Friday, 20 February 2015

A Day of Darkness

Backdrop – I recently had a problem with my right eye, which required a LASER barrage. Consequentially, I had to remain in bed rest for a week. For a full day after the procedure, I had to keep my eyes closed. That is when I discovered how the other senses come to the fore when one is shut out.

This is just a sample picture of the phenomenon, and not the state of my eye. Image source

Its curious how Indians have swapped the word “myopia” for “power”. Tera kitna power hain? Mera -6 hain. Oh wow, kitne fingers bata? *dangles three fingers in front of your face.* This is a practice as old as Father Time in this country. I was pretty scared when I heard that my myopia had caused lattice degeneration, leading to an initial phase of retinal detachment. (Translated to English, that means there was a rupture in my retinal membrane, which could cause vision loss if left untreated.) I was rushed to the LASIK centre, administered shot after shot of painfully stinging lasers, and advised absolute bedrest.

When I returned home, I was faced with the exceedingly difficult proposition of not just lying as still as possible for over a week, but of keeping my eyes shut for a full day. Those of you who know me personally will know I’m arguably the most restless person on the planet. However, worried as I was about ending up with impaired vision, I decided to comply. I went blind to the world, practically, for a day. And I heard some pretty interesting things.

From around eleven in the morning, when the detachment was noticed in a test, I sprawled around in the hospital, in the most boring setting ever. I wasn’t still clear about exactly what was wrong, I was not clear about what was to be done, I was not clear what lay ahead. All in all, the hours leading upto the first LASER barrage procedure were anxious, apprehensive and scary. A hospital is always a busy place, and the inevitable humdrum helped take my mind off things. There was the man who wanted to jump the queue, the lady who didn’t understand any of the medical terms that had been dished out to her, another lady who I thought was talking to me (I couldn’t be sure, maybe there was someone else sitting close by) about her son. There was the Bihari gentleman who was determined to make his point in his mother tongue only. There was the inevitable kid creating a ruckus – I think it was a little girl fascinated by the framed pictures on the walls. Eventually, at almost five in the evening, I was ready to start off with my treatment.
It was almost seven in the evening by the time I returned home a week ago. My house is situated in a relatively quiet neighbourhood, and for the first hour or so all I could hear was mom moving around the place, just generally fussing about me. As evening turned to night, I could hear neighbours quarelling. Now, just next to my place, four young IT employees have rented a flat, and I could distinctly hear them discussing the Cricket World Cup. Yes, there is no escaping the spirit of the game this season, not even when you’re lying in bed. I smiled to myself as the Virats and the Johnsons were discussed. Between all this, our security guard downstairs decided to startle me with a mightly ol’ belch that could doubtless rival the world’s loudest. He is a queer man, never to be found when needed, but always making his presence felt in the choicest ways when he is there. I remember being distracted after that, with a few phone calls. This was the first time I had discussed any serious health issue outside immediate family, and it was not easy. I tried to keep myself entertained by guessing the model of car from the sounds it made on the road ouside. (Turns out, I’m miserable at this guessing game. I gave up after the first five sounded the same.) Every five minutes, I’d yell out to mom asking what time it was, each time hoping an hour had passed. Relativity can be a real bitch sometimes.

I don’t remember when or how, but I fell asleep without even having dinner that night. I woke up late, nearly at eleven, thus having shut out sight for a full day. I remember dreaming of sad little images which burdened my mind at that time. Would I be cured? Would I lose vision? How long is this going to take? Am I going to be restricted for life? What consequences would this have?
These questions have now been answered. The barrage has held up successfully, which means there is no immediate possibility of loss of vision. Yes, there will be certain restrictions, but I have pulled off what even the doctor terms a “very narrow escape.” There is only one question that remains to be answered, one that none of the doctors (or google) could answer. How exactly did this happen? The best I’ve got in the way of explanation is that myopic people are susceptible to lattice degeneration. It has no symptoms, so there is no real way of knowing exactly when it happened either. It is a silent killer, painlessly aggressive, and would have caused irreparable loss of vision if allowed to advance further
Today, I’m a relieved man. These have arguably been the worst two weeks of my life, clouded with doubt and apprehension. In the midst of it all, there have been quite a few wonderful people who have come over to my place, to spend time with me, talk to me and help me through a fortnight of essentially being a vegetable. To these friends, I’m eternally grateful. A big thank you to everybody who has been concerned, who has peppered me with calls, texts and pings asking me how I’m doing. I really appreciate it. I’m lucky to have so many people I can count on. I hope none of you have to ever go through what I went through.

Oh and here’s the final word on this precarious chapter. I’m BACK!

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