Age Related Macular Degeneration and Me.

eye2010195f13My eyesight hasn’t been so good, for quite a while now. Never used to be the case. As a young man I enjoyed exceptional vision and eyesight. I was a crack shot in the Army, could make a head shot at 600 yards. That’s worthy of a sniper, although I never went into that trade, but I was on the Corps rifle team and shot at Bisley

But those days are long gone. I have worn glasses now for more years than I care to remember. Wouldn’t be able to read or to function without them. Do a lot of reading, close work, essential work, law reports, contracts, deeds, wills, witness statements, lots of small print. And novels, and history, my life is furnished with books. But a few years ago I began to notice my eyesight was getting worse. I wasn’t reading quite so much, avoiding newspapers, needed a lot more light to focus. Started using Kindle because I could increase the font size.
It was the TV that caused me to do something about it.

If I didn’t sit exactly the right distance from the screen then it was not quite in focus. Text on the TV screen was even worse. I was developing a sort of predictive vision – if I could make out the first word or so, or the first few letters, then I could make a fair guess at the rest. But it was a bit hit or miss. One particular incident remains, to my embarrassment, a rather poignant reminder of how bad it got. I was home alone, Sunday evening. Treated myself to a glass of whisky and settled down in front of the TV for the night. I was going through the SKY programme index, on screen, looking for something interesting to watch and I saw that there was an old film about to start, I’d seen it before, when I was a very young soldier; “Emmanuelle”. Ah Emmanuelle, I remember her well. Most men reading this will remember Emmanuelle. A bit of nostalgic erotica? Just the job, so I pressed select.
What came up was Emmerdale farm.
Actually it was quite a good episode of Emmerdale farm. But it persuaded me to go and get a new pair of glasses.
I went to Tesco. We have one of those mega stores. It’s got a pharmacy and a phone shop, a barber shop, they even sell motor-cars by the tills, and it has a very impressive opticians. They do free eye tests and as opticians tend to be extraordinarily expensive, I went to Tesco.
Very nice man the optician, put me through the usual tests and recommended a new prescription for my lenses. Then he told me I should make an appointment with an ophthalmologist because he thought my problem was not the prescription but a developing age related macular degeneration.
Never heard of it But given my experience with Emmanuelle I thought it prudent to follow his advice and so it was I ended up in the eye clinic, in the consultation rooms of the very distinguished Dr. Louise O’Toole.
What they like to do there, those eye clinic people, is photograph your eyes. They are probably all failed photographers really. They love to snap your eyes. They put drops in  and photograph them. They inject you with dyes and photograph them. Sometimes they just photograph them because you happen to be sitting  in the waiting room. They send these photographs to various computers and spend hours looking at them. I suspect that when they meet socially, at dinner parties or discotheques, they exchange interesting eye photographs with each other.
have you seen this one, such depth of character and a lovely cloudy blue”
well I can beat that, look at this for a psychotic stare, a former pupil of mine you know
They probably all have their own eye selfies. On their iPhones.
Dr. O’Toole always asks me if I want a copy of the latest photograph of my eye. I have to confess I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I suppose I could put it on the piano with the family photographs. Might be interesting to visitors.
This is our wedding in Cork, these are the boys growing up, And this is my eye, one of a pair actually
Or I might enter it for the Turner prize.   I  ought to be grateful its an eye clinic and not a penis clinic.
The other thing they do at these eye clinics is to clamp your eyes open and  stick needles into your eyeball.   Inject your eye!   Sounds absolutely terrifying. But in reality, well, it’s absolutely terrifying.  It’s the thought of it that is so terrifying. The actual injection hurts no more than a flu jab or an injection into the bum, but the thought of it makes you tense up, bite your lip and hold on to the operation bed for dear life.   On one occasion a nurse asked me if I wanted to hold their hand while the injection was going in.    I said OK but don’t tell the wife.  From beneath my wet clamped anesthetised blurry eyeball I had not noticed the nurse was a bloke.

If the CIA ever discover the terror of it all  then it might persuade them to abandon water boarding, or just add it ot their list of tortures.
And then they photograph your eye again.
But it works. I have not the slightest doubt that Dr. O’Toole and her team have either saved my eyesight or ensured that it will remain stable for far more years than would ever have been the case without them. Indeed I think my eyesight has improved. I noticed at the Opera in Edinburgh, (the magic flute, in German), that I was able to follow the subtitles without any difficulty at all. That wasn’t the case a few years ago. I read a bit more now, and am much more comfortable in front of the T.V.  No danger of me ever watching Emmerdale Farm again..
So I owe a great debt to the three persons who intervened to identify my age related macular degeneration, to Emmanuelle, to the man from Tesco and to Dr. O’Toole. Not necessarily in that Order.