April 21, 2008 was on a Monday. The “Foxy Hens,” as we call ourselves when promoting our anthologies with the same name, was speaking at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Our audience, pension fund investors from 18 states, was one of the most receptive we’d ever spoken to. The Oklahoma group running their conference had treated us as if we were royalty. We had been showered with gifts, charming conversation and an excellent meal. People from all over the country had taken our pictures as if we were Rock Stars and they were Paparazzi.
The Oklahoma group that hosted the event had bought 125 copies of STATEHOOD FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL, our anthology written for the State Centennial. We had autographed copies until our fingers grew numb. (The dream of every writer I know.) Each of us felt as if we were walking on air.
I gathered up the trove of gifts bestowed on me and started out of the large banquet hall with the other women. Suddenly my left eye felt as if I had been dazzled by the sun or by bright headlights at night.
But there was no bright light.
I blinked because that’s what I always do when such a things occurs. But my vision didn’t clear as it usually does. All of this was done on automatic pilot. My mind was still occupied with the happy buzz that occurs after a signing that goes especially well. I blinked again and the distortion didn’t clear.
My mind was now fully focused on the sight in my left eye. The dazzled sensation was quickly followed by a black curve at the bottom right part of my left eye. As if I were wearing plastic rimmed glasses that were askew and the frames were blocking my vision. Except I wore light-weight glasses with no frames on the bottom. A fission of fear shivered through me.
By the time we reached the car I was almost completely blind in one eye. Except for a tiny sliver at the top left hand of the eye it was as if a heavy black velvet curtain had been taped over that eye.
I was so scared I couldn’t think, so I made all of the wrong decisions. I told no one. I didn’t call either of my two daughters who live close to me in Tulsa. I sat in almost mute silence all the way home. My run of good luck seemed to have ended.
A terrifying self-diagnoses sprang to mind. I must have had a stroke in that eye. I knew this couldn’t be treated successfully, so I planned what to do. (Learn Braille at my age?)
To complicate the situation and stress (as if I needed that), I had just bought a new car. Something I only do about ever 10 years. I listened to the hum of tires on the Turner Turnpike with a background of cheery conversation between my companions.
Would I have to sell my car?
Thoughts of an engineer at the company where I’d worked for twenty plus years came to mind. This successful man not only drove, he worked long hours over intricate specs. His one-eyed vision never seemed to bother him. I also thought of a master plumber I’d just had to repair a leak in my house foundation. He also seemed to live a satisfying and successful life.
But could I?
I’d bought the brand new car because it has been pock-marked by one of our Oklahoma hail storms. The price was considerably discounted and a guarantee had been given that the dents could be corrected without repainting. I was assured that the car would still have original paint.
The problem was, I’d agreed to drive the car across town to the dealership for repair on when I got back into town that afternoon. A free rental car had already been reserved for me to use.
For some reason that is totally unclear to me now, I felt compelled to carry through on the agreement. When Paula dropped me off at my car, I loaded my suitcase and other bits and pieces into my car and headed out. I still hadn’t told anyone I had gone blind in one eye.
It was true that I could safely drive with one eye and I delivered my car and picked up a rental. Then I drove home. I had decided to wait until the next morning and contact my ophthalmologist as soon as his office opened. I considered driving to the emergency room (which would have been the right thing to do) but figured they would simply examine me, send me home with the advice that I should call my doctor in the morning.
I’ve had experience with emergency rooms.
The next morning I arose early, showered and dressed. By this time it was about 8:30 and I called the doctor’s office. His clerk listened to my problem, conferred with someone and told me to come in and be prepared to wait. I skipped breakfast and applying makeup and once again drove myself across town. The waiting room was packed. I waited two and a half hours before being shown into an examining room.
The nurse added the necessary drops and tested the eye. Her silence seemed ominous. I considered pressing her for information, but knew she would be unable to share what she was thinking. Then she left me alone.
The knot of fear in my throat grew bigger as I waited for the doctor. I fully expected to hear that I had lost half of my vision permanently. Finally he bustled in with his usual efficiency and carefully checked my eye, having me look up, down, left and right.
“You have quite a problem, here,” he said.
Hearing the obvious made me want to let go of my Irish temper, but my generation of women was carefully trained by Emily Post mothers.
“Yes,” was my clever comeback.
“You have a detached retina and I’ll have to send you to someone else to get this fixed, I don’t do this kind of surgery.”Fixed? The problem could be fixed? Relief washed through me like warm oil and my limbs grew weak with relief. In that moment I realized that “fixed” was the most beautiful word in the English language.
(TO BE CONTINUED...) I promise to finish this post as promised!!!
Loved all the FB answers from others who had suffered detached retinas and other problems.
Hugs to All,