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Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened at the United Ticket Counter

I was saying just now to my good friend and former coworker at The Real Story Group (go visit them now please, I'll wait here...) Theresa Regli (follow her on Twitter, please; read her bio here) that you know you're a writer when you continue to compulsively tweet and blog even after you're more than half-blind and aren't getting paid.

Theresa Regli. Software analyst. Unsung hero.
Which is no joke. It's 100% true.

So what happened is, after being out of work for two years (one year of which, I was care-giving to my disabled wife), I began looking for a job (my wife is in remission now), and that turned out to be quite an adventure; more blog posts needed (TBD).

And then, after a few opportunities fell through, I connected with an outfit in L.A. (details later) who saw me as a value-add, if that's the politically correct capitalist buzz-terminology du jour. They made it clear (after a lot of hoop-jumping) they wanted to interview me in person.

But they didn't want to pay my way out for an interview.

So I said "Thanks, but I can't pay my way out. Take my name out of consideration."

Three days went by.

Then they stepped up. And offered to pay my way out.

And I was interviewed by the C-level (top) people at the company, and it all went swimmingly.

But at ONT airport, on the way home from the interview (on July 8, 2015), I suffered a vitreous hemorrhage due to a completely unprovoked retinal tear.

When I say completely unprovoked, I mean, specifically: I have no risk factors (diabetes, hypertension), I wasn't lifting weights or bending or getting my blood pressure up or taking drugs or doing anything out of the ordinary whatsoever, in fact I was merely talking to the ticket agent at the United counter (on the morning of the United glitch), when suddenly my field of vision became a lava-lamp of black goo.

James Joyce suffered a variety of eye problems
his whole life. ""I write and revise and correct with
one or two eyes about twelve hours a day, I should say,
stopping for intervals of five minutes or so when I
can't see any more."
I closed one eye, then the other.

My right eye was hosed.

As I speed-walked to the gate to catch my flight (barely making it), I realized my right eye was getting cloudier and cloudier, to the point where I couldn't see the fingers on my hand. I could see light areas and dark areas, and not much more.

But I still had one good eye (my bad eye: 20/50). For which I was suddenly enormously grateful.

Thank you God for leaving me one good eye.

[And I'm not religious. But there you are.]

Fast-forward 48 hours.

Doctor's office. Eye exam.

"Well," the eye specialist said, "your left eye suffered a small retinal [something-or-other] at some time in the past and it healed on its own, apparently. Your right eye, on the other hand, has suffered a retinal tear and vitreous hemorrhage..."

The doctor explained that my left eye had let loose a tiny chunk of retina some time ago (3 years ago; I remember when a "floater" appeared), but without causing any bleeding or additional retinal damage. My "good" eye had let loose (spalled, is the word I'd use) a tiny piece of retina and healed up on its own. Amazingly.

But my right eye had suffered a rip in the retina (which, oddly, didn't distort my vision), with a tiny amount of bleeding.

The doctor explained that it takes only a small drop of blood, inside the vitreous humor, to completely cloud your vision.

"We should do a procedure at once," the doctor said. Then he described it. Laser surgery to spot-weld the retina, around the area of the tear, to keep the tear from progressing any further.

We discussed it for about five, maybe ten nanoseconds, before I cried "Yes yes yes do the procedure at once!"

The doctor brought a machine up to my eye and told me to look at his ear.

ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP green strobe brighter than the sun, blinding to the point of metaphysical enlightenment, 20 or 30 or 40 ZAPs, maybe more. Then a pause. Then ZAP ZAP ZAP again, 20 or 30 or 40 times. Then a pause.

"Any pain?"

"Nothing," I said.


In 3 minutes, he was done.

I went out of the office with sunglasses on, the throwaway kind they give you after dilation, grateful to be able to see out of my good eye. My wife drove us home.

So what happens is, after you get the retinal damage-area cordoned off with laser spot-welds, you let the eye recover on its own for up to 3 months, maybe more.

The eye can clear the vitreous humor of debris (blood cells, clots, etc.) at a rate of about 1% a day, on its own. If all goes right.

And it's been going right. After 10 days, I can report that my right eye has cleared up by at least 10%. I can see through the cloud of debris, a little bit, now. I can see words on a screen (sometimes) with the aid of glasses. My left eye does the heavy lifting. It can still manage 20/50 vision, albeit with a floater in the way (and reading glasses to help), but hey. That's better than nothing. By a lot, it turns out.

So I've written the last several blogs (and 10 days' worth of tweets) in a vision-impaired state. And my wife offered to go to California to find us an apartment, on her own; I just took her to the airport an hour ago. And I'll be working, for real, in a full-time tech-writer job, again soon (and have health insurance again soon), and God willing, the many other non-trivial personal travails of which I've said nothing, in this blog or elsewhere, over the past year (because I was born with the "don't whine" gene; which of course means I haven't mentioned any of this to my new employer) may soon come to a resolution; and I may yet go back to being a "productive member of society," in as little as a month.

And then you know what will happen?

[Mischevous half-arsed grin, suppressed giggle, eyes tearing...]

I'll go on blogging, and tweeting, and e-mailing, and note-taking, and free-writing, like I always have, like I would do anyway, even if I was totally blind and penniless. Because guess what?

That's what writers do.

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