stays warm for all of 15 seconds. . The feeling of raw power the chair imparts upon you is cruelly wrenched away in the grip of an anesthesiologist's cold hand.

During this visit to the OR they didn't connect the IV bag right away, leaving what looked like a tiny kazoo sticking out of my wrist. I wasn't entire sussed about this idea, and though I had a compulsion to blow in it and see what noise it would make, I thought better of it. I've seen enough "House, M.D." to know that air in the blood is bad, even if done for musical and comedic effect.

"Ok, Daniel, we're ready for you in the operating room." At least they'd given up trying to say my other, apparently impossible, names.

I hugged and kissed Elaine, which was the hardest part of the day. Her being there was keeping me warm inside, which was helpful since the goddamn blanket was less than useless. I was taken through a labyrinth of halls as I tried to keep Elaine out of my mind, the feeling to run back in her direction was pretty hard to resist. The nurses talked to me, telling me that when I could see again that I'd be able to do housework like normal. Yeah, that's what I'd do.

I was taken into the coldest room yet, the operating room. I wouldn't have been surprised to see choice cuts of beef hanging around the room's perimeter, and just as I was about to ask for a shoulder roast I was helped onto the operating table.

"We're going to put some saline solution in your IV to make sure it's working, you might feel cold." 'Cold? You know nothing of cold', I thought.

Turns out I knew nothing of cold, because this was like being on the Hogwarts Express as a dementor peers into your car, their cold, rattling breath, your blood turning to ice, the feeling that you'd never be happy again. I wanted to shout "Expecto Patronum!" but I left my wand back in St. Catharines. The Canadian branch of Azkaban is the Toronto Western Hospital.

After the saline was coursing through my veins, they hooked me up to the real IV bag. I don't know what is in it, but I usually enjoy this part. They put the plastic mask on me and told me to breathe, and so I did.

"Ten, nine, eight…" I said.

"Why are you counting?" asked the anesthesiologist.

"Because I need the practise? No, I know the deal, I count down, and by four I'm asleep." I replied.

The answer was formed in my mind before she had a chance to tell me what was going on. I should have been beyond "four" by now. No, no, they can't do this while…

"You'll be awake for this one, Daniel." She cheerily informed me.

"Wha…why? I don't want to be awake while you're…poking around in my eye!" I said, a note of panic clearly rising in my voice.

"You'll be fine." She reassured me.

"But…what if my eye twitches?"

Another voice came out of the ether, "then don't twitch." This was the surgeon saying this.

"Just like that, eh?" I asked, not masking my angry sarcasm.

"Yep!" He said, as he leaned over me. I couldn't see his face through my poor vision and his face mask, but I'm sure he was smiling.

"You can't put me out? I wouldn't mind being knocked out. I was looking forward to it, actually."

Then I felt a dull touch on my eye then my vision went black.

I heard voices bouncing around the room. Most were talking about switching implements and where to put what. I heard the surgeon say something, I think "saline solution" to the assistant, who also said "saline solution," followed by a robotic voice saying "saline solution." Two things: Is there nothing saline solution can't do? And what is the robot doing there? I swear I heard the surgeon say "Oh, shit," at one point, but I guess it was a false alarm. Still, not what you want to hear.

I saw flashes that entertained me, like quasars and pulsars on a high-speed space journey.

Alright, maybe I was a little stoned, but I wouldn't recommend conscious eye surgery to anyone.

Oh, and once I was scolded for asking how it was going. I heard a scramble to change my IV bag and then "please don't talk." Surgeons aren't the best conversationalists.

"Ok, I think we're done here!" I heard a female voice say.

:You think? Or you know?" I groggily said.

"We know." The surgeon's voice appeared..

I accepted this, and, finding my feet, was guided into the post-op room. I don't know if it was the drugs passing through my veins still, or what, but this room was by far warmer than any other in the hospital.

"Before you leave, you need to have a drink to prove to us you can keep down liquids." One nurse told me.

I was dreading this part. I loathe ginger ale and apple juice, and the last time I had surgery they only gave me those two options. I was such a shit about it that they kept me in a closed ward away from other people until I was ready to have a drink. I was essentially given a time out.

The nurse started, "Ginger ale, apple juice," 'ugh,' I thought, "tea," she continued, "or coffee."

"What? Coffee? Really?"

"Yes, would you like one?"

"Oh my god, yes. Black, please."

"No sugar?"

"No thanks, I'm sweet enough as it is."

She had a good laugh at this and even brought me extra cookies.

I'd like to take a second to tell everyone this: be good to your nurses. They have more pull and clout than you think, and they deserve some recognition.

So I guess they called Elaine when I was done, and they led her to the room where I was recovering. She expected me to be dazed, out of it, and most likely grumpy beyond consolation. I don't think she expected me to be alert, sitting in a chair, shooting the shit with a nurse as I drank coffee and noshed on cookies. She thought they hadn't done the surgery, and though I tried to play it as nonchalant as I possibly could, I'd never been happier to be near her.

I was discharged about twenty minutes later, said my good goodbyes to the nurses and got dressed. Then the eating began. You'd have thought I hadn't eaten for a month. BLT sesame bagel. Medium McDonald's fries (I'm not proud, but it's my comfort food). When we got to my parents' place I ate a ham croissant, two bowls of carrot soup and a bunch of these tiny hamburger sliders.

We went back to the hospital at 7:30 the next morning for a post-op check-up. I'd been wearing a patch over my eye since the surgery so the lack of sunlight didn't bother me all that much.

"Mr., uh, Barra-Berger? Daniel? Barra?" Jesus.

Entering the office the doctor removed the patch. Wow, was I ever light-sensitive. It took a few seconds for me to gather my bearings. He peered into my eye with all sorts of lights and lenses and concluded that the surgery was a success.

"Uh, though we had to guess as to what kind of lens to put into your eye, so we may have made you, uh, near-sighted. As a result, you will probably need glasses."

Like I gave a shit.

I've been near-sighted all my life, and I've sported glasses since before I was two. He could have told me I had to wear a welder's mask all the time, but if that's what it would take for me to see, I would have done it.

He began to jot down a prescription and I had a glance around the room. Then, like Luke at the end of "The Empire Strikes Back" I began to inspect my hand, as though it were new. I wiggled my fingers in front of my face. I have fingernails. I have knuckles. I have scratches all over my wedding ring. You don't know how fascinating a left hand is until you haven't seen it for almost a year. The surgeon tried to give me the paperwork but I was too enthralled with my palm at that moment, so Elaine took it from him instead.

We went into the hall where my mom and grandparents were waiting. I was still in a kind of shock. I felt a squeeze on my hand and I turned to look at Elaine. I could see my wife. Only in small increments: her eyes, her nose, her cheek; but I could see her. That moment is now up there as the second happiest point of my life, after our wedding day. I've never loved her more.

So we fast forward a few days to today. I have to wear a patch outside until the doctor tells me it's ok not to, I have drops every day for the next four weeks, and I also get to wear sunglasses around the house. Elaine's getting pretty damn sick of the David Caruso impressions, let me tell you.

The saline solution in my eye has replaced the oil, making everything I look at wobbly and watery. Even so, I was able to hold my copy of the new Jack Johnson live cd (which, for the record, is awesome), in front of my face and read the track listing. I call that a victory.

I still have a cloudy patch in my field of vision, which I'm assuming is scar tissue on the retina. This may or may not heal, but only time well tell. I've been a little cocky in thinking that I'd be back on Xbox Live by now, but it's looking like that isn't all that far off. I've still got a few new games to pick up before Christmas and I have confidence that I'll get to play them.

I won't say this is all over; I've got another appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday. He may or may not give me the "all-clear" to get glasses or what, and how soon, but even what I've got now is an improvement over last week. I'll take that.

I want to thank everyone again for all the support you've all given me over the last year. I may look back on 2009 as my "lost year" but I know I couldn't have made it through without the kindness everyone has shown me. So, I know I've said it before, but it's still not enough, thank you.

Next step: Elvis Costello glasses!

27 October 2009

Live! From St. Catharines, it's Tuesday Morning! (applause)

Hey everyone,

So my surgery's on Thursday. It seems like no time has passed since I was given the date, Oct. 29th. It was 42 days away then and now we're at two. I'm not sure where the time went, but I think it went somewhere good.

I go for the procedure at noon on Thursday. I'm not sure how long the surgery takes but it's apparently routine. How routine this type of eye surgery (or eye surgery in general, for that matter) is, I'm not sure. I'm not a doctor, I don't have all the answers.

I think I already described what they're going to do in an earlier post, so I won't go into details again.

I wouldn't be so cocky as to say I'm not scared. It's my only working eye and I'd rather like it to work better, personally. I've been assured that it's very simple, and won't require a year of recovery or anything. The last time I spoke with the surgeon, in fact, I asked him "when it's over, I guess I'll have to get some glasses, again."

"What? Glasses? No, no, you won't need glasses. We're putting the implanted lens in for a reason," he said. So, what the final result will be is, he assures me, at the very least, better than what I have now.

Speaking of what I see now, I'll do my best to describe what it looks like. Enough people ask me, anyhow.

There's always the silicone oil bubble floating on top. It's kind of like being in a clear Magic 8 ball. If I look straight ahead, I only see about 10% of the bubble, it sits right up top. If I look up, straight up, I get a full view of the bubble. It's strange, it looks like a hovering blob, dark (yet transparent, like a Photoshop brush set at 70% opacity. Around the edges of the bubble light bends, and it warps my limited view of whatever's on the ceiling. So, my fan looks really f-ed up right now. When I walk, the oil bubble happily rocks from left to right, but not wildly. Sometimes if I sneeze part of the bubble shoots off and about 50 tiny bubbles spin around, like a strange cross between a lava lamp and a snow globe. And sometimes if I look down, then right back up, the oil spins from pole to pole, like a ghostly jump rope. So, it's a bit odd.

At some point early on some of the oil decided to go AWOL on the rest and get stuck in other parts of the eye. This was a little disconcerting at first, as you might imagine. One got stuck between layers right at the front, and decided to live there. It blocks some light from coming in, so it always looks darker. It still behaves like oils, so if I blink it rolls with a strange light-bending wobble.

Beyond the oil there is very little. There's detritus and various floaties that go along on their merry way. This crap makes my vision hazy, like an extreme foggy day. It looks like if you cross TV static with, uh, milk, maybe? If you've read or seen "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", remember when Harry finds the Pensieve? The cloudy white/grey liquid/gas that floats around in it? It's like that.

As for what I actually see, beyond the shit in the eye, I'll do my best to describe it. It's like I'm looking at the cat, right now, through frosted glass. I can see her ears, eyes, and the outline of her face, but I can't see her fur, her whiskers, or the teeth about to sink themselves into my arm. Her fur, whiskers, definition in her eyes, this is all hidden as though through a pane of frosted glass.

So that's basically the rub on what I see. You'd think that since II've spent the last 11 months like this I'd be able to describe it in better detail, but it's just so strange that that's the best I can do.

People have also asked me how I've kept my sanity. I'd say that I haven't, that I was crazy to start with. A strange Belgian man who owns an antique and cheese shop once told me that "reasonable people die bored." I like that.

I'm not going to lie and say it hasn't been hard. I've sat on a poorly made couch that loses more shape by the day for almost a year now. I can't go for walks because of poor accessibility to get even across the street. There's a lot I can't do. But where I could brood about this, I don't see the point. I've always felt like I'm a pretty independent person, that I can entertain myself. So I put my mind to it and learned to use the screen reader on my MacBook. I busied myself with listening to audiobooks. I've written about 15 pages of a novel that will probably never go anywhere. I've made a nuisance of myself and gone for car rides, helped put up drywall, helped Elaine learn how to drive, learned a better appreciation for cooking, redesigned our spare room into my nerd cave…it goes on. I've even played video games; I beat Ryan in Smash Bros. for the GameCube (though he's pretty bad at it to start, but still); played through Super Mario World; played Rock Bands 1, 2, and Beatles, and Guitar Hero: World Tour, in which I've been able to play bass and sing. I've done lots of stuff.

I think that my attitude for my situation is thanks to experience with my mom. She's entirely blind and is one of the busiest people I know. She's always doing something, be it cleaning, cooking, presentations on behalf of the Lions Foundation and the Dog Guide schools, the latter of which takes her all over the country. She attends cooking classes, does amazing pottery, sits on the Accessibility Advisory Committee for King Township. She takes what she's been given with a glass of wine and doesn't let it get her down. That's what I've learned from her: what's the point of wasting your time moping and complaining when you can't change the cards you've been dealt? Enjoy your time within your means and you'll do fine.

I admit I sometimes complain and won't lie that this experience has been hard, on not just me bot on those around me. Elaine's kept me on the level and I'd be lost without her. The last 11 months have seen major ups and downs, but I love her even more than I thought I could. I feel safe when she's around, like I don't have the vision problems. She's the point of normalcy in my life and that keeps me calm The worst part of the last year, that kills me the most, is that I haven't been able to see my beautiful wife for so long. I can shut my eyes and see her in my mind, but it doesn't compare to actually seeing her. I know I will again soon, though, and that in of itself has been a driving force for me.

I've learned a lot in the last year. Relationships with some of my friends have become even stronger. I've gotten in touch with old friends, people I haven't talked to in years. I've even lost a good friend, whom I miss a great deal. I guess a situation like mine brings out the true nature of one's character, and unfortunately not always for the better. I want to thank everyone who has stuck by me, your kindness has humbled and flattered me, and I can't even begin to think how to thank you all. I'm not very good at this without sounding overly melodramatic, but hey, it's sincere. I'll just say this, then: from the deepest part of the very fibre of my being, thank you.

Well, I'll be seeing you.

P.S. First order of business when I can see: SlapChop Vince's forehead.

18 September 2009


Hello kids.

Anyone who reads this probably already knows (except the #forum-m people…hello!), but my saga of not being able to see beyond a flickering haze is nearly over. Mid-October I've got to get an ultrasound on my eye, then at the end of the month I'll have the (hopefully) final surgery. I've already gone over the procedure in earlier posts, so I won't elaborate on that part. I'm just really happy that it's almost over.

I've done some math (!) on the subject. The time between the first emergency surgery last December and October's is 332 days. This converts to 7968 hours (or approximately the amount of time I've played various Pokemon games combined). I figured this research would have depressed me, but it hasn't. In fact, I'm more impressed by the number than anything. It's now 42 days between now and then, which pleases me, since 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. If I had the faculties to do so I'd put a countdown timer on my blog, but I don't entirely care for tempting the fates.

Everything's winding down, which is good, because I'm getting really flipping bored. I've taken out almost all the good audiobooks at the library - I'm down to language courses and self-help books. Maybe I'll learn Arabic and teach myself to better cope with stress in the workplace. I can't wait to get my mobility back, to just go for an aimless drive or just wander around Zehrs to look at things. I like that. But the thing I'm most sick of is saying "When I can see…" Even euphemisms like "When I'm off the disabled list…" or "Upon such a time when mine ocular globes doth once again perform in a satisfactory manner…" are starting to get to me. I've tried to keep a running list of things I want to accomplish, because "When I can see…" is getting to be my goddamn catchphrase. The problem is I keep the list in my head, which isn't the most reliable place in the world. So, Here's a rough list of things I want to do, (sigh), when I can see.


- Rebuild Elaine's PC

- Rearrange the living room (optimized for Halo)

- Read 12 months of National Geographic

- Read 12 months of Penny Arcade

- Go through back issues of Game Informer

- Catch up on all the Zero Punctuation episodes I've missed

- Watch Big Bang Theory to pick up on visual nerdy things I'd other wise miss

- Sift through and clean out my "Giant Box of Papers"

- Read "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child

- Play the following: Prince of Persia (360), Halo 3: ODST (360), Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)…I'd like to get a DSi, for that matter…Still haven't played Mirror's Edge or beaten Force Unleashed, so there's that.

- Install a new hard drive and replace the battery in the MacBook

- Cook. I want to cook so badly, but I've got this (I consider it reasonable) fear of chef's knives and the oven. Put on dirty sunglasses, shut one eye, and squint with the other and you'll have some understanding of my apprehension.

- I'm going for a big fucking walk (or bike ride)

- I need to clean up the tags on my music files

- I'll be able to shave with some semblance of symmetry

- I'll actually be able to be emasculated by my brother-in-law's TV. In turn, I'll have to buy a larger one.

- I'll learn Vista, then I'll figure out what the hell Windows 7 is.

- I can go to Coles again!

- Giant drive in my dope whip

- "Is this Tylenol or Immodium?" I'll never ask again!

- For some reason, I miss Google Maps, a lot.

- Oh! I want to go for a helicopter ride! I want to wear the helmet that makes you sound like a Stormtrooper!

- I'll get to actually see Obama's inauguration

- Wheel! Of! Fortune!

- "There might, uh, be an english muffin somewhere…" I'll never have to say this to Elaine again!

- I'll also beat Elaine at Rock Band…drives me up the wall.

The list goes on, no doubt, but there you are.

Oh, hey, Clone Wars is almost on! Good day, everyone!

27 July 2009

Oh, hi there.

so knock on wood, kids, the end is near.

A few weeks ago I went to the surgeon to get an update on my eye's condition. Rather than the customary flashing of lights in my eye and mumbling that I'd have to come back in another few months, I finally got some (somewhat) concrete answers. I am going to have a final surgery to remove the oil bubble that's in the eye, and an implant will be...implanted.

Thank God for Elaine, I wouldn't have remembered a damn thing about the visit if it weren't for her. I have some issues with hospitals, likely due to my experience with them at a young age. I get nervous, punctuated by minor panic attacks and mood swings. I can make jokes about how many packs of smokes the Gollum-voiced woman three seats down inhales on an average day, then the next minute I'll be brooding and snapping at the people who brought me there in the first place. I don't really think before I speak and I regret a lot of the things I say once it's too late to stop. In the doctor's office I make jokes, humour being my de facto defence mechanism. The doctors must get people like me all day. They're there to fix my eye, not to fuck around and have a laugh with some nervous kid. On top of all that, I either don't listen or I just hear what I want to hear. I personally come away from the visits with either a complete misunderstanding of what was said, or I latch on to the one thing that slipped through my internal wall of white noise and brood. Afterwards, I'm usually irrationally angry or I'll be super-psyched about the one scrap of good news that I've skewed into a impossibly positive sign of things to come, only to be let down later. This is why I'm lucky to have Elaine. She sets my ass straight, condenses the news into a digestible Coles Notes version for my under-developed brain to understand, and somehow manages to take my icy verbal jabs in stride. She knows I don't mean the poison that I issue forth, but I find out when I've crossed a line. I generally will spend the rest of the day kissing up to make good, which, I theorize, isa cunning plan on her part. She puts up with a lot of silly shit and I'm aware of how lucky I am for that.

As far as the eye thing goes, I may not even need glasses or contacts when it's all said and done. It's an odd feeling. I've never seen myself (in real-time) without glasses. I've seen pictures, but that's not the same as looking in a mirror and thinking 'don't I know you? You look familiar...' I've always worn glasses, and I think they've become sort of a safety blanket for me. They hide my oddly-shaped left eye and somehow that makes me feel safe. Sure, I have got the "Wow, your lenses are thick, what do you see out of those?" questions. Generally I'll be civil about the boorish comment. What the hell do you think I see out of them? I fantasize about ripping into people, though, with "Wow, your teeth are mossy and sparse, how do you eat with those?" People wearing bifocals do not have any idea what I'm talking about. Sure, they get the "four-eyes" and "Poindexter" banal bullshit, but it means nothing. There are assholes out there, who, thinking they're making an innocent query, ask extremely personal information. In such a blasé fashion you'd expect someone to ask another "what's up with the weather?" I've gotten "what the fuck is up with your glasses/eyes?" My favourite question is still "What can you see with those?" Do I look like Cyclops or Geordi La Forge? You can see my eyes through the clear glass lenses, right? Then clearly I must see a world of black and green, binary digits flying like neon snow. I see the world that is pulled over the eyes of others, and I am looking for recruits to wake up from their programmed existence to help me defeat our horrible robotic masters. That's right, fuckers, we live in the Matrix and I am your messiah.

God, I'm going to miss glasses.

Another thing I want to touch upon is the debate about US health care reform. I make no claims to know much about the politics behind it, and I don't honestly give a shit about that. I believe that, regardless of one's financial situation, everyone deserves free treatment. Simple as that. I also feel that if the US makes health care accessible to everyone, the doctors trained here in Canada will be more resistant to move South.

I know people who bitch and moan about the wait times at hospitals in Canada. These people aren't taking all patients into account. When I was first admitted to Toronto Western, not knowing I'd have to have surgery, I was thinking about that very issue. How can they make people wait so long for a procedure? I pondered the ethics of delaying surgery, thought about waiting rooms filled with pacing family members and nervous friends. I thought it was awful.

Then I was told I needed immediate surgery. My doctor scrubbed up, I was ushered into the frigid change room and donned a lovely gown featuring a delightful floral design. I walked past other patients, who I found out that, because of my surgery, they've been bumped from the schedule. 'What made me more special or deserving?', I thought. I felt their glares boring into my back, not needing vision to know a lot of people were pissed at me. Did I just condemn these people to a long, agonizing death? I asked Elaine and the nurse taking my blood pressure and administering eye drops about the people I gave the shaft to. "Oh, you no worry 'bout them," said the nurse, a thick Latin accent tangoing with her words, "they only have sore toes, hang-a-nails, you know? You much more severe, they wait a bit longer." I protested that I felt bad, saying that I could wait just the same. "No, you can't," Elaine told me as she squeezed my hand, "the doctor said it can't wait and you need to be in right now. The other people have broken bones, minor things that can wait." Not an hour after the doctor muttered, to no one in particular, "yeah, it's a detachment," I was shuffling down the freezing hallway to the OR. This is when I realized that though wait times are prevalent in Canadian hospitals, admittance is based on urgency. We don't have people coughing up blood, keeling over, and expiring in a full waiting room as nurses blithely sip their double-double and glue their eyes on CP24. I guarantee the people complaining about wait times are either yuppie do-gooders who haven't been in an ER for so much has the snuffles, or they're people with a non-serious issue (meaning not requiring immediate attention, broken bones, minor burns, etc.), who don't believe that they, God forbid, should be waiting for treatment with the plebs. I agree with a hospital gauging seriousness by "might die/might have lifelong repercussions" and "trivial shit." It's that cut-and-dry.

In one waiting room there was a guy who was, what I can only try to convey, frantically throwing up into the waiting room's garbage can. Every hurk and heave, followed by a splash of expelled fluids made the whole roil and shift uneasily. I eavesdropped that the poor guy had been violently ill like this a few weeks before, and had just recovered a bit. His doctor warned him not to go back to work until he was better, but rent loomed. He returned to his job, which I gathered was temporary construction work,, and the long, hard shifts brought his sickness back in full force. As unsettling as the scene was, he still had to wait to be seen by the doctor on call. I felt for the guy, who was sobbing softly between upchucks, praying for a moment's respite. No dice, another "Urp!" and another splash, amplified by the steel, hollow trash can. Doctors see a guy with a stomach bug. "Any blood?" they'd ask. "N...no, no blood, only...", his voice trailing as he whips around just in time to make another deposit. He'll have to wait, then.

Blood or a life-altering issue are what doctors are concerned with. I'm not saying that the guy who puked for the better part of four hours had it easy, and I don't envy people with broken bones or loosened teeth. I do have a problem when people complain that wait times are too long. Get a serious injury, get priority treatment. Doctors don't give a shit that you're going to miss dinner, your kid's tee-ball game, or a few hours of work.

If we lived in the States right now, I'd be blind. Simple as that. I couldn't afford the amounts that they charge for surgery. If I had the surgery there, I would have crippled our future, and compromised the financial states of my family. I couldn't do that, so I simply would have accepted it and stocked up on audiobooks. I feel for the people who ruin their lives by having it saved, if that makes sense. I don't mind waiting two or three months for my surgery. I'm at a safe point right now, and after eight months, what's a few more? I fully expect to be delayed in the waiting room for gunshot victims, people with severed digits, and other serious problems. My case was urgent in December, and now I have the luxury of waiting for the finale.

I'm not psyched for having surgery, but I'm willing to wait if it means I come out of it wit a few bucks still in my pocket.

I hope in that rant people can glean my point from it.

On a lighter note, I've been thinking about what I'll be doing when I can finally see. My plans are as follows:

-read almost an entire year of National Geographic, Penny Arcade comics, and the Time and People magazines I picked up commemorating Obama's inauguration.

-play the following:

-Prince of Persia (still sealed)

-finish Force Unleashed (turns out I didn't...)

-beat Elaine at Rock Band

-school people in Trivial Pursuit

-replay Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess


-pry Professor Layton out of Elaine's DS...

-Oh, and buy a DSi.

-I want to cook, but I'm currently afraid of knives (nothing's scarier than not knowing if you've cut yourself).

-an extension of the last one, I might take cooking classes

-learn what the hell is so good about Twitter

-get an iPhone (*swoon*)

It goes on. Honestly my first day back in the visual spectrum, I'm going to stare at Elaine for a long time, then I'm going for an extended drive alone, with my iPod on shuffle and no particular destination. Maybe I'll read Calvin and Hobbes and have a beer.

All done!

19 May 2009

Living vicariously through a robot's voice

(note: there's some stuff in here about eye surgery. It's not terribly gross, but I've met some people who can't handle they idea, so there's your disclaimer. I'm sure there are typos in here as well, robot voice is not infallible.)

Hi there. 

I've finally figured out the screen reader software that's built into the Mac, so I'm again able to be unproductive as ever with the help of the internet. Now that I'm able to use the computer though, I have no idea what to look up. I guess it's the Random button on Wikipedia for me.

I've been busy in the last six or so months since I las put something up here. In the last post I wrote I was mentioning that I was having some vision problems. Well, it turns out I was right. We went to Emergency at Toronto Western to get a look at the eye and after a few checks and double-checks it was confirmed that I had a retinal detatchment. Seeing as this is what caused the loss of vision in my left eye, this isn't exactly what I wanted to hear. Everything was happening so quickly that before I realized it I was in the operating room. (I checked the OR, I did not like it so far). I had an IV full of God knows what, they put the gas mask on me, and I was gone. 

I barely remember the next two days. I was so messed up on the general anesthetic and having a grand time.I recall some of the people in my recovery room: one guy was speaking in tongues and coughing up whatever may constitute as his lungs; another was there for what we figured was a broken toe or fractured ankle and was splitting his time between hitting on the nurses and complaining on his phone all night to his mother. He had to have been damn near 40. I think this was the occasion where I quoted a particularly offensive Monty Python skit - "Ginger? Are you a poof? :I should thay not!" - so I'm sorry to anyone whose sensibilities I insulted, poof or otherwise. 

Oh, I'm also irrationally afraid of needles, so it wasn't really the best of times. I was complaing about feeling like I was going to throw up. The nurse explained that it was likely due to the anesthetic, and asked if I wanted some Gravol. I replied "Sure, so long as it's not a suppository." They said it wasn't. They came back with a syringe and upon seeing this I claimed I was fine and not ill in any fashion. They didn't believe me. Christ, I had a welt on my arm from that needle for weeks. 

About a week after the first surgery I was back in the hospital for a check up. The first surgery had done well, but they found another tear in the bottom of my eye. I'm sure that as I write this the back of my eye looks like a quilt. The hardest part of this result was that I had a few days to panic a boutit. With the first operation I had no time to dwell on the fact that I was about to go under the knife, but this time I had a good few days to ponder the outcome. I wasn't exactly pleasant to be around, I'd wager.

The second procedure went well and six months later everything is where it should be. I'm seeing the surgeon again July to hopefully get my third and presumably final operation done. The tears are closed and are healing nicely. The surgery would be to do some "spring cleaning." There's a cataract that's grown to protect the eye, some scar tissue to get rid of, and maybe just to tidy and reupholster the thing. 

Oh, when I had the second procedure, they put an oil bubble in my eye. It's there to put some pressure on the retina, and it kind of feels like I live in a snow globe, or a carpenter's level. The result? Fantastic balance. (not really). There's a constant curve on the top of my field of vision, like the brim of a ball cap. Since it is a kind of oil, I asked one of my surgeons what kind it was. Canola? Olive? 10W-30? He didn't even crack a smile. I then asked him if I had to change it every 3000 miles. Didn't laugh. That's comedy gold, Jerry! Opthamalogists are the Germans of the medical world: strict, efficient and humourless. Maybe it's because I have brown eyes and not blue? Oh well.

I spent the first few months getting eye drops and wearing a patch. You wouldn't believe the cocktail of drops they had me on. At one point there were three different kinds: one general dialator; an awful cold goop that I had to put in, shut my eye, and for lack of a better term, swirl; and one which I can't remeber what it did, but I needed it every two hours for two weeks. If anyone needs to get someone to do drops for them, talk to Elaine, she's get the method on lockdown. 

I'm not taking drops anymore and I'm slowly regaining my independance. I was totally dependent on Elaine for a while, but aside from my fear of knives and the oven (both of which I don't trust myself with when I can see) I'm able to cook for myself. I have a white identification cane that I tap around with and it gives me some mobility. I am nervous crossing the main intersection near my place though. There's no audio signal, there are advance signals, and throw in the general ineptitude of drivers and you don't have to be visually impaired to fear it. Both Elaine and I have been tagged by cars not paying attention there. My method is to lurk at the convenience store or McDonald's until I see a group of people going to the corner and I blend in with them. I figure if someone gets hit, I'll have a bit more warning this way. 

My biggest challenge has been finding something to do. Our apartment is fairly small and suddenly I can't do what I'd normally do to kill time. All boredom and no video games make Dan something something.  Well, that's a lie. I can play Rock Band, which doesn't sound like a huge accomplishment, but the bright primary colours are perfect for the level of sight that I have. Also I can sing, provided I know the song. It's a bit of a fiasco if I don't, I just make up the lyrics and someone inevitably gets offended. Dayna is made of feelings, wwwwwaaaaaahh. I did also recently beat Super Mario World for SNES, so my self-perscribed rehab is working as far as I can tell. I've also burned through a huge pile of audiobooks thanks to the St. Catharines Public Library. I actually have a new favourite author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Had I not lost the vision I wouldn't have been introduced to Sherlock Holmes. So, I'm happy for that.

I realize that I'm simply rambling at this point, so I'll wrap this up. I'd just like to tell everyone I haven't been able to talk to in the last while that I've been a bit predisposed of late. I'll hopefully be back on the horse in a few months. I'd also like to thank everyone who have helped us out in the last while. Everyone's been so giving and helpful and we both truly appreciate it.

I'm sure I'll find something else to talk about soon. I get bored, you see.

Take care

Living vicariously through a robot's voice