“Smite me, O mighty smiter!”. Bruce Almighty, one of my favorite movies for sure, and unfortunately how I feel sometimes. I jest of course. I do believe in God, I am a Christian, and I don’t blame anyone for my weird luck. We all have our struggles and challenges to deal with, and mine for sure are not nearly as bad as they could be or others experience. I think it’s comical perhaps at the string of crap that seems to rain down on me as I sit here writing, preparing for the $hi+ storm that lies just ahead in a couple hours. .
RCE, recurrent corneal erosion. WTH is that? Never heard of it myself, but as luck would have it, I somehow developed it. Definitely up there on the pain scale. Shortly, today, I’ll be going for a “corneal debridement with diamond burr polishing”. Sounds like something you might do to a piece of furniture. This is gonna be in my freakin’ eye. I don’t like eye stuff, kinda like most folks don’t like dental “things”. “I need that like a need a stick in the eye”. Yep, that kinda sums up what the experience is gonna be like. This will be the second time I’ve had a hunk of cornea taken off now, the last time being last November when this problem first cropped up. Back then, I had spent the better part of a couple days messing with my eye. It felt like something was in there, maybe a piece of metal or glass had lodged itself under my eyelid and was scratching the living bejeezus out of my eye every time I blinked (which is obviously quite often). This particular morning, the pain woke me up about 3am. It felt like someone threw a hot razor into my eye. I shot up outta bed, glanced over at Barb to make sure she was still asleep. I think that’s why you’re not supposed to go to bed mad at each other, in case one decides to throw a hot razor in the eye of the other. I went downstairs so as not to awaken the whole house while I wrestled with the pain. I knew something was wrong. I got worked into the ophthalmologist (I just actually learned how to spell that correctly, I’ve been doing it wrong all my life, dang, how embarrassing) and he sat back after looking at my eye through the microscope and said “this is gonna be a long and painful process”. Wha? What do you mean? It’s a bit unnerving when the “medical professional” tells you it’s gonna hurt for a long time.
Now this isn’t the first time, unfortunately, that I’ve heard those same words from a doctor. Go figure. The last one was when a doc was gonna shoot cortisone into my elbow after a nearly year-long bout with tendonitis. This episode was years ago, not my most recent bout with the tendon beast, which unfortunately resulted in a leak in my retina, in coincidentally the same eye I’m having problems with today (hence adding to the sense of “smitage”, the symptoms of which caused each eye to see different colors, very weird). I braced for it, but as he worked the needle up and down the fiery string that was my tendon, it really wasn’t that bad at all. I figured that all of my “training” to date had helped me to deal with pain and suffering. This latest “event” is just one in a really long string of “smitings” over the years. Again, let me re-iterate (like I really need to type this for God), I’m not blaming anyone (well other than me when I obviously cause some of these things).
The list, in totality, is far too long to go into detail. I’m sure everyone has their own list too. Some are just plain ‘ole funny, some literally made me want to drop to my knees in amazement at my predicament. Collectively though, I wonder how one person could be so unlucky sometimes. Here’s maybe the “Top 5” smites to date, in no particular order.
1) Meningitis: developed it while on a plane ride coming back from a business trip. This was just two weeks after our family vacation to Disney was ruined when my older daughter had come down with, you guessed it, meningitis on day #1 of a weeklong vacation. I had an awesome room too, a two bedroom suite at the Contemporary, right on the monorail. Our luggage was the only thing that got to enjoy it while my wife and I took turns staying in the hospital with the affected child while the other took unit #2 (there were only two at this time) to try and enjoy Disney. That sucked and was scary in and of itself. Now was my turn. I Thought I had a blocked sinus at altitude. When we descended, a headache developed beyond comprehension and within 24 hours, I was in the infectious disease ward in a hospital. The next week was a bit of a blur as I dozed in and out of consciousness but I do vividly remember my frustration when the hospital staff refused to come in my room to deliver my meals. The would crack the door and shove the little cart over at me, donned in full mask and gloves, not wanting to get near me while the hospital lab was determining whether this was viral or the feared bacterial (uber-deadly version which I luckily didn’t have). Now I can understand, and don;t blame them for not wanting to get near me. The problem I had was the food choices they made for someone who is confined to remaining horizontal (if not even head down at times) due to the intracranial pressure, was just wrong. There’s no way to possibly drop a spoonful of peas into your face while lying down, especially all narc’d up on painkillers. I sat in a bed full of missed attempts until Barb finally came by with a frosty from Wendy’s. Now that, I could do. It was a miserable experience. It took months before I was totally back after many weeks of only being able to sit vertically for a couple hours per day, as my body tried to recover the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) balance.
2) Botched dental procedure: definitely the number 1 pain event (at least so far) of my life. I remember it vividly, it was only about 4 years ago. I was real close to just wanting to lay down and call it quits. A crown had failed on one of the “big teeth”, a molar. The dentist was trying to save it so he tried to drill it down, attempting to prep to put another crown on. “Shit”, his words, not mine. Not something you want to hear from a barber, and especially not a doctor / dentist. He had drilled down and through the roots. I knew it was a risk, so I wasn’t mad or anything, we’d just have to pull it and I’d get an implant or something. That’s where this story went wrong. I really didn’t appreciate how hard it could be to get a tooth out, especially one which the roots had been weakened by having a prior root canal. The dentist got in over his head and ended up chasing the roots down into the jaw, using a laser to cut away me (yes, it was burning me up, going up in smoke, literally) as every grab with the pliers resulting in a crunching sound as the roots crumbled. I spent about 2 hours in a cold sweat until the deed was done, and that was the easy part. I spent the next 6-8 weeks in tremendous pain as the heat damage from the laser had destroyed most of the gum in that area and huge chunks of jawbone. The trauma didn’t allow the jaw to be covered. Yes, I had about a one inch hunk of jawbone exposed inside my mouth. I hear dry socket being described as one of the most intense pains, it’s when a tiny little piece of jawbone get exposed if one loses the blood clot in the hole left after an extraction. I think this may be the extreme version of that. I was strung out on massive doses of Vicodin for a long, long time while this thing tried to heal. It was miserable. I eventually pulled out a huge chuck of jawbone out of the battlefield with a pair of tweezers when my body sloughed it off. It took about 2 years to finally get it resolved as good as it’s gonna be. Suckage squared!
3) Zombification: Amy would love this one, I’m sure of it. When I hear zombie, I think of something stumbling around, all stiff legged, with green stuff oozing out of it, maybe like puke or something. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s how I looked, and felt at this time. After decades of struggling with some running issues (i.e., couldn’t run), I had finally self-diagnosed that I had “compartment syndrome”. It was a really long road to get to this point, many, many years. Now I would have been okay not being able to run forever (not happy about it, but I would manage). But this condition had degrading to the point that even walking fast and driving for extended periods of time were now painful. The only solution was to slice open the compartments of the lower leg, kinda like slitting open a package of sausage, so the muscles could expand as they filled with blood during exertion. I was game for it, so I had it done (technically over the course of 2 procedures about 5 years apart, this was the first of those). Both legs were cut from below the knee to above the ankle and the legs dissected to get at the muscle compartments. It was an outpatient procedure, so I went home the same day, wrapped like a mummy from foot to hip on both legs. I had to keep the legs elevated and well iced or the pressure that would build up made them feel like they would explode. Turns out, I should have stayed in the hospital. I could manage the recovery from the surgery itself okay. What wasn’t fun was the puke bug that I caught when I got home. In and of itself, the puke bug is pretty miserable, hanging over the toilet for 6 to 24 hours while your body rejects everything. Unfortunately, I was a mummy. Once it hit, I dragged myself across the floor and to the bathroom and had to lay by the toilet for the better part of the day while it ran its course, trying to keep my legs propped up, whenever I wasn’t hugging the toilet, for fear that they would explode. That sucked. I felt like a zombie for sure.
4) The demon: I don’t know what it is, but it’ll drive you crazy. Perhaps it’s nerve damage in my neck. Maybe 15 years ago or so (maybe even longer), I fell directly down on my head. It was all me, no argument here. My sister-in-law was the head cheerleader at her high school and challenged the “old” brother-in-law that he couldn’t do a handstand. I absolutely could, so I’d prove it. I forgot to consider that I had a big morning at the gym, specifically working shoulders. I did military press, seated dumbbell presses, shrugs, upright rows, the works. My shoulders were spent. I realized that as I neared vertical, in my celebratory handstand. The failure was sudden. I just remember crunching down right on top of my head, thank God I was on grass and not the driveway. I laid there a second, unsure if I could move. I got up, blew it off, assured everyone that all was well. My neck has never been the same. Nothing specific, but just not right. Anyway, perhaps this is the root of “the demon”. I don’t know. MRI, nor orthopedic, nor neurologist can figure it out. The demon visits once a year, usually towards the end of summer, right around August, and stays with me until maybe November. It happened three years in a row. I got really lucky this last year and other than a few false starts, it seemed to stay asleep. The demon causes my left arm to itch. Not just a little itch. This is “scratch your skin off”, “keep you from sleeping” kinda itch. It sounds crazy, trust me, I know. No one can seem to find it’s source. I’ve had plenty of time to experiment. One thought was that it was some sort of sun damage. I spent a year keeping covered up as best I could. Yes, I cycled, even in the heat of Georgia summer, with sleeves on. It was tough. Another thought is that it was some sort of unusual shingles outbreak, affecting this particular nerve. In an attempt to treat that, I had to take Valtrex for quite some time. Yes, that’s the same prescription for Herpes, an STD. Nothing like having the pharmacist ask you out loud whether you want prescription or generic of a popular STD drug, as you’re standing at the crowded counter at the pharmacy. “No, I’m a cheap-ass, give me the generic”, I blurt out as all eyes turn towards me. I figured all was on the table at that point, kinda like getting the price check on “feminine products” at the grocery store when you’re a dude. That solution was unsuccessful too. We even tried nerve blocks in the neck. A series of steroid injections, in combination with all the Cortisone I got shot into my elbow as a result of cutting my teeth on the mountain bike (not literally, at least not yet, I mean learning to ride it), resulted in that odd retinal leak I referred to earlier. It turns out you can, indeed, get too much of a good thing. The leak was some remote side-effect of getting too much Cortisone. Anyway, the demon still lurks. I’ve threatened to brand that arm, maybe fashion some cool pattern out of a coat hanger and heat it with a blowtorch, desperately trying to destroy the nerves that cause the itching. Yes, I’m totally aware that is extreme, it’s just that bad. Anyway, I seemed to just skate by this past year without an attack. I won’t ask questions, perhaps it’s going away. What kind of odd thing is that though? I don’t know, all I can do is chalk it up to smitery.
5) Vasectomy: Yep, went to the vet. In and of itself, the procedure is not that big of a deal. The mechanics of what is being done maybe makes you cringe a little (if you’re a guy), but the pain, at least for me, wasn’t bad. Just had to chill for a couple days and then things were okay. The “smitage” here wasn’t with the procedure itself, just the humiliation. Well, maybe except for the fact that I thought I had an allergic reaction in the past to a particular pain killer, which made me sick, so I mentioned it to the anesthetist. Because of that, they only gave me a “half dose” of Morphine. I ended up feeling much of the procedure. Lesson learned, I don’t make that mistake again, I’m allergic to nothing. Back to the “smitery”. What luck I had that my “surgical team” were very social and couldn’t be bothered with things like modesty. So I’m all up in the stirrups. Yes ladies, you get your revenge here. A dude’s gotta be in stirrups for this thing. A couple people are down there working. You’d think it’s really a one person job, not something 3 or 4 need to witness, but whatever. Someone needs to leave the room for something, so off they go. They leave the door wide open. WTH? I’m looking down the hallway in the office. The UPS man comes by, pokes his head in and says “hey” to one of the nurses. They converse quickly and then he continue down the hallway. Can just any ole body come prancing in while I’m all vulnerable here? Door still open, I now see a couple walking down the hall, I assume there for the initial pre-vasec consult. The wife (I assume, or at least female partner) gets all flushed as we make eye contact. “Hells yeah, this is what your here for right?”. Finally, someone decides maybe they should shut the door. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but c’mon, why me?
These are just the top, more “noteworthy” screwings I’ve received. The day-to-day dumping is plentiful too. At any point, I fully expect my car will erupt into flames. I have it all planned out in my head. She’s an old girl and has served us well, my ’96 Pontiac Bonneville, approaching a quarter million miles. I drive her into Atlanta everyday, unencumbered by the inevitable fender benders and uninsured motorists that litter the roadway. It’s a stress-free ride. I keep all my valuables close by. Once she erupts into flames, I’ll calmly take my bag and begin walking the rest of the journey, taking a FaceBook status photo with the car in flames in the background as I walk down the interstate. I don’t know or think that my bad luck is any greater than the trials that every one of us faces every day. Mine just seem unusual to me. I can’t help but laugh sometimes.
Back to my current predicament. The ophthalmologist, last November when the problem first started, after notifying me that this was gonna be long and painful, proceeded to paw at my eyeball. It was numbed with the magical “numbing drops”, so I didn’t feel anything but pressure. I say “paw” at it, because I was watching his fingertips as he grabbed at it. I didn’t know what was going on. After he was done, I asked. “I just pulled off 1/4 of your cornea, you’re going to want to go straight home now”. I was like a sheep being led to slaughter. Unaware of what hell was about to rain down, I stopped by my favorite Thai restaurant on my way home. I was hungry, and since I wasn’t feeling anything at the time, even considering going into work that day. As I sat in the restaurant, the numbing drops began wearing off. It started getting bad, I could barely see, my eyes watering and me wincing in pain with the feeling that someone was poking my eye with a stick. I quickly ate and really struggled to drive the 3 or so miles it took to get home. Thank goodness I hadn’t gone into work. I didn’t sleep that night, the pain was incredible. I fumbled through my medicine box, desperately looking for some leftover painkillers from all of the prior “life events”. Nothing could touch it. I called the doctor the next morning, a Saturday, telling him I had to come in, I couldn’t hang on with this kind of pain much longer. He saw me, installed the magic numbing drops, and briefly the fireball in my eye calmed, at least for a few hours. I asked if I was just a big sissy or what. He noted this was one of the more painful procedures because the eyeball is raw after scraping off the covering, the cornea. Makes sense, but why the hell didn’t he warn me and why-o-why did he not prescribe some serious painkillers before sending me on my way. I left the office with a scrip and immediately got it filled and started taking it. I knew I had better get it in my system before the “peacemaker” (the magic numbing drops) wore off. I spent the next two days in a narcotic haze and it probably took another two before I could get out in light without some serious wincing. It was in the top 5 painful events of my life for sure. Amazing how a little tiny eyeball can bring you to your knees.
We had thought that I had cut my eye last November. The doc asked what had hit me in the eye. Surely I would have noticed something, like maybe a piece of swinging barbed wire or something, cutting my eye so severely. Nope, it evolved over a couple days until I knew something was wrong. With the repeat performance I’m facing now, it appears to be this spontaneous RCE thing. After struggling now for over a week to get the cornea to re-attach, looks like it’s not gonna happen. Time for this “scrape-n-grind”, hoping than when the cornea rebuilds, it will be firmly attached to the layer beneath. I’ve tried to get everything done that I have to for the next 3-4 days, I hope. If this is anything like the last, and I’m afraid it may be a little worse since they’re gonna grind and roughen up the eyeball this time, I know I’m gonna be out of commission for a couple days, planning to stay in a near-coma state. All of this doesn’t bode well for my Sebring preparations, as well as all of the other stuff I need to be doing. I’ll manage through though, just attribute it to another “smiting”.
P.M. update: No dice today, I’m still lucid. After seeing a cornea specialist, he decided that this needed to be done in the controlled environment of an operating room. Besides all the stuff which I expected through my own research (i.e. delaminating the cornea, diamond burr grinding of the Bowman’s layer, extreme pain), the doc mentioned that he’d put in some eye drops which prevent scarring of the cornea and possibly ruining (or further ruining) my vision. Since I had a procedure in the office last time (i.e. ripping the cornea off, which in hind sight and in lieu of this new approach, seems kinda barbaric and cruel), I questioned why we were now delaying for an OR. He said, “I can’t install those drops in the office, you need the comfort of an OR in order to put those in”. Holy *$!@. Whatddya mean “comfort”. I’m thinking anesthesia. All of a sudden the scraping and grinding on my eyeball doesn’t seem so bad. I’ve splashed acetone in my eyes before. I know once that liquid death hits, you’ve got about half a second before the most intense rush of breath-stealing pain hits. It’ll only last about 4 or 5 seconds, but it’s an intense experience, and one I’m sure could lead to permanent eye damage, perhaps that’s the origination of this current predicament? I’m now envisioning that once the doc has finished all of the mechanical aspects of this procedure, the room will grow quiet, and everyone in there (nurses, anesthesia tech, circulator, maybe even a UPS delivery man) will gather round the table as the doctor wields the dropper full of this toxic wonder-juice. As the drop leaves the dropper, plummeting into my eye, I jerk involuntarily and cry out in pain. All in attendance gasping and remarking “oooh, that’s gotta hurt”. Actually, I’m not really sure what to expect, other than the doc saying that I would absolutely hate him for 3 to 4 days following surgery. Whatever will be, will be. I just hope this fixes the problem once and for all. With a 90% success rate, odds are in my favor. I’ve got a day and a half to live it up, as best you can with an eye full of hot razors. I was lucky enough to be able to fill a late cancellation in his surgical schedule. After that, you can find me either on all fours, begging for mercy, or in a narcotic induced near-coma. See ya on the other side. After this, I’ve gotta get down to it in order to have any chance at not running myself totally in the ground at Sebring 🙂