Having read the writing below at our monthly Artic Terns collaborative meeting between the Quarantine Conversationalists in the UK and the Corona Diarists in Australia, one of them points out that maybe only an artist would think of drawing what they can’t see to show a consultant, seems like a logical progression from drawing grief, to making material objects of pain.
Back to the yellow chairs, waiting.
It’s amazing how quickly the scary, unknown, seemingly bizarre systemic intricacies of the hospital and the eye department become comforting, familiar. I am moving from peripheral participant to insider knowledge.
Don’t walk through the hospital, walk around the outside, past the line of ambulances waiting to get into A&E and the multiple hoardings only slightly concealing the noise and dust of massive building work, following the helpful eye logos. Once inside find eye dept reception, not in the eye department, round the corner. Confirm name, dob, doctor’s surgery, covid status. Feel relief that I am here legitimately today, not hustling to be seen with patient, persistent, politeness.
I sit on a yellow chair waiting.
My phone pings, information arrives – not to walk through the hospital and to confirm my arrival. Once told I can enter the department, I give a cheery greeting to the swaddled security guard on the entrance, constantly blasted by icy drafts from automatic outside facing doors.
Sitting on a yellow chair, spaced 1m from all the other yellow chairs, waiting.
As usual a nurse arrives with a clipboard, calling names from a list, hardly anyone who is sitting is identified, though today for the first time she asks the names of those present. “Dr Davina Kirkpatrick”, I say. I am careful to use my professional nomenclature that I know garners respect.
“Oh, you’re not on my list”, she says as she riffles through endless sheets.
“That’s strange” I say, trying to quell the rising panic, showing her the letter, before realising it only states what happened at my last visit, I reach for my diary thinking have I got the day, time right. I check, yes, it’s written in. Also luckily is the name of the senior nurse I talked with on the phone.
“The senior nurse Kathy called me on Wednesday afternoon, she told me I would be seeing Mr Patwardhan”
The nurse looks surprised, confused “I will go and check, the doctors are late this morning. There has been an accident, the roads are blocked” She exits stage right with her clipboard.
I sit on a yellow chair waiting.
Another nurse comes with a clipboard, calling more names of those not here. Not only the doctors are delayed it seems. A diminutive man bustles through talking with the first nurse about lists and fitting people in, are they talking about me I wonder, has the system failed, has someone not input the correct data on the right form? My confidence falters, I sit forward in the yellow chair, tense. Telling myself breathe deeply, not so easy behind the FFP2 mask, stay calm. I smile with my eyes at the passing nurses – patient, persistent, politeness. Finally, the original nurse approaches, yes I am on a list, all is ok I will be seen.
I am led down the corridor further toward the epicentre and directed to sit on another line of socially distanced yellow chairs outside four doors.
A cheery nurse, chattier than the two I saw last week for this procedure, checks name, address, dob, covid status. “My PCR test result was negative” I say, to reassure. Another eye test, I try harder today to read the letters (possibly because of her cheery demeanour, possibly because I am no longer having to prove how bad the sight is in my right eye). There are more drops to dilate my pupils, they sting less today. Is it that she is gentler and more adept at application, or I am getting used to this, possibly both? She is the first person to say, in three visits, there is only one person ahead of you as she directs me to sit back on a yellow chair. Maybe as it’s quieter this is easier to ascertain, maybe the rest of the time they simply don’t know.
I sit on a yellow chair, waiting.
Another room, another doctor. This one examines my eyes, bright light intensified with a lense. “Pull you mask down over your nose, rest your chin and forehead against the machine. Look at my right ear, look right, look right up, look left, look left up, look at your toes” He examines both eyes and then turns back to his screen, the photos and scans of my eyes are displayed. He zooms in on the retinal scans, running the mouse along the modulations.
“They look like landscapes”, I say. I sense a slight smile in his eyes. “You look at images like this all the time, but it’s a novel experience for me.” I show him the drawing I did last night of what I’m experiencing looking through my right eye. We are interrupted by a nurse, anxious to coax him into adding someone to his list. I imagine this scene was played out last week with the doctor I saw, that enabled me to be seen so quickly. He is brusque, I like that the nurse knows how to access this patient’s information more easily than him, without losing mine. They are both apologetic of taking time and attention away from me. I am all conciliatory smiles behind my mask and no worries – patient, persistent, politeness.
Once she has left, I ask him, “How do you cope with the incessant busyness?” “I don’t drink coffee”, is his simple reply.
He goes to get the consultant, The man I saw bustling through reception, who after looking at the photos and scans says “yes, posterior inflammation”, though thinks my eyesight has improved from last week, “Not discernible to me” I say. Decides to give me a blasting dose of steroids. Interestingly when I show him my drawing, he seems surprised by how little I can see and appears to change his mind, choosing to continue the steroids on a reduced 5mg dosage until I see him in clinic in 4-5 weeks. A massive dose of prednisolone 40mg decreasing by 10 mg every five days, and Omeprazole (my dad takes that) to stop me getting an ulcer from the steroids. He was going to give me calcium as well, because the steroids can exacerbate osteoporosis, until I tell him I already take a seaweed based one to lessen the chance of it calcifying around my heart, B12, D3 as well as alendronate for my ongoing osteoporosis. The pharmacy gives me a blue card to carry for a year – this is serious medication, that I only hope will reduce the inflammation and restore my sight in my right eye.