The stomach virus left me with a parting gift- a very painful eye infection in my right eye! In the last week, this infection has taken over my knee pain as my most acute injury. (At times, it makes me wonder if I am doing something very, very wrong to end up like this! The problems are just piling up on top of one another, each one more intense than the last!) My eye was becoming more and more light sensitive and painful by the end of last week, and by the weekend, I was starting to lose my vision. I ended up going to the “Minute Clinic” at CVS on Sunday, since the doctor I called said that doesn’t sound like conjunctivitis and that I needed to be seen. However, there was a three hour wait time and I had to give my talk in North Andover. By the time I was done, all of the clinics were closed.
I decided I would go to Urgent Care at the hospital I teach yoga at in Cambridge in Mondays. Maybe they could see me before class, and I could get a prescription afterwards. It turned out that there was no urgent care there- only the emergency room. I had to wait for the receptionist to chat with another employee before she registered me. Some time later, I was taken to a bed where I was to wait for the nurse. I told her that my cornea was infected. “How do you know that?!” she asked with wide eyes. “Because this happened to me while I was hiking the Appalachian Trail five years ago.” She led me down the hall and told me to stand on the blue tile and asked me to read the lines on the eye chart. “You’re very good with both eyes!”.
A physician assistant came in and shone a light into my eye. “You have a corneal ulcer. You could lose your vision. You need to see the opthomologist immediately.”
“I have to teach yoga at noon.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea”.
It turned out that the opthomologist was at the hospital in the next town, so I cancelled my classes and drove over there. I was examined and questioned by the assistant who almost dilated my eyes. “You’re going to dilate my eyes?!” They were already more light sensitive than if they were dilated! I told him I didn’t want that and that they were fine.
I was then taken to a seat in a hallway to wait for the doctor. A portable radio was playing Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ right behind my head! (Portable radios still exist?). The door of the doctor’s office was wide opened as he talked with the patient inside. Apparently, the patient had had a stroke and lost some of his vision as a result. “What’s a stroke?” he asked the doctor.
He led the patient out and grabbed my chart. “Uh-huh, okay, um hum, okay! Come on in.” He looked into my eyes and said that both of my corneas are badly damaged, but only one of them looks bad. The blood vessel in my right eye broke into my cornea and I have some viral conjunctivitis in addition. He said I can not wear contacts for 2 weeks and that he would prescribe some antibiotic drops, but that they wouldn’t help since this is a viral infection. It will take 2 weeks to get better.
He also said it will get worse before it gets better.
I have been in the “worse” phase for the past several days. Most of the time, I can’t even open my right eye because it is extremely sensitive to any amount of daylight. He didn’t give me anything for the pain, which has made it difficult to do anything. I’ve had 3 talks in the past 4 days and another one tonight, and yesterday, I had to teach two yoga classes. As soon as one of my students sat down in front of me yesterday, she gasped, “Oh, my God!”.
One painful ailment on top of another.
Driving has been the most excruciating time for me. I have to keep my right eye closed, but even so, the light is still able to get in. Even with my hat pulled down as low as possible, the two sun visors down, and my hand covering my eyes, it is extremely painful, and very dangerous! I am driving nearly blind! I thought driving in the night would be better, but the car lights hurt my eyes, and the motion is also very difficult for them.
What I really wonder about, is how I managed to keep hiking the AT with this infection in both of my eyes! I remember the searing pain, the inability to open my eyes due to the extreme light sensitivity, having to hike nearly blind until I reached one of the dirtiest hostels on the trail, lying sick on the disgusting bunkbeds, and searching through a water soaked and bug ridden phone book to make an appointment with an eye doctor in town. That eye doctor gave me steroid antibiotics and the next day, I was back hiking the rest of the trail to Maine! Maybe the steroids helped me with the pain, or maybe it was my super-human thru-hiking persona that got me through. These days, in the comfort of my apartment with the ability to rest a great amount, I am stripped of my healing powers, and so I must wait and wait and wait…
One of my friends said that I am an interesting combination of strong and fragile. That is for sure!
I am so glad that I did not go through with the surgery on the 8th with the bad doctor. One of my yoga students gave me the name of an orthopedist in Lexington who accepts Masshealth (every other one I tried does not!). I have to wait until February 2nd to even be seen by him, however. In the meantime, I am trying out castor oil packs, which I happened to see mentioned in a comment while I was reading about torn meniscuses.
I gave my chiropractor my MRI report and he said he didn’t realize it was that bad! “I didn’t know about this lateral part.” The tear was as clear as daylight to me as soon as I saw the MRI (well before the doctor said anything.) It is a large, lateral complex tear, with a flap and probable dislodged pieces. There is also an accompanying cyst and wear on the patella (which I can feel!). In other words, I have withstood an incredible amount of pain! (And now I know that I hiked the Colorado Trail and the PCT with a partially torn meniscus!) Whenever I try to pretend that it is okay for a moment, it immediately gives out and starts hurting more. I think the castor oil pack can help dissolve the cyst and maybe send some healing agents in for the damaged cartilage.
I can’t believe the surgeon had no suggestions at all for pain relief. He didn’t even take me seriously until after the MRI report came back, and then he mentioned surgery for the first time (practically just in passing as he was getting ready to leave the room. “There are always risks, but in your case, the benefits greatly override the risks.” I was glad that I had read enough beforehand to know this was coming… That day, the pain was still so high, that I agreed I better just get it done. But after not being able to be seen by a better surgeon due to my type of health insurance, I knew I needed to buy some time and not rush into surgery with someone I don’t feel comfortable with. Since then, the pain level has been decreasing and I have been able to walk a little bit better. Straightening my leg still hurts, and any type of hip opener is still inaccessible, but at least I can breathe, sleep, and do some types of movement now!
Hopefully, by February, I will be back on my feet, able to see, and ready to re-start my intentions for the year!