I had an unpremeditated visit to the ER a few nights ago. (Aren’t they all?) Now, listen up, all you oldsters out there, because I’m going to give you some valuable health information: if you have flashing light shows, as in aurora borealis, flaming meteors, or comets appearing at the edge of one of your eyes, it is time to go to the ER, just like I did.
Being a semi-calm and rational person, I did not immediately opt for the ER. I thought about several practical reasons for why I might be having a personal light show, none of which were satisfactory. I could not recall having a history of light shows in my eyeballs, either.
Step #2 was to consult the Internet. Aha! My symptoms were described exactly at several places, including Ask Yahoo! where plumbers try — complete with “LOL” comments — to diagnose and scare the livin’ daylights out of people with real medical problems who really should be on their way to the ER, instead of fooling around on the Internet. Not wanting a plumber’s advice on my ocular needs, I moved on to a place where a real ophthalmologist told me what I was dealing with — and it was not overly comforting.
Step #3 was to call my eye doctor … on a Sunday night … knowing he and his office staff would not be in. BUT they referred me to an eye doctor who would be in … but was not. That person’s call service referred me to still another doctor … who was also not in. Her call service referred me to a nurse … who told me I needed to get to the ER immediately — which I then did.
I asked an idiotic question while they were registering me at the ER. (I guess I said several idiotic things during the hour and a half I spent there, so why not start out doing that right from the get-go?) I asked them if they were a PPO for my particular insurance company. I got slightly nervous when the lady said, “I don’t know what you are talking about. What is a PPO?” It went downhill from there.
Both the ER doctor and I knew I was in there because of possible retinal detachment or retinal tears. He listened to my flashing lights story, asked if I could still see out of my eye in all sectors (yes), and announced my case had him “stumped.”
I didn’t care to hear that the doctor was planning on being of no help. True to my nature, I decided to help him out a bit: “Do you want to hear what the Internet said you are supposed to do?”
(He did not. He said the Internet doesn’t know what it is talking about most of the time. I thought that was a rash statement, seeing as I was planning on telling him what the ophthalmologist had said, not the plumber spewing advice on Ask Yahoo! ER doctors do not really want their patients helping them out when they are “stumped.”)
I forged ahead anyway. After all, this was my eye in need of help, and if I was going to pay ER prices, I at least wanted my money’s worth of care. “The Internet said you are supposed to dilate my eye and take a look inside to see if the retina is OK.”
Fortunately for me, he did eventually decide to at least turn out the lights and leave me in semi-darkness for fifteen minutes so that my eye would self-dilate enough so he could take a peek.
My husband Paul was with me while I was enjoying the intensity of the meteor show in the semi-darkness. Have you ever noticed that people tend to fret about little things more when it is dark out? Paul started to obsess about some minor missing details.
“Don’t you think it’s kind of funny that they didn’t take your blood pressure? And your temperature — what about your temperature?”
“It’s my eye, not my heart or my thermostat we’re concerned about here. I’m sure they figured that out.” (But this did start to make me wonder why I had not been invited to step on a scale. Doctors always want to know if we are eating too much.)
When the doc came back, he did a lot of scrutinizing of the inside of my eye, and finally pronounced it to be fine. No retina problems. (Good!) He then talked with the ophthalmologist whom I had been trying to reach earlier in the evening. Apparently he was not routed through several call services, only to get a nurse, as had been my case. If he had been, the nurse would have told him to go to the ER immediately.
The ophthalmologist knew by my description exactly what the problem was — a vitreous detachment (the same thing that causes floaters) — not all that serious. It seems that the ball of goo that makes up the inside of the eye is held onto the retina by zillions of tiny fibers, and if some of them get tired and let go, bingo! we have a light show. This, by the way, was the same info I had picked up from the Internet doctor, who had still recommended the ER, because dilating the eye could reveal whether retinal detachment was in progress.
So, they sent me on home with instructions to follow up with my eye doctor. Before sending me home, they did take my blood pressure and my temperature — but they forgot the scale.
My eye doctor is the best. There is increased risk of retinal problems over the next couple of weeks, so he calls me every couple of days to see how I am doing. Your eye doctor probably wouldn’t do that. He would tell you to call him if anything dire transpired, and maybe you would get him if he wasn’t playing golf or doing something else more important right then than your eyes. But my eye doctor is wonderful, and he calls me. I will probably give him a thumbs up on FaceBook and Twitter when I get a chance.
I am still enjoying some light shows, which somewhat concerns the doc, but I can see what I need to see (which is a good sign), and I am confident I will be fine.