A few years ago I woke up, opened my eyes, and was petrified to find myself blind in my right eye. It was like a painted window, there was no sunlight except for a small sliver that fell in at the top. I rubbed my eyes, but no change. I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. I stared at myself in the mirror. Everything looked fine on the outside, but still nothing. I called Arlene (ex-wife) who, with the three kids in tow, drove me to the emergency room that then sent me to an eye doctor. After a quick examination he told me a blood clot had traveled into my eye and that there was nothing he could do. It was the only time in my life that I actually felt like I was going to pass out. In my mind I thought of all the things I wouldn't be able to do now that I was blind in one eye.
"Well, actually," the doctor continued, "there is one thing I could try." (How about you lead with that next time, Doc)
So I was escorted into another room where the nurse put some drops in my eye to numb it then proceeded to tell me what the doctor was going to do.
"The doctor is going to inject a needle into your eye and draw out some of the blood," she said casually, "and it's very import that you don't move your head when he does it."
I was still getting passed the 'inject a needle into your eye' when I asked her what was going to keep my head from moving.
"Your neck," she replied and left the room.
Having a needle stuck in my eye was the most disturbing thing that ever happened to me that didn't include alcohol and mutual consent, but it did restore most of my vision so for that I was grateful.
This was not the first time the universe conspired to take my eyesight and this reminded me of two other events that happened in my childhood.
We were living in Brooklyn, in a brownstone that my grandmother owned. I was five-years-old and had just opened a birthday present -- a Superman Slingshot. I ran outside to send the Man of Steel on his maiden flight. The oak tree lined sidewalks would be kryptonite to my Superman so I raised the slingshot to eye level, aimed carefully away from the branches, then pulled back the thick rubber band that held this son of Krypton, and let him fly.
Being that I was five I did not grasp, or even know about, Newton's Law of Physics and that every action has an equal on opposite reaction. In the split second after Superman took flight I was visited by a sharp pain and an engulfing white light as the returning rubber band hit my eye. I screamed, grabbed my face and then blindly (literally) ran into the house. As I came through the door blood cried down the back of my hands that covered my face. My sister Diane, always ready to help, screamed once and ran upstairs. My mother was a little more helpful (not by much though) she threw her arms around me, pulled me tight against her body, and waited for me to stop screaming.
I did -- eventually.
When all the blood was wiped off of my face, it turned out the rubber band did not hit my eye, but opened a gash on the side of my nose thisclose to the eye. Disaster averted.
As I said, we lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn. On our street all the adjoining brownstone shared a common alleyway where we played as kids and our parents parked their cars. On the Fourth of July the year following the Superman incident we had a huge party in the alleyway. There were tables filled with food and drinks and we all waited patiently for the night to come so we could see the fireworks. Once they started all you heard were 'oohs' and 'aahs' as the rockets exploded in the nighttime sky. Most of the dads congregated by the entrance of the alleyway as they set up the bottle rockets and various types of fireworks that seemed to have no end.
I stood just outside their circle when one of the dads picked me up, stood me on a chair, and handed me a Roman candle. I was instructed to hold it over my head, which I did, and he then lit the fuse. With the candle over my head I laughed as the first colored ball escaped into the night sky. There were sparks everywhere as the second ball of light flew skyward. I was still laughing when the third ball of light exploded out the bottom of the Roman candle and shot quickly into my eye.
Before I could even cry out I was whisked off the chair and into the nearest house. I found myself being held nearly upside down as my face was placed under the kitchen sink faucet and water suddenly gushed downward to extinguish my face.
Fortunately for me there was no damage, it was all flash and no burn. For the rest of the night I sat squarely under one of the picnic tables nursing a grape soda my mother had given me as the fireworks exploded safely overhead.
I have bad eyesight today, but that is mostly because of my age. I have a blind spot where the blood clot sat on my cornea too long, but it doesn't stop me from doing anything (my laziness does that). I still worry that one day something will happen and complete the job that Superman started so many years ago. If something does happen, I just hope I see it coming.
So I keep an eye out for it.
Gathering your health information and getting organized before your appointment are the key steps to ensuring a productive meeting with your doctor. This is especially important if you're seeing multiple doctors or are meeting with a new physician for the first time.
Make sure the doctor you're seeing has copies of your latest X-ray, MRI or any other test or lab results, including reports from other doctors that you've seen. In most cases, you'll need to do the legwork yourself, which may only require a phone call to your previous doctor's administrative staff, asking for it to be sent, or you may need to go pick it up and bring it to the new office yourself.
Make a list of all the medications you're taking (prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements) along with the dosages, and take it with you to your appointment. Or, just gather up all your pill bottles in a bag and bring them with you.
Your doctor also needs to know about any previous hospitalizations, as well as any current or past medical problems, even if they are not the reason you are going to the doctor this time. Genetics matter too, so having your family's health history can be helpful. The U.S. Surgeon General offers a free web-based tool called <a href="http://familyhistory.hhs.gov" target="_hplink">"My Family Health Portrait"</a> that can help you put one together.
Make a written list of the top three or four issues you want to discuss with your doctor. Since most appointments last between 10 and 15 minutes, this can help you stay on track and ensure you address your most pressing concerns first. If you're in for a diagnostic visit, you should prepare a detailed description of your symptoms.
The best advice when you meet with your doctor is to speak up. Don't wait to be asked. Be direct, honest and as specific as possible when recounting your symptoms or expressing your concerns. Many patients are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, which makes the doctor's job a lot harder to do. It's also a good idea to bring along a family member or friend to your appointment. They can help you ask questions, listen to what the doctor is telling you and give you support.
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