Thursday, February 14, 2008

You Know What Makes Me Even Crosser?

Conjunctivitis. I am, as they say, subject to it. This morning I awoke to the familiar scratchy, oozy, swollen feeling and said, as Dave did to Stargate Defender, "It's been a long time." How long? A few years. I know we were still going to the old pediatrician, because I remember taking a sick child in, wearing sunglasses, and seeing Dr. C. peer at me from across the exam room and then back away slightly. "You have conjunctivitis!" People have a visceral reaction to the old pinkeye. Ask me. I know.

Usually it comes later, in the spring, indicating that it is allergic conjunctivitis; but the dear old doctors of my youth never hesitated to prescribe a host of antibiotic remedies.

This, from the quality of the oozing, I would diagnose as viral, darn it. There is no saint maker like the virus, because there is absolutely nothing you can do about a virus except slow down, wait, and offer it up to God. It may not even be viral. It may be caused by four nights in a row of getting up at 2:30 to test R.'s blood sugar. Ah, I haven't posted about the insulin pump. That's a post for another day. Right now I'm busy being self-absorbed and complaining about my eye. My mother tells me that when I was a toddler and had a cold I would point emphatically to my nose and say, repeatedly, with increasing urgency, "My nose!" I still completely understand that. All I want to do right now is say, pettishly, over and over: "My eye!"

Also, every, absolutely every time this happens, I think of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in the U.S. I owned a Scholastic biography of her and for some reason read it many, many times as a child. While taking the midwives course at the maternity hospital in Paris (we stayed near's digression day!) she accidentally squirted some eye matter from an infant into her own eye, developed ophthalmia , and went blind in one eye, ending her plans to be surgeon. The book had an unfortunately very vivid description of how her eye felt, and I recognized it. I never actually believe that I am going to go blind when my eye goes south again, but it just...occurs to me.

Which is why, perhaps, I snapped at the infirmary doctor in college who suggested that I let my admittedly bacterial conjunctivitis clear up on its own. "After all, what did cavemen do?" she suggested jovially. "They went blind!" I replied, a little too loud. Or died before they reached the age I am now, I could have added. Inconsistent of me, because whenever I don't want to go to the doctor, which is most of the time, I say to myself, "After all, what did cavemen do?"

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