DW and I both have colds. I cannot tell which one of us is effected the most adversely, she of a tribe who seems to suffer such maladies with an extra degree of expressed severity, my own upbringing repressed as any good WASP. However, I can tell you that I had to correct two typos in the first short sentence. Or maybe I’m a bit out of practice, what with all of the sitting on the porch swatting flies that I’ve indulged the last month. For all of this, I apologize, for I am certain I have offended and ignored.
Or perhaps it is because of the type of employment with which I have recently re-toyed, and not the illness, or the type of reading I have done while incapacitated that my mind has been set with something that occurred many, many years ago.
I was working in a military hospital eye clinic. In those days we took care of nearly everyone who was in the nuclear family of active duty or retired personnel. Children were cut free when of an age. My duties in this clinic were varied: visual acuity exams, visual field exams (extensive and exacting), surgical assistance, and a host of other things. I was well trained within my MOS.
Not surprisingly, I took a certain pride in my acquired skills. Fortunately, I was also recognized for it. When I mapped out a rather extensive and intricate pathology in an eye with the use of a Goldman Perimeter (a precision visual field device), the physicians were at first incredulous at my findings. The dilated exam showed precisely what I had found. A young woman came up from the ER late one night while I was on Watch. I found the most minute scleral tear caused by a brick through her driver side window, and I had the OR and the patient prepped before the on call physician arrived. I knew my shit.
Yet, as anyone knows who has visited the doctor with more non-specific symptoms that may be attributed to any number of causes, much of the diagnostic process is done by a process of elimination. On a physician’s consult, it might appear in the subject line as “r/o diverticulitis” or “r/o vertebral compression” for respectively ruling out a stomach and back ache. A battery of tests, if all goes according to plan, eventually isolates the pathology. Occasionally, no amount of testing finds a cause, and such was the case for the young woman who has been in my thoughts these last days.
I pulled the chart off the top of the stack of those waiting to be seen. The consult read, “15 y/o F, r/o eye probs.” Simple and as broad as that. My job was to do the initial screening, meaning a visual acuity test and short history before the doctor saw the patient. I went out to the front of the waiting room and called the patient’s name. A young woman stood up along with an older woman, a daughter and mother. Both were exceptionally good-looking, and both in a somewhat stereotypical manner. There is no need to go into details here except to note that the daughter could have passed for a somewhat older young lady and the mother was of a stature that one was accustomed to seeing as the spouse of a Naval Academy graduate cum Lt. Commander. They followed me to the screening area.
The daughter had been having trouble seeing the blackboard in school. Not an uncommon complaint. I lit up the eye chart, asked her to cover her right eye with the paddle and read the lowest line she could. Typically we started with lines for 20/100 down to 20/40. She could read none of them. Likewise she could not read the 20/200 or 20/500 line. Yet she walked into the room without assistance. Both she and her mother met this “failure” of the test with low affects, perhaps the mother’s more measured. “Her father and I are getting a divorce.”
“Ah,” says one, “hysterical blindness. She does not want to ‘see’ her parents get divorced, and this is the form of her protest.” Perhaps it is that simple: Her blindness was a cry for others to see what was being done to her so that they might intercede, show her parents the error of their ways, something she was powerless to do herself. Perhaps. Did I mention how absolutely stunning this young woman was? What had she seen that she did not want to see? Or what did she wish to see that she had not been able to accept? All of these scenarios fall into the realm of possibility.
But I am not an armchair shrink. And with this cold, I cannot be certain that what I have put forth is anything more than another of my ramblings, a step from one grassy mound of a tangent to another in a methane-filled swamp. Even now, a better sentence to follow the last than this one has sunk back into the swollen mucosa. I didn’t go to Portland today, so any reviews I write will have to wait a week. It seems a small wonder that I have been able to write at all.
I don’t know what happened to that young lady and her family. I remember the mother’s breath smelled of raw onions, and that did not bother me.
Tomorrow I absolutely must mow the lawn.