Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A Long time
It was ten years ago this summer that I stopped driving. I always had used Honda Civics - they were reliable and got good mileage. My mechanic was always offering to buy them from me (that's a good sign, no?). My last one, Ignatius, was a deep hunter green. In late 2001, I had an exam with my retinal specialist. He said everything looked good. A month later, I woke up with what seemed like the contents of an entire pepper shaker inside my eye. I'd had a major hemorrhage and was immediately lasered. Usually, when the retina is lasered, the extra vessels shrink and die. But my extra vessels had latched onto the vitreous (the gel like material inside the eye) and as they shrank they pulled my retina off its backing, causing a full detachment. Since I was still bleeding, I did not realize the detachment had occurred, and at my follow-up visit they did an ultrasound and he grimly said to the nurse "it's off - let's get set up for surgery this afternoon". So, I was operated on and when I woke up he said "now you're gonna have to lay flat on your face, not moving, for 7 days". Say what? A nitrous oxide gas bubble had been placed in my eye, and in order for it to hold the retina in place my head had to be down so it would float to the top. I was sent home with an enormous bottle of percoset. I was in little pain, but I took them 'round the clock for sedation. They worked. I had not realized that the doc told my mother he hoped the eye would get back to "seeing shapes". On my first post-surgery visit, I read the middle line on the eye chart and he said, "you've gotta be kidding - you can actually read that?". Over the next few weeks my vision improved to 20/40 with corrective lenses. But I was bothered by one thing - it was sort of tunnel vision. I kept waiting for the peripheral vision to come back and then finally asked him. He told me that the edges of the retina had to be cut so there was a smooth surface for healing. The side vision was gone. It would not one back. And, by the way, no driving. I screamed "but I can see fine straight ahead". He agreed, but what would i do if I couldn't see a car that was in the next lane? Or worse yet, a pedestrian? The grief was severe. A big part of my life had been taken away. I sold Iggy to a friend's son who needed something reliable to drive to Alaska. He is still working well. I had always taken the bus to work, and enjoyed the time relaxing with a book or knitting. But to have no alternative took a lot of adapting. My life runs according to the bus schedule. I can no longer jump in the car and do an errand. I have to stop by the grocery store every day to carry just a bit at a time. I can no longer go to the regional parks where I enjoyed the solitude of being in nature. If I were to ever move, it would have to be in a neighborhood with good bus connections. When I go t the State Fair, I bump into people. When I'm with my niece, she has to walk a foot ahead of me or else I can't see her (and, of course, holding hands is not an option). What hurts a lot is when friends don't remember. My truest long-time friend phoned a couple weeks ago to say she'd seen some magnificent wild iris blooming in a bog in the distant suburbs and that I should check it out. How would I get there? Take a $100 cab ride? When my mother was dying, I had to go to visit her according to my sister's schedule, which wasn't very often. Had I been able to drive, I would have gone every weekend. Sometimes when I see a Honda Civic parked on the street it makes me shed a few tears And at the time I gave up the car, I had no idea what further losses were to follow. Nor do I now. I hate diabetes. PS - I just got a new IMac and it seems to have taken away all my paragraph breaks.