The Uneasy Eye

We're in London, after a brief stop in Boston for D's monthly needle-in-the-eye.  Did I ever tell you why he's being subjected to this slowest of all medieval tortures? 

A few months ago, when he was flying back to work in Hawai'i from a brief sojourn home to Nova Scotia, he called me from an airport in the midst of the seventeen-hour journey and said, "The vision is funny in my right eye." 

"That doesn't sound good," I replied, "I think you should see a doctor as soon as you get to Honolulu."

Thirty-six hours later he was completely blind in that eye.

Lucy, Patron Saint of the Eye-Afflicted, painted by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1484–1551)*
The ophthalmologist could see immediately that there was some sort of a rupture or blockage near his optic nerve; this sort of condition often spontaneously improves on its own, so she told him he should go away and come back in a week.  In the intervening days, his vision didn't improve, and he thought that he could feel a distinct pressure behind that eye. Of course, he's highly suggestible, so we didn't know what to make of this particular symptom. When he came back a week later, the doctor was openly alarmed.  The pooling of blood behind his eye was dramatically worse; it threatened now to detach his retina.

So he's been having monthly shots, direct to his eyeball (eurgghh), of medicine that will reduce the inflammation of these blood vessels, restore normal circulation, and prevent new vessels from being formed that would obscure or bypass his optic nerve (thereby causing permanent damage to his sight).  These are shots that are much more readily available in the States than in Canada or Britain, so he's made a sort of pilgrimage to the closest eye clinics from sea to shining sea, as we strove to preserve the shape of our summer as best we could.

All in all, he's been a stoic about it; untroubled by the Bunuelian prospect of sharp objects entering his eye. (Several of our friends, experienced medical professionals all, winced to hear about this treatment, telling us that the eye was the last part of the body that still evoked squeamishness in them.  "Is it because it's a delicate sac of goo?" I asked.  "Yes," they replied.)  It's our hope that he's come to the end of this particular brand of torment, although the original optic nerve troubles still plague his sight in that eye, because the secondary problem of swelling has been largely taken care of by his needle-courage, which was worthy of a bit of medieval hagiography.

* Is anyone else unnerved by the way in which St. Lucy's breasts seem to mirror her four hostile, wary eyes in this painting?  I'm reminded of the famous round of ghost stories between Lord Byron, the Shelleys, and others that ultimately inspired Frankenstein.  Here's how a doctor who was a fellow guest describes that fateful day
Began my ghost story after tea. Twelve o'clock, really began to talk ghostly. L.B. repeated some verses of Coleridge's Christabel, of the witch's breast; when silence ensued, and Shelley, suddenly shrieking and putting his hands to his head, ran out of the room with a candle. Threw water in his face, and after gave him ether. He was looking at Mrs S., and suddenly thought of a women he had heard of who had eyes instead of nipples, which, taking hold of his mind, horrified him.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
London, UK

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