Eye Doctor Without Eye Contact

Dec 16, 2010
*Special to asia!

Making eye contact isn't urging a threat. It's just human. So what's the challenge? Or perhaps the simpler but more difficult question is, why not?

"I see lightning flashes," The tone of my mothers' voice conveyed composure. "We need to go to the hospital NOW." But her words implied quite the opposite.

I had just stepped out of the shower after returning from a wedding banquet and was looking forward to reclining into bed, when my mom yelled from her desk that we were having an emergency. "Read this!" She gestured at the computer monitor.

It read: "If you see a shower of floaters and spots, sometimes accompanied by light flashes, you should seek medical attention immediately."

"I don't think they mean immediately, IMMEDIATELY, mom. I'm sure you can go to bed now and we'll see a doctor first thing in the morning." It was past midnight and I was determined it'd be a good idea for her to rest her nerves and her eyes, and deal with the doctor first thing the next morning. "I don't think it'll get terribly worse over the next eight hours. You should probably sleep."

I used to appreciate that the internet empowered people with information, but right now, I absolutely hated that some doomsday scenario by an unnamed doctor on a website was driving my mom, and now me, into a dizzying frenzy.

But there was no way my mom was going to sleep. Acknowledging the distressed look on her face, I yeilded. "Ok, ok, get dressed. We're going to the A&E. Hurry. If this is an emergency like you say, hurry yourself." All I wanted was to go to sleep, and I was evidently annoyed that this was no longer an option. But knowing that my mom wasn't going to get any sleep as long as that "lightning" kept on flashing, I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep either.

We hopped on a taxi and arrived into a seemingly quiet and relatively idle Emergency Ward. Well, it was half past midnight on a Monday morning. My mom and I had our temperature read as all persons allowed into the ward need to be cleared of their temperatures. "Hello. What is the problem?" Asks the nurse at the registration counter. My mom replies, "My retina is torn." I rolled my eyes and quipped, "You don't know that." Mother maintained a catatonic look. I sighed to myself.

We were moved to the waiting area. We stared into reruns of the last news bulletin. Mother played with her fingers. Her name was called by the nurse in Triage.

"Hello, what seems to be the problem today?" The nurse asks.

"I think my retina is torn." I held back any quips. She didn't need to hear more from me. And this time, she'd added "I think", which I thought interesting.

"Any medical conditions?"

"Diabetes. High blood pressure."

"Any allergies?"

"Not that I know of."

The nurse checked her blood pressue and blood glucose levels. All seemed fine.

"Ok. Please have a seat outside and we'll call you again." The nurse took mom's file and marched past an opaque sliding door, into a room in the ward.

"Are you thirsty?" I tried to show come concern. I wanted to do something to take her mind of speculating the worse-case-scenerio. I knew my mom, and she is a highly creative person. Adept at concoting the most spactacular of episodes. She remained wide-eyed. "I'll go get you a drink."

As soon I returned from the 7eleven with a bottle of water, my mom was called in to see a doctor.

"Hello. What seems to be the problem?" The doctor leaned calmly into his chair with his hands clasped in front of him.

"My eyes. I'm seeing white flashes and black spots." My mom had progressed from diagnosing herself to describing her problem.

"Mm. Black spots like mosquitoes? Running around your eyes?"

"Ah. Yes."

Mother sat in her chair, leaning foward towards the doctor, anticipating words of reprieve.

"We'll get the eye doctor to have a look at you, ok? I'll just do some checks and you can wait outside."

At this point I silently wished that my mom had hemmed up her distress so that we might have been rushed directly to the eye doctor instead of being made to go through these stages where questions and answers were reiterated.

"I want a hot drink." Mother instructed me. I did as I was instructed. The walking was probably good for me anyway. It'd help to burn up some adrenaline.

Unfortunately, the coffee machine wasn't too far away, and I was back to where mom was seated within three minutes. I stood next to her as she blew at her coffee. I looked at the TV and stretched a little. I paced the length of three chairs. Took out my iPod Touch to play some games but quickly got bored. I wished I had an iPhone so perhaps I'd find someone to chat with on MSN, or view the notices on Facebook. Thank goodness I didn't have an iPhone. I decided to talk to mom.

I found out that the flashes began in the early evening while she was watching TV. She thought nothing of it at first. Shrugged it off as some kind of tick. But as it perpetuated through the night, she was quietly getting nervous about her condition. She didn't tell anyone about it, until she decided to surf it up on Google, and read the words that brought her into panic.

We were waiting a long time now and conversation made mom tired and nervous. So I told her to rest her eyes and snooze till we were called. She decided to go to the loo. At least that's what she said. Because on her way to the loo, she made a detour into the ward, to ask where the opthamologist was. She found out that the doctor was in the middle of surgery.

At about 2 a.m. we were called in to wait outside the Operation Theatre where the doctor was said to be arriving at soon. Bad idea. Mom, who was trying to remain calm, had to contend with two victims from what seemed like a motorcycle accident, being wheeled into the OT with blood-soaked bandages. Her eyes were fixed on them and worry swept over her face. "Close your eyes." I instructed her. The patient was moaning. "Why don't they give him painkillers?" My mother asked. "I think they have, mom." The boy left his chin on the road. All other bits of his face were being held in place by gauze. "Close your eyes." I attempted to command her. But I suppose, mothers are mothers, and they worry and care.

3 a.m. The doctor walks past us, into his room, pops his head out to call mothers' name. We enter. The room is dark. He sits into his swivel chair. With his gaze fixed on an unmarked point on the floor, he asks, "Yes?" I felt like we were intruding, and that we should hurry to not take up too much of his time.

Mother explained what she was expriencing.

"Sit down." The doctor gestured at a chair infront of his desk. "Rest your chin here. This thing will touch your eye. Just breathe normally." He tapped on a brace that stretched horizontally infront of his scope.

debby ngDebby Ng forayed into journalism following failed attempts at becoming a world-class equestrian. A wildlife crime investigator, underwater photographer, dive master and founder of a marine conservation organisation, she spends what remains of her time writing about the environment, its wildlife, and its people.

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