April 15 & 16, 2012

Tia

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I’ve fallen a bit behind in my blogging. Visual impairment will do that I guess! I got out for a nice ride on Sunday. The plan was that the guys were going to ride around 1:00, so Aldo and I tacked up an hour ahead of that and did a little loop together. I like to do this because I can ride for a bit with Aldo and Bullet, then break away and finish my ride alone. This gives me an opportunity to do two things. 1. It allows me to help teach Dharla that it’s OK for us to leave the company of others. Nothing’s going to happen to us and we can continue to enjoy our ride without the “safety” of a group. So far Dharla has accepted this lesson well. On this ride she seemed a slight bit more concerned when we left Bullet and he went the other way, but she didn’t OVER react and that’s what I’m trying to avoid by doing this every now and then. Bullet actually made much more of a fuss than Dharla did and he called out to her repeatedly. This has happened before, but this was the first time Dharla has ever whinnied back. She hollered once, then that was it, but I was surprised as she’s never made a peep before. Overall, she did well. I could tell she was trying to see if Bullet was going to eventually follow us as we went on down the trail alone, but she didn’t struggle to turn around or anything like that. I spoke calmly to her and encouraged her forward and she complied. Although she tends to be more spooky when we’re alone, she did well and it seems she soon forgot about Bullet. We could hear him calling for some time, but eventually he rode out of range. Later, Aldo told me Bullet continued to call for Dharla even after he met up with his buddy and they rode off together. I was kind of surprised by that and it made me even more happy that Dharla chose to be silent. I hate having to listen to a hollering horse!

The second thing this strategy does is it engages Dharla’s mind so that when we get back home she’s a bit more fatigued and less stressed about Bullet being gone. Aldo’s ride usually last anywhere from 3-5 hours and that means Dharla is on her own until they get back. I’ve noticed that when Aldo and Bullet leave and Dharla is left behind, she’s much more stressed out, but if we’ve done a little “send off” ride and come back home alone, she doesn’t seem quite as worried. Not that she doesn’t call and holler; she does! But she’s less dramatic about it. I’ll tell ya, it’s things like this that kind of make me miss having a third horse! 😉

Monday’s ride was a nice jaunt down that AL trail. I got out early because the temps were supposed to reach into the low 90’s and by the time we got back I was glad we were home. It did get unseasonably hot! We didn’t really “work” on anything special because (as I found out later that day) I’m not even supposed to be riding yet. So we took it easy. Still, it’s always great to be out and spend some quality time together!

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On another note, I fired my eye surgeon. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reflecting on what happened to me last week and I know I can’t go back and see this guy again. I mean, I’ve never in my life seen such indifference for a patient’s comfort as I’ve experienced with him and his staff. Since I’m right in the middle of a mess I hate to have to change doctors, but I can’t bring myself to see someone who can’t be trusted not to hurt me. His bedside manner is unconscionable and so I must vote with my feet. He’s done. After discussing this matter at great length with the office manager of this group practice, it’s been decided that I will give them one more try, but with a different doctor.  She assures me the doctor I’m going to see will answer all my questions and treat me with dignity, compassion and respect. So I’ve booked my next follow-up appointment with him and we’ll see how it goes. (No pun intended.)

Meanwhile, there is little to no change in my vision and I still can’t see anything clearly through my right eye. Although I’m not using the dilating drops anymore, the pupil is still dilated and I suspect my vision will remain blurry until that situation changes. I’ve heard (again, the doctor didn’t address this issue) that it can take several weeks for the dilation to diminish, so I’m being patient. For the most part it doesn’t bother me too much unless I’m out in bright sunlight and/or I try to do anything that requires finer vision. I can get by. I did ask the office manager to please find out if I have any restrictions since the doc couldn’t be bothered giving me any directions after my last torture session. Oh, so it turns out I DO have some restrictions. Fancy that! I mean, this idot just put me through hell … you’d kinda think he’d want me to have the best possible shot at a good outcome … or maybe not? Grrrrr! I don’t want to think about it … it makes me so flippin’ mad.

On a happier note: I have a crew of tree workers here today. They’re working on clearing the roadway for our new hay barn.  Oh joy!

PS. I posted a picture of Tia because a recent post by a fellow blogger made me think of her! On a happy note, it’s the first time I’ve posted a picture of Tia since I lost her without tearing up. Yay!

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The Eyes Have It

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I’ve tried to keep up with things here, but as I’ve learned, when your vision is poor it makes every task tedious. So I promise that as soon as my vision improves I’ll get back to responding to any comments. In the mean time, please know that I read and enjoy every response posted here and on my other blog. I feel so honored and blessed when people take time out of their busy day to respond and remark on my blogs. It’s amazing how encouraging and positive my fellow bloggers can be and I’m very humbled by the kindness of complete strangers.

It’s been a difficult week here. As much as I’ve been fortunate that I was allowed more freedom to move around, my vision has been poor at best. Granted, I still have one good eye, but I’ve discovered that anything that requires any sort of accuracy really needs the benefit of better vision. It’s actually easier to see if I close my defunct eye than if I try to do things with it open. For some reason the skewed vision throws my depth perception and equilibrium off. Because spring is coming on like wildfire I tried to do some weeding and organizing in my gardens. I fear I’ve probably pulled up as many flower plants as I have weeds for lack of seeing things clearly. Oh well! My gardens were getting a bit over-crowded! I have to laugh at these little things because if I don’t keep my sense of humor I get very down.

Friday I had my (almost) three week follow-up at the surgeons office. I was very much expecting a quick look-see and expected him to tell me that all is progressing as planned and he’d see me in a few months. This sort of thing just takes time to heal and I get that. Well, that did not happen. I’m not sure if anyone reading this has ever had a thorough retinal exam, but for those who haven’t let me tell you that it’s one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever experienced … and I’ve had a lot of nasty medical stuff done to me!

I think people who are very myopic tend to be almost over-protective about their eyes. Perhaps because we are already visually impaired, we have a deeply rooted appreciation for the vision we DO have. Granted, we are forced rely on glasses or contacts to see, but all we have to do to know how impaired we truly are is remove them. As much as I’ve always loathed having to wear glasses or contacts and have done so since a very young age, at least they make it possible for me to see well. And that’s a good thing. Still, I never take my vision or less than perfect eyes for granted.

Having experienced annual vision exams since I was in third or forth grade, I’m used to an eye doctor peering into my eyes from inches away from my face. The only other doctors who get that close to your face are dermatologists, ear, nose and throat specialists and dentists and I have to say, it’s a bit …. well, disturbing. But having someone poke you in the eye at close range is downright creepy. The protective, instinctual reaction is to pull back or away when anyone gets too close my eyes. It’s only natural not to want to be poked in the eye! Well during a retinal exam the doctor uses an instrument to press down hard on your eyelid as he gets as close as possible and peers into your eye with an outrageously vivid bright light. When he’s not dictating to an assistant who sits on the sidelines frantically scratching medical jargon into my records, he tells me to look in various different extreme directions. But no matter how hard you try to comply, it’s never enough.

Doctor: Look to your right.

I do

Doctor: Look MORE to your right!

I do

Doctor (as he presses even harder on my sore eye) : OK, now look even MORE to your right!

Huh? OK, I’ve had enough of this game, pal. Get away from my face!

Unfortunately, this process drags on for several long minutes before the lights come back on and he sits down to flip through my records. He’s left his fancy welding headgear on, which doesn’t do much to convince me the torture is over yet. The good news is that things are healing. The bad news is that my retina has sprung “another leak.” This is of great concern and must be corrected  … immediately. Whoa! No gentle lead up to it, no go home and think about it, but it must be done now. With very little detail I’m told he will laser the leaky area right there, right now. (Well, truth be told, in a few minutes) I’m told that by doing this repair now he hopes to avoid having to do another hospital procedure, because apparently the leak is in a “dangerous” place. I’m too stunned to even ask what “dangerous” means, but now I’m really scared. I don’t want more complications and I especially don’t want to have to go through another operation and two weeks of laying on my face.

I’m moved to the laser room and watch as the assistant sets things up. Remembering that the laser part of my surgery was the most painful part of the procedure, I ask if this will hurt? She gives me what I’ve learned is their standard answer: “I don’t know. Huh? You do this procedure all the time and you don’t know? I’m baffled, so I probe more. Turns out, some people feel it (pain) and others don’t. It depends upon where and how close to the nerves the repair is. Since she was sitting in the room with us taking notes I have to imagine she knows exactly where the leak is, but she’s non-committal. She sticks a paper dot above my right eye “To make sure the doctor zaps the correct eye,” If I wasn’t having an out-of body experience I might have found this funny, but I didn’t laugh. She hits my eye with a couple more “numbing” drops. I try to tell myself this is reassuring, but my brain isn’t buying it.

The doctor comes in, turns the lights off and they begin to lock and load my head into place. My head is literally strapped into an apparatus that holds it completely immobile. Once in place, the machine prohibits you from speaking or moving. There are “handles” on this machine that I’m told to hold and I feel around until I find them and latch on for dear life. The doctor then inserts a “lens” into my eye, which is really a device that holds the eyelids out and away from the eyeball. It’s not uncomfortable, just cold, wet and weird. Without further adieu, the doctor sits down, twists a couple of knobs that move my head a few minuscule increments higher and turns the laser on. I’m scared, but neither the doctor or his trusty assistant has said a single word of reassurance or comfort. Perhaps empathy is forbidden?

I’m not sure why, but I always thought laser lights were red. They’re not, they’re green. Initially, all I felt was heat as the laser beam zapped my eye. Zap. Zap, zap. Zap. He worked in a pattern. Suddenly, it hurt. It wasn’t horrible, but it was unexpected nonetheless. However, I couldn’t move or react to anything I felt because I’m strapped into this machine that prohibits you from moving. Remember, your natural inclination is to pull back and I can feel my head pressing against the strap that’s wrapped around the back of my skull. Zap, zap-zap. OUCH! Now it REALLY hurts! I began to see a pattern. When one beam hurt a little, it would be followed by several more zaps that hurt more and more each zap until eventually he moved to a different spot that didn’t hurt. I whimpered in pain, but my discomfort was ignored. I never knew if a zap was going to hurt or not and I soon began to shake with fear and revulsion. Finally he hit a spot that I could not bear and I cried out loudly through clenched teeth. Although I could not “see” him clearly, I could see his outline on the other side of the laser machine and I watched in humiliation as he stopped and turned to look at his assistant who was standing slightly behind him. Did he roll his eyes at my discomfort? I don’t know, but his only words to me were, “We have to get this done. If you’ll just bear with us we’re almost finished.” No, “Are you OK?” “Do you need me to take a little break?” No empathy was spoken or shown to me.

The doctor went back to work and I sat there, tears streaming down my face through the rest of the procedure. It hurt a lot. Not that it mattered to them. When he finished he congratulated himself on a job well done and left the room. His assistant stayed behind, writing notes in my chart. At some point she passed me a tissue and I told her how much that had hurt. She remarked that some people DO feel it more than others. That was it. No, “I’m so sorry,” or “Are you doing OK now?” Nothing. When she finished her notes I was shuffled down the hall to another technician who proceeded to take a series of pictures of my now throbbing eye. Although I wasn’t sobbing, it was pretty obvious that I was shell-shocked and crying.  The tech was a cheerful fellow, but he never once asked if I was OK; he simply proceeded to do his job.

When the picture taking was finished, the tech gave me a card and told me to go out to the receptionist and make an appointment to return for a follow-up visit in 2-3 weeks. I went out to the desk (still crying) and waited as an elderly gentleman proceeded to ask the receptionist several questions. From what I could tell, it was going to be several minutes before she could finish with him and get to me. There were five or six other staff members milling about behind the desk, but nobody asked if they could help me, little own ask me if I was OK.

I left. I simply walked out of the office without making my next appointment. In pain and humiliated, I fled to the elevator half thinking someone from the office would come after me. I was wrong. I drove myself home shaking and crying. I have had a lot of medical procedures done to me, but I’ve never encountered such uncaring, unemphatic medical staff in my life. I’m not a wimpy person or a drama Queen. I seldom ask for help unless I really need it. But as someone who worked in the dental profession for a long time I find it unconscionable that an entire office could be so callous and cold.

I will see this treatment through to the end, but I will never use this doctor for anything ever again. And I will never refer anyone to him either. He may be highly skilled, but he has absolutely no bedside manner. That’s unacceptable.

In A Fog

Foggy morning

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I haven’t had time to ride in a few days. The weather has been over the top (hot) and I’ve had to pick my activities carefully. I figured since Dharla hasn’t fully shed her winter coat, it would be better to focus on the yard and garden and go back to riding when the temperatures go back to being somewhere near normal.

I’ve been a bit frantic with the gardens. I don’t recall there ever being a spring where I’ve had to uncover and start working my gardens this early. I’ve literally had day lilies shoot up 2-3 inches overnight. If I don’t get the flower beds cleaned up and mulched now, I won’t be able to go back and do it later on, which means TONS of weeding. Here, its a fine line between growing things you want and keeping the invasive stuff at bay.

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I love my gardens, I really do, but every year it gets a little more difficult to do the bull work to keep things under control. Because of my back issues, I can’t do much else on the days when I’m putting lots of energy into the gardens. Typically this is only an issue in the spring and fall, when the major job of splitting and moving things or planting new stuff have to take precedence. I’ve tried doing things in smaller bites, but that really doesn’t make any difference, so now I just hunker down and put everything I’ve got into getting the job done. But it means I don’t have much left in the tank for anything else, including riding.

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My goal is to (eventually) have everything growing where I want it so I can just do the seasonal maintenance. I’m starting to realize that’s probably just a fantasy, but it’s what I’m striving to achieve down the line. We’re in the planning stage of building a new barn (mostly for hay storage) and I’m already daydreaming about landscape options and gardens around the site. I think this is an addiction that never ends!

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On another note, I’m scheduled for eye surgery next week. Almost everything is done and ready for me to be somewhat laid up for a few days. The recovery is supposed to be fairly simple UNLESS there are complications. Thing is, when you look in the New England Journal of Medicine under Medical Screw-ups, my name is listed. Yeah. So while I’m confident I’m making the right decision to do this and I believe I’ve got the best doc for the job, I’m still a wee bit stressed out about it. The last time I got up at the crack of dawn and took a long dark drive to the hospital for surgery, I came out the other side a totally different person. Broken. Damaged. Disabled. Not the happiest of times. That was fifteen years ago this May, but I guess old memories die hard. I’m trying to keep things in perspective, but my track record isn’t the best. Still, I need to get this done. I’ve waited as long as I possibly can, but my vision is too compromised to put it off any longer. It’s my right eye; my dominant eye, my shooting eye. So yes, I’m (appropriately) concerned about the outcome.

Barring any issues, I should be on the mend soon. Or so they say. If everything goes well I’ll be able to use a computer and watch TV (blah), but I won’t be able to read books for awhile. If things go wrong, it gets ugly. I’ll have to spend 50 minutes of every hour laying face down. Possibly for a few weeks. That might be interesting, to say the least. But since I only have two eyes (well, one that works right now) I’ll hope for the best and do whatever needs to be done for a positive outcome. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to my gardens  … chores await me!

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PS. I made a new page in the header for the dogs. I thought they deserved a “formal” introduction.