Diabetic retinopathy and why I no longer like lasers…

Long time viewers and people who know me in the flesh know that I’ve been in and out of the Eye Infirmary recently in a bid to prevent me from going blind. It’s not much fun.

I won’t bore you of the details of what the disease actually is. You’ve got Wikipedia for that mundane task. Instead, I’m here to tell you ehat it’s like to have your eyes shot at with lasers, as if your retinas were in some type of scaled down 1980s James Bond movie. I don’t find it a nice experience.

Let me start off by saying the NHS is brilliant. It’s probably the only thing that this country has left before it collapses into a slurry of overpriced train fares and Jeremy Kyle. The staff do an excellent job for far less money than they deserve.

Anyway, my treatment has been taking place at Sunderland Eye Infirmary. It’s a building, that from the outside resembles a paper factory from the 1960s. You almost expect to see middle-aged men in tweed jackets walking out of the place with clipboards and questionable combovers smoking a pipe. I find the look of the place intimidating, and not very friendly. I’m not a fan of architecture, but give me a hospital-type place with bright open spaces and the odd fake plant hanging from a balcony any day.

I’ll start from the last time I went, a few weeks ago. It was an afternoon appointment, most probably the last one of the day. It was getting dark when we got there. I handed the letter over the reception, and waited in “Outpatients B”. It’s a small waiting area, with chairs, covered in pink plastic covering which you only ever see in hospitals. Some chairs were normal. Some chairs were large, some chairs were those large, wing-back chairs you expect to see old people die in.

Previous visits gave me the knowledge that the only place you can get any type of 4G signal is one of the high-backed ones, so I settled myself down for a wait. No sooner had I got my phone out of my pocket, about to spout some pessimistic bullshit onto facebook, my name was called. That was quick.

Every time I go there, I get an eye test. Read the chart on the wall. Cover that eye… yes, my bad one is still fucked. I’ve had them so often now that I’ve managed to memorise the first few lines, but then I can never see past the first two lines anyway. Eyedrops are administered which make your pupils dilate. This means, scouting out the best spot for a 4G signal was entirely worthless, as my vision is now so blurred, if I went for a piss, I’d grab a pube instead.

They strap a bracelet to my arm. Something I’ve not seen the point of. they could simply ask if I’m going to go wandering off, and if I say no, save the penny or two from printing it off. Nobody looked at it.

Anwyay, off I go back to the waiting area. My phone appeared just as a white blur, so the only other entertainment was a telly on the wall showing Antiques Road Trip. They say true love makes your pupils dilate too, so mine must have been going back on themselves at the sight of the dreamy Anita Manning. “Oh, hellloooo deeeeearrryy”. Rawr.

These drops do take time to kick fully in, so I was there for about 45 minutes. It’s apparent when you’re in this state just how stupidly bright the waiting area is. Every second ceiling tile has a CFL bulb sticking out of it. I’m sure you could get away with half the brightness in there.

Anyway, Antiques Road Trip was about to end, and I really wanted to see how much they got for a pair of Sooty + Sweep puppets, but before I had chance to find out, my name was called. Awww.

I guess I could go back and check iplayer, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember what day I went. Bugger.

I was shown to a darkened room, where a contraption rested, that looked more like an instrument of torture than an instrument of good.

My details were confirmed, and the doctor suggested it was getting rather warm and she’d turn the air conditioning on. This didn’t go so well, as she had to get someone in to show her how to work the remote. Wait, hang on… You’re about to zap the living fuck out of my eyeballs, and you can’t work the air conditioning? My arse nipped to the seat.

More eyedrops were administered. These were to numb the pain. Allegedly.

the pain started instantly. This time, it was what she was doing to my ears, as she asked if I didn’t mind listening to Xmas music. To be fair, I’d have listened to a looped recording of a yelping dog if it made her feel comfortable

So, the procedure started, She stuck a lens to my eye, which I assume made it flat I didn’t question. I just wanted it over and done with as quickly as possible. A bar of light is shone in the eye, along with a series of 9 red dots. This is the laser’s sight. She would tap a pedal on the floor, and my sight would be filled with a green flash. Many green flashes in fact. Someone them even looked as if they were actually blinding me. The best way to describe this, is the centre of the flash, surrounded by an area of black vision. I’m guessing not many people reading this have played around with cameras, and overloading the sensors. but this is what it looked like.

This worried me. This never happened last time, back in 2013!

Oh, and then there was the pain. My word, I’ve never felt anything like it. Maybe those drops never actually went in my eye fully, but each flash coincided with a feeling of shooting into the back of the head, and emanating in a blast of white hot pain, feeling like it was coming from inside my head, behind my ear.

All of this to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.

Ever since then, when I blink, or suddenly saw a flash, for instance if I look at my phone screen in the middle of the night, I could see several little areas of 9 dots arranged in a small grid where the laser went. This was disconcerting and worrying to say the least.

Anyway, today I went back and had exactly the same procedure done. This time, I got extra anaesthetic eye drops, and I asked about the dots. It was a different doctor, and she informed me this was normal, and that they’ll fade after a couple of months. We’ll see, over the coming months just how successful it’s been.

So, I’ll see you all again soon……. hopefully.