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In the eye of the beholder

April 28, 2013
By KELLY VAN DE WALLE (vandkel@hotmail.com) , Times-Republican

About a year ago I awoke, like I normally do, taking the crown off my head and emerging from my Sharper Image Soothing Melodies hyperbaric chamber before petting my condor, Larry, only to discover my vision was obscured by small black specs and squiggles. Wherever I looked, there they were. I kept seeing them like that person you somehow run into all the time despite your attempts to avoid them.

"It's probably just eye floaters," my wife said all attitude-y when I awoke her in a panic, sticking my eye into her face. Apparently she attended an optometry seminar the night before.

"That's not even a thing!" I replied.

Clearly this was cause for alarm, yet I was the only one freaking out!

Unfortunately no amount of rubbing or eye drops or staring into my eyeballs in the mirror were going to fix this problem. I was out of ideas, save for one: the optometrist.

My optometrist is probably the nicest person on the planet. Compared to him, Mr. Rodgers is a raging psychopath that pushes kittens down hills.

"I'm practically blind," I told him.

"Why don't you make an appointment?" he suggested when I called him at home.

"Since when do you make appointments for emergencies?" I asked. "Fix me!"

I finally agreed, but only after he told me a story about bears.

"So, I have thesedark things that are just floatingin my eyes," I told him.

"Those are called floaters," he said.

I eyed him suspiciously. He obviously had no idea what I was talking about. If I said I came in and complained about seeing phantom meatballs I suspect he would've said I had "Phantom Meatball Syndrome."

He explained that meye floaters are caused by small flecks of a protein called collagen. The back compartment of the eye is filled with a gel-like substance called vitreous humor, which apparently is the most hilarious of all the eye jelly. As we age, the vitreous and its millions of fine collagen fibers shrink and become shred-like. Shreds can accumulate in the vitreous. This can cause a change in the amount of light that hits the retina -- the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. This change causes the symptoms of eye floaters.

"How did they get there?" I asked. "It's not because of those few years in the '90s when I was straining to find Waldo or see the dinosaur in the Magic Eye pictures is it?"

"It just happens to some people," he said, like this was somehow reassuring. He was treating this like it was a common occurrence and not something medical anomaly that journals would be naming after me. "It's a pretty common thing."

"It's pretty annoying," I urged, hoping he'd take the hint and fix me already.

"That's what I hear."

"Socan they be removed?"

"Not really."

"Are there any surgical options?" I pressed.

"Well, we can do an incredibly invasive procedure that consists of multiple incisions on your eyes followed by replacing the liquid in your eyeball. But this is not recommended."

"That sounds like wuss talk to me, doc. Let's do it."

He then showed me a diagram of what's called a vitrectomy, which consisted of a bunch of tubes and needles poking at an eyeball. In this procedure the floater is extracted through a tube and, I can only assume, the patient asks some deity for forgiveness while confessing their sins.

"Is this supposed to fix the floaters or get the patient to divulge nuclear launch codes?" I asked, backing up slowly towards the door.

"This is awful," I sulked, slumping back into the exam chair.

"It's not the end of the world," he said, gently.

"I mean, I don't even HAVE an eye patch."

"Youdon't need an eye patch."

After purchasing my eye patch and accompanying pirate hat I thought to myself solemnly, "Would I have to get a prosthetic hook? So many questions that weren't covered by the brochure I was given with the eyeball on it.

People began staring, which was something with which I wasn't prepared.

"I have a medical condition!" I'd shout, before adding, "Arrrr!"

I returned home, grief-stricken.

"You're never going to believe it," I said, forlorn. "I have eye floaters."

"You don't say," my wife said, rolling her perfect, clear eyes, essentially mocking the visually impaired. "Well, okay. At least you're not going blind."

That's one thing I can always count on with my wife. No matter how tragic something is that happens to me, it could always be so much worse. She points this out as if it's supposed to be reassuring. If I had a railroad spike sticking out of my head she'd say, "Well, okay. But at least it's not on fire."

"Aren't those fairly common?" she asked, not taking me into her arms and weeping with me.

"NOBODY CARES ABOUT MY VITREOUS!!" I exclaimed, stomping out of the room like a 16-year-old-girl told she can't go to a party.

I took matters into my own hands and began to research my condition.

As I perused my particular tragic malady, the website I was on listed "Popular Collections" with things like "bacterial skin diseases", "atrial fibrillation" and "Ulcerative Colitis" with accompanying pictures. It made me wonder why these were the most popular. I'm hoping it's not because of the photos.

It reminded me of being on Amazon.com and, when you like a book, the Amazon Predictor Monkeys recommend something similar. So this site is, essentially, saying:

"Have eye floaters? Then you might also have hemorrhoids! Here's a picture of a large person on a bike from the waist down. Glad I could help!"

After spending far too long staring at a bunch of awful pictures of skin diseases it occurred to me that maybe this isn't so much of a big deal. I mean, it could always be worse.

---

Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at vandkel@hotmail.com or via Morse code message tapped on the shell of his Seeing Eye turtle. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny to make sure he doesn't run into anything.

 
 

 

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