Friday, October 19, 2012

Zombie Granny

Small children hide behind their mother’s legs as I shuffle past, 
stumbling on minute cracks in the paving.

Hesitant, cautious steps; arms reaching, fingers clasping at railings and walls, indeed anything that is reliably stable. Marshmallow eyed and miserable, I hear:
“Look mummy, there’s a grandma zombie. Her eyes are leaking from her face”.

University students, not generally known for their squeamishness, give me wide berth and glance furtively from a safe distance. Perhaps they’ve taken this zombie-craze belief to heart? 

Pomegranate red eyes, my right eye dribbling vivid orange tears, is not an attractive look, and perhaps my attempt at a reassuring smile is interpreted as a zombie ploy, to feign friendliness, but with a sinister ulterior motive?

Such is the result of a scratched cornea. Variously referred to as an ulcer, an abrasion or a tear. Forget the terminology, it’s bloody painful and debilitating.

My eyeball feels like it’s been studded with sharp pebbles, exploding with effervescent liveliness at every infentisimal movement.

The Emergency Department doctor – the third I’ve seen in two days, which makes sense in the circumstances – compares the photographs taken on my trusty phone the previous day, and declares confidently he can see an improvement.

Sadly my eye hasn’t caught up with this happy news and I continue to flinch and weep with every painful, grainy blink.

A few things I didn't know about having a scratched cornea, which I pass on as a public service, particularly if you're travelling and your regular optometrist is a few thousand kilometres away.
- phone your own optometrist first thing for advice!
- don't try to flush your eye with water, it could harbour germs
- don't immerse yourself in a swimming pool or spa, apparently they're teeming with all sorts of bacteria which would find the open wound in your eye a very attractive breeding ground
- when showering keep your eyes shut, stray drops of water not only hurt like the blazes, but they can also harbour bacteria
- an eye patch loosely applied brings some relief, not only from light, but helps prevent blinking which is excruciating
- the anaesthetic used prior to the drops to make the abrasion show up provides blissful relief for up to an hour
- if possible (in Australia at least) go to an optometrist immediately. I had no idea you could drop in unannounced off the street, and they'll make time for you. They have the expertise and equipment to confidently assess the trauma and treat it. As this happened in the early morning we went to the local Emergency Department where I queued with other patients. Even though I was assessed as being high priority, naturally enough heart attack and road trauma patients take precedence. Whilst the doctors were professional, efficient and caring, the first wasn't perfectly at ease with the basic optometric equipment and diagnosis and I was pleased he asked for a second opinion. I'm not being in the least bit critical as, of necessity, they're generalists. In hindsight I could have waited (in agony and fearful that something horrendous was happening) till an optometrist opened the doors. But as I noted I wasn't aware that was an option.
- there was apparent disbelief that I wasn't aware I'd scratched my cornea. The comments "that's huge, how could you not know it happened" weren't encouraging. I honestly didn't know how it happened. I woke up at around 3am in excruciating pain and had trouble going back to sleep. I assumed an eyelash was irritating by eye, and that allowing my eyes to water copiously would remove it.
- the optometrist I eventually saw on the insistence of my regular, trusted and ever reliable optometrist was fantastic. Reassuring, informative, helpful and he added some more reassurance for good measure - just in case the first amount wasn't enough. Apparently what can happen -it's rare but possible - is for a scratch to happen during the day that's not too bad. When you sleep the wound begins to heal and creates scar tissue which sticks to the eyelid. Then, when you open your eye, the scar tissue can rip off making the original tiny tear into a more dramatic wound.

I'd like to thank the doctors and staff at both the Tamworth Base Hospital and Coffs Harbour Emergency Departments for their professional assistance and follow up phone calls.


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