So, Friday morning, my eyes were stinging pretty badly. Figured it was likely some sort of allergic reaction, as god knows, I’ve had enough of those. Strange, though, ’cause I’d been taking a Claritin every evening, and it’d kept the hayfever pretty much under control this year. But for the last few days, my eyes had been stinging, sort of a low-grade really sleepy-like burn.
On the drive in to work, my right eye suddenly began to burn – it didn’t turn red, it didn’t get itchy, it just started to sting like nobody’s business. I couldn’t keep it open, and tears just started streaming out of the eye. I assumed maybe an allergic reaction to my coworker’s dog, and when we got out of the car at work, things seemed to return more or less to normal.
Half an hour later, both eyes started burning. I couldn’t read anything, and sent out an e-mail asking if anyone had any anti-allergy eyedrops or something similar. No dice, so my coworker (the one with the dog) offered to take me to a pharmacy or something. On the way there, things got really bad, enough that he suggested going to the local urgent care clinic. At this point, it seemed like the sensible thing to do. No eyedrops were going to make this sort of pain stop.
So, off we went. Fortunately, the urgent care clinic is pretty empty on a Friday morning, so I was seen quickly. The doctor said it was likely an allergic reaction to something, gave me some numbing eye drops (which instantly stopped the burning), and a 50 mg shot of Benadryl in the butt. Benadryl knocks me out, and this was no exception. Owen picked me up from the clinic, drive me back to work, and I konked out in one of the unused offices for an hour and a half. When I woke up, the eyedrops were wearing off, and the eyes started burning again.
Clearly, I wasn’t able to continue working, and there was a window of time where I could see enough, and wasn’t sleepy, so I told HR I needed the rest of the day off, and drove home. The rest of the day passed pretty uneventfully, but later in the evening, as Ei-Nyung and I were watching So You Think You Can Dance (the finale, TiVo’d), my eyes started burning again. Needles in the eyes, on fire – impossible to keep my eyes open, tears streaming out – the tears felt like lemon juice in an open wound, and everything basically made everything worse.
We went to the ER, and they basically said the same thing. Looked at my eyes with a number of tools, dyed them to try to see damage, nothing. Everything looked healthy, but the pain was intolerable. Again, the numbing drops, relief. But no resolution. All I got was a prescription for Vicodin. But I suppose it would have to do. Couldn’t be picked up ’till morning.
The next morning… it’s hard to describe. Where before, the whole eyeball burned, now, everything was concentrated into a single point. I’d slept on my stomach, and it was like all the pain had concentrated into a single point at the center of my eye – the lowest point (if you were sleeping on your stomach). Opening my eyes, it was like someone was pushing a pencil into my pupil.
When I was in high school, I’d scratched my cornea – got a sliver of glass in my eye from a broken bottle at a water polo match. Intense pain. This was a lot like that. Every time I moved my eyes – either one – it was like gargling a bucket of razor blades. I could keep them wide open, in which case, I was fine – though extremely light-sensitive, so I’d get almost instantly nauseous. If I closed my eyes, razor blades. If I blinked, both. So, I kept my eyes closed, and my eyeballs as still as possible.
Called the optometrist, and was told they could see me at 1. We went at noonish, because I just couldn’t tolerate the pain anymore. The doctor was incredibly kind, accomodating, and had a wonderfully relaxed and reassuring manner. Dr. Choong Yu, I believe. Wholeheartedly recommended. He did a battery of tests, prescribed a number of medications (one for pain, one antibiotic, one anti-allergy), and gave me some contacts that would essentially act as bandages, and protect the corneas from further damage.
Ei-Nyung filled all the prescriptions (poor thing ahd to go back to the pharmacy like, four or five times to get everything), and I started taking the Vicodin. Fortunately, it basically put me out, and I only remember sleeping for hours and hours, periodically getting woken up to be either stuffed full of delicious food, or had my eyes lit on fire with some sort of medications. Not the best sort of crapshoot, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Ei-Nyung kept waking me up, every six hours, for medication. Midnight, 6am, whatever – she’d give me the Vicodin, wait, give me the eyedrops for pain, wait, then the antibiotics.
I love her, from the bottom of my heart, and never in a million years could I ask for a more loving wife. I can only hope that in her times of crisis, I’m as calm, collected, and thoughtful.
Sucks, being blind. Can’t play games, can’t red, can’t really watch movies. I ended up listening to the first season of Top Gear, which Andre had burned for me a while back. Definitely a weird show to just listen to without any visuals, but it passed the time, and I knew there was a LOT of it, so there’d be more if I needed it. Sunday passed quickly, I spent most of it asleep.
The drops were torture. I couldn’t open my eyes on their own, so Ei-Nyung would have to pry them open, and I’d have to try to roll my eye up or down out of the way of the drop – every drop, the next fifteen minutes, I’d want to just carve my eyes out, but over time, it got easier. Every six hours, two sessions of eyedrops. Seems like a stupid thing to be so pained by, but there you go.
Sometime Sunday, the contacts started irritating me more than the pain. A doctor will ask you, on a scale of 1-10, what’s the pain feel like? For me, the most pain I’ve ever experienced was when my leg would swell with blood after I’d had knee surgery – that was probably a 9. This pain was at best a 1 or a 2, if I could think about it rationally, but the problem with a constant pain in the eyes is that it’s impossible to think about it rationally. Even though the doctors had said that my vision was fine, I kept thinking, “What if I’m going blind?”
Every twitch of the eye led to stabbing pain, each pain was a reminder that something was horribly wrong with my eyes. Without sight, I can’t do my job, I can’t participate in many of the things that I really enjoy doing. The reminder was frustrating, and the frustration took the level 1 or level 2 pain up to a 9. I’d whimper – audibly – nothing I could do to stop it. I felt like an idiot, but it was literally out of my control.
Somewhere in there, I did get an answer to a question I’ve asked myself in the past – what would it be like to be blind? Would I want to keep on living? The answer is, “It’d fucking suck,” and “Absolutely, yes.” I’d learn to adapt – I could already sort of make my way around the house – clumsily, sure, but I could kind of get around. I could still think, I could still talk, I could still feel. Life would go on, even if I couldn’t see it.
Monday came, and I had an appointment with the optometrist late in the afternoon. We moved it up, because the contacts were driving me crazy, and so my regular optometrist took a look. The numbing eyedrops returned – ah, sweet magical relief – I couldn’t focus, but could also for teh first time in days actually open my eyes and mostly see.
Again, she checked, and the vision looked mostly fine – problems were still there, still needed the “bandage” ocntacts, and it looked like it’d be a few more days, still. My heart sank. Still, this time, when the numbing drops wore off, the contacts had sat better, and the constant irritation was mostly gone. By the evening, I could keep my eyes open for a reasoanble length of time – I still can’t focus, but I can generally see – enough to (mostly) touch type this post.
The pain’s still there, but a lot duller, and I can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel. Probably another couple days of diminished misery, then things will likely sort themselves out. I wish I knew what *caused* this – that’s the worst part, that I don’t have any idea how to prevent something like this from happening in the future. I don’t think it was any sort of chemical exposure, and the symptoms were totally different than my usual allergies. If this happens on a regular basis, I swear I’ll lose my mind. But hopefully, it’s just a one-time thing, and if things continue to get better at this pace, things should be good by Wednesday.
To everyone who’s already heard through various channels and sent well-wishes, thank you – it really means a lot. Scary times. Knowing you have friends out there really makes it easier.