This, dear friends, is a short but true story of my recent battle with an evil alien eye invader! It all started when I found a mysterious thingy on my right eyeball.
I discovered this alien growth when getting my vision checked for some new glasses over six years ago. When the optometrist at Lens Crafters told me of its evil existence and intent I was horrified! He told me I didn’t have to do anything right away but one day I would have to deal with it. He also told me that to remove this creeping affliction would require… a great deal of pain! So I did what any sissy, sensitive soldier would do when confronted by such a dastardly, dangerous decision… I chose to ignore it.
For years afterward, it seemed benign enough, with just a little reddening in the white of my right eye. No big deal… right? Wrong! The longer I ignored it… the more it grew and traveled across the white of my eye heading for my pupil and making me bare a distinct resemblance to an aging… Count Dracula!
The above pictures reveal its six year trek from the corner of my eye to its final destination and its evil plan to distort my visible world by spreading itself over my pupil. Little did I know (or want to know at the time) that the longer I ignored it, the more tenacious its grip became, thus warping the shape of my eye.
Soooo… fast forward six years. Last week when I went to the good Kenyan eye doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital to obtain a more up to date pair of specks… he informed me it was time to confront and destroy the evil alien growth on my right eyeball.
As soon as he spoke, the words of the American eye doctor came rushing back… “IT WILL BE PAINFUL!!!” So I asked the good Kenyan doctor… “What’s the alternative?” With a sparkle in his right eye (that was completely void of any evil alien growths) he replied… “There is none”.
Fearing the worst and but trying to look brave, I quickly countered with… “When should we plan on doing it?”… Desperately clinging to the hope of putting it off at least another couple of weeks. To which he promptly responded with a slow but definite smile that grew across his face, under those clear bright eyes … “WHY NOT TOMORROW? TOMMORROW?, TOMORROW?, TOMORROW?, TOMORROW?”… His words echoing while trailing off.
Alas … I was cornered. Suddenly time stood still and everything felt like a scene from ‘The Thirteenth Warrior’.
‘Lo… I see the doctor waiting for my answer. Lo… I see my wife looking incredulously at my hesitation to give him an answer. Lo… I see the assistant looking the other way. Lo… I see my ancestors bidding me to ‘man up’ and give the doctor an answer!’
So, sheepishly I said … yes… doctor … yes, why of course! The night was filled with dreams of knives being slowly stuck in my eye.
Early the next morning we drove to St. Mary’s Hospital, walked up the long set of winding stairs and sat down among my comrades in pain who were facing a similar fate.
The scene was definitely Kenyan. There were three men and one older and very odiferous Maasai woman sitting on our side of the room on the very short and uncomfortable bench. Across the small room (within spitting distance) from us sat an old gentleman with what appeared to be three of his very old wives sitting on their very uncomfortable bench.
This actually might have been OK, with one exception. All of the old gentleman’s wives were coughing profusely and filling the air with miniscule particles of whatever it was making them sick. After the first few minutes one of the dear ladies lay down on the bench and went to sleep. At one point we thought she might have passed on, but her horizontal projections assured us she was still hanging in there. Then, as we watched in horror, one of the other little ladies went and found a little green trash can and began throwing up whatever she had that morning for breakfast.
Finally, after two more hours of sitting on those painful, jail style benches, we began wondering if the little ladies had taken a wrong turn and missed the ER. A little later, the doctor’s assistant told all of us to get up and follow him to the surgery room… little green trash can and all.
After a few minutes of searching for our destination (the assistant leading us had somehow disappeared), we located the part of the hospital marked Surgery. We were then led by a female nurse into a small cubical with neat little piles of ‘green hospital gowns’ with no backs. She instructed us to take off our clothes and put on the little backless gowns. Women first, then the men.
I smiled firmly and promptly replied… “No thank you, I won’t be doing that.” She smiled back and said it was hospital policy and that I should be glad this hospital had gowns. Some hospitals don’t.
I still don’t understand the need to get almost naked and walk around in a gown with an immodest, drafty back, for eye surgery. But, as the saying goes ‘When in Rome…’. I figured if I was going to get out of there any time soon, I needed to comply. I did manage to work a deal with one of the male nurses that I could keep my under garments on.
Next, we were led to another hallway with another long row of jailhouse benches lined up against the wall. We all sat down on the cold benches, with our cold backs touching the cold wall, from the cold gaps in our gowns. After and hour of waiting, a male nurse finally came through a creaky, swinging door with a stainless steel bowl full of syringes in one hand and a small squirt bottle in the other.
Now I’m sitting a little sideways (to make room on the bench) between the odiferous Maasai lady and one of the dear coughing, spitting, little ladies, and we all are wondering… who’s fixing to get poked? The assistant started with the little ladies husband and proceeded to squirt everyone in the eye… except me. As he approached me he smiled and passed by. It was sort of like the death angel passing over the Israelites
Picking up the little stainless steel bowl he began sticking three of my unlucky comrades in the eyeball (or maybe the socket I don’t know because I couldn’t look very long anyway). After the injection, he placed some gauze on their eye and strapped a small, brightly colored fuss ball with an elastic band to hold the gauze in place. The three balls looked as if they had been used in the recreation room only minutes before.
A half hour later the assistant returns pointing his bony finger at one of the old men. It was a fearful site as the dear old man arose from the bench and turned, waving goodbye as he passed through the ominous creaky, swinging, surgery doors.
We never saw him again.
The husband of the three little coughing ladies was next. Like his predecessor before him, he entered the swinging doors turning only to wave farewell. By this time I had made up my mind to leave. Thousands of excuses flooded my head, like … “I need to go and check if I locked my car!” I have an appointment that I can’t miss or “I’m feeling sick!” But the smiling little old lady holding the green trash can assured me that that wouldn’t work.
Although I must admit the only real thing preventing my escape was the thought of facing my wife who was sitting just outside the doors that led to freedom.
Still determined, I decided when the assistant came through the door again, I would ask him if I could reschedule another day. But it was too late. He appeared quite suddenly and said… “You’re next”.
I then thought, perhaps at the very least I’m going to miss the shot in the eyeball. As if reading my mind the assistant turned and said, “We’ll inject you on the operating table. Follow me.”
Placing me in a chair directly across the window looking into the surgery room, I watched 5 people busily cutting on one of my comrades’ eyes. Upon their completion, I was led into the operating room and instructed to lie down on the table. The doctor said, “How are you doing?” I said, “I’ve been better.” He didn’t smile and said to one of his assistants… “Shut the door!”
He then placed a small medieval torture device called a retractor on my face, holding my reluctant eyelids open. I must have looked frightened because he said, “don’t worry this won’t hurt”. I was thinking, “Yeah right, that’s what they all say”. The last thing I saw was a needle approaching my eyeball. . I could hear all the participants speaking partly in English and partly in Swahili, things like… “No we don’t have one of those” or … “It’ll be alright”. None of which was very reassuring. Then, everything went blurry.
To my utter surprise I didn’t even once feel the slightest pain. In fact the whole procedure took less than 5 minutes. It was totally painless. All I felt was a little pressure on my eyeball … and my ego.
As the assistant raised me to my feet, I noticed how much kinder he looked. He then led me down the long hallway where all my comrades’ in pain sat waiting their fate. As I strolled past, holding my backless gown shut with my left hand, I waved with the right one goodbye to the little old ladies who were still coughing.
I walked out into the open air thanking God I had made it. My wife staring at my bandaged eye asked, “How’d it go? With a big grin I replied… “Nothing to it!”
In all fairness St. Mary’s hospital is one of the most beautiful and professional hospitals I’ve seen in Kenya. Their staff is friendly, helpful and they have the most affordable health care around. My entire bill for procedure and medicine was only a little over 20 U. S. dollars. Despite the distorted view of the day (caused from my fear of pain) my experience was a good one. David Noah