SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
February 7, 2010

Why We're Running Bi-Weekly for a Few Weeks

 

It sounds absurd, redundant, maybe even a little stupid, but I’ve been having trouble with one of my eyes lately. Big deal, right? Blind man has trouble with an eye. What the hell does he expect—it’s all part of the definition. So what’s with all the whining at this point in the game?

            Here’s how it works. The left eye’s a lost cause, but I still have a tiny sliver of light left in the right eye. Not much, but I work with it as I can, since by all accounts it won’t be around for too much longer. Over the past couple of months something’s been happening to that sliver. When the sun’s out, the glare has been unbearable, and when the sun’s not out, what I can see has gone all fuzzy on me. It’s played hob with my already palsied depth perception. I also learned very quickly that I wasn’t nearly the masterful typist I thought I was. With a small but ominous mountain of work in front of me and some terrifying and insidious deadlines looming above, it’s been getting in the way.

            So what’s the first thing I did? Mind as sharp as ever, I went out and bought an eye patch. Took me four drugstores to find one—who had any idea they were such a scarce commodity?

            Anyway, I was thinking that maybe that would help somehow. But when one eye doesn’t work and the other works just a little, and you cover up the one that works a little, well, it’s not really much of a plan.

            On the bright side, even if I wasn’t getting any work done, it did compel me to start answering my phone like a pirate, and I guess that’s something.

            The trouble I was having was the result of one of two things, I figured. It might very well be the doings of that pesky cataract that’s been lurking off to the edges there for the last nine years. I have cataracts in both eyes. Both were paltry and to date neither had caused me any fuss, but the one in the right eye always seemed a bit more tenacious. For reasons Medical Science has not yet fully explained, cataracts are extremely commonplace in people with RP, though it’s apparently unconnected to the nature of the RP itself. In fact when the little bastards were first diagnosed all those years ago, my Uncle Tom (who also has RP) told me I should get them yanked right then and there. As usual, I stupidly ignored him. Always a mistake, I’m learning. These days cataract surgery is simple and zippy and nothing to worry about, I was told. If that was indeed the trouble, then it would be no sweat at all and I’d be able to salvage what little I had left, typing almost as fast as a chimp again until the RP did its final dirty work.

            That was the other possibility—that the glare and the blurriness could well be a symptom of the next stage of the RP. It’s a disease that progresses in merry hops and skips, so that something like this might happen so quickly wouldn’t really come as a surprise.

            My friend Ryan, who also has RP, tells the story (and much better than I do) about losing a chunk of sight one day. He took it to his retina specialist thinking it was a cataract, only to be informed that no, it was in fact his optic nerve dying. Yoicks, huh?

            If that was the case, well, that’s the case then, and there’s not a goddamn thing they can do about it, so I’ll probably start drinking more.

            In either case, the timing could’ve been a hell of a lot better, I’ll tell you that. But since when is timing ever good—especially when it comes to crap like job loss, family deaths, or medical annoyances? Deal with it and quit the whining.

            Still, Pollyanna that I am, I kept telling myself “Eh, it’ll be a snap—quick and easy like everyone says.” But of course things are never quite that quick and easy either, are they?

            I was in the waiting room for close to an hour, seated uneasily next to an older woman intent on describing every last scene in the film Borat in painful detail to her decidedly unimpressed husband (forgetting along the way that it was supposed to be a comedy). He, on the other hand, was growing more agitated about the wait, and kept threatening to go make some demands to someone.

            Someone finally brought me to the back and put some drops in my eyes to dilate the pupils, thus rendering me blinder still. Then I was sent back out to the waiting room to sit by that awful woman some more.

            (“He’s riding in a hotel elevator, and he thinks it’s his room!”)

            I was so tempted to haul off with the cane and crack her across the skull, but was afraid I’d miss. (I learned later that she had bigger problems than I did—it seems her eyes were exfoliating. Ewww.)

            An hour later, once the doc strapped me into her mid-tech eye-peeking device and took a look around in there, she told me that my symptoms could be the result of one of three things. It could be a detached retina, but wasn’t. It might also be that big cataract growing tight smack dab in the middle of my right pupil all of a sudden. That seemed likely. Or—there’s always an “or”—it could be some other condition that causes the retina to fill with fluid and bulge (ewww). Seems that sort of thing is also common to folks with RP for some reason.

            Now, as always, there was a potential complication here. While the cataract was definitely a problem, if she tried to operate on it and it turned out I also had that last bulgy retina thing, it could really screw things up and get pretty disgusting. So first and foremost she had to determine if I had that third condition (which had a fancy name reduced to a three-letter acronym). Unfortunately that would require an ultrasound or an MRI or some such, and she didn’t have the technology handy in her small office, which meant I had to go over to the New York Eye and Ear building on Second Avenue.

            “You could go over there today if you like,” she offered. “We could set things up.”

            I wanted to get the whole thing done and out of the way as quickly as possible, but jeeze, there was no reason to get all nuts about it. It was typical—my doctors offered immediate gratification, and I balked.

            “Umm,” I said. I liked this doctor a bunch; been seeing her for nigh on twenty years now, but at the moment I was all dilated up to Jesus and was working on about four hours sleep. The odds of my actually getting over to Second Avenue alive seemed a little slim. “You got anything, y’know, a day or two down the line?”

            So a day or two down the line, off I went.

 

NEXT WEEK: What’s for lunch?

 

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