“You have chemical burns to your corneas. Both of them.”
The news was delivered in an engaging Greek accent. Doctor George (second name too long for his badge) was from Athens. And he was going to irrigate my eyes.
They hadn’t improved over the weekend. On Monday I’d stumbled into the GP’s. Ten minutes later I was in a taxi to A&E.
“Chemical burns? So my eyes wouldn’t have washed it out?”
“So I could suffer permanent damage?”
“If I don’t irrigate your eyes, yes.”
I was too frightened to ask the next question. But I had to. “Could I have lost my sight?”
“In your right eye? For sure.”
“You’d better irrigate then.” Still, it didn’t sound too bad. A grown-up’s version of washing your eyes with Optrex. “You need to lie on the bed.” Sophie the nurse told me. “And take your top off. I’ll bring you a gown.”
A gown? That sounded excessive for a cup of Optrex...
The next two hours were seriously unpleasant. If you’re not squeamish,
Google image ‘eye irrigation.’ If you are squeamish bad luck, because I’m going to tell you anyway.
You lie on the bed. The nurse holds your eye open. The doctor squirts a litre of saline solution into it.
And in my case, you scream.
An old lady in the next bed was having a broken arm manipulated. She was no competition.
It’s the closest I’ll ever come to waterboarding. Two minutes into the first session I told George everything he wanted to know. Sadly I needed nine sessions. Of ten minutes each.
“You were with me last time I did this,” George said to Sophie.
“Oh yes. It was that brave little girl.”
The implication was clear. I didn’t care. I screamed again to let them know they were right.
“Can you do something for me?” I asked Sophie as George mercifully broke off to answer his pager.
“Do you want me to hold your hand?”
Cripes. An attractive young woman offering to hold my hand. There was an offer that wouldn’t come along again this side of Doomsday. I was tempted – but my wife needed to see me suffering. “Thank you. But no. Could you text my wife? A&E. Urgent. Come now should do it.”
Jane arrived halfway through session four. And immediately pinpointed a problem. “You’re not breathing,” she said. “No wonder you’re distressed.
You’re trying to hold your breath for ten minutes.”
She was right. And after that we settled into a nice routine.
George irrigated, I screamed. Jane told me to breathe. And Sophie told me how well I was doing.
“Just one more. We’re nearly there.”
“Remember to breathe, darling.”
“Come on, you’re doing ever so well.”
Hang on, I thought. This conversation sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before? Blimey.... I’m giving birth.
“Breathe. Keep breathing. In and out.”
“You’re doing really, really, well...”
“...Nearly there now.”
“It hurts, it £$%%&* well hurts.”
Finally it was over. Jane smiled and hugged me. Sophie told me how well I’d done. “There you are,” George said. “Worth it in the end.” And it was, as I held my beautiful bottle of Lucozade Sport.
An hour later I walked unsteadily across the car park. Unfortunately I’d left my brains in the hospital. “That was exactly like giving birth,” I said to my wife. “In fact, I’d guess that was more painful than giving birth.”
“Except for one thing,” she said.
“They forgot the episiotomy. Never mind, darling. You’re back in outpatients tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have a word with one of the nurses...”