I went to my normal eye doctor today. I didn’t receive very happy news. At first, it was exciting that with my right eye I could read a letter on the second line of the eye chart, under the big “E.” Then, he took a look at my eyes. It seems the scar tissue is growing back over the left eye. My mom has reminded me that this isn’t some sort of death sentence. I have to keep remembering that even the worst case scenario is that I will have to continue having surgeries. Still, this doesn’t seem like much of a way to live. Again, I must compare my situation to others’. I’m not dying in some awful way. I’m not being tortured on a daily basis. I’m surviving, and my life is mostly wonderful. I have an amazing family and a wonderful set of friends. I might have recently lost the pillar of support I’d normally turned to for the past two years, but there are still so many to lean on. And my parents were both there for me before and are there for me now. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
I remember the day I was originally supposed to be discharged from the hospital. I was so excited. I’d been recovering much faster than planned, and rather than having to be carted via ambulance down to a hospital in Georgia, we were given the okay to simply take my car. “Baby,” I called her, because I could never really come up with anything else, and she’d always been my baby. A silver ’95 Camry. I adored that car. All my hopes were put into the trip back to Georgia, where I was sure I would continue to recover quickly and be back to continue classes in the fall. In three weeks, the expectations for my outcome had gone from likely dying to having to hire a nurse to stay with me for several months to merely requesting that I stay out of direct sunlight for six months and have regular follow-ups with an internal physician and an ophthalmologist. It was great news, and my spirits were high.
I had begun to have chest pains, though. Usually at night, they felt like a knife searing through my chest. Nothing helped. I was off the morphine drip, and the acetaminophen took 30-45 minutes to kick in. Even then, it sometimes didn’t help. I would try different sleeping positions, but usually to no avail. It was torture. They did x-rays, but nothing showed. Finally, on the day I was scheduled to be discharged, we did a CT scan. I had a blood clot in my right lung, a pulmonary embolism. I would not be leaving the hospital.
I spent another week having my blood drawn every morning to check the levels of Coumadin, a blood-thinner, in my system. My arms looked like a heroine addict’s. I was miserable. I remember one woman who made particularly painful punctures. One morning, I flat out told her no. I was not having her draw my blood that morning. End of story. Some very sweet nurses came in and eventually talked me into it, but I was not happy. I just wanted to go home. Every day was a build up of hopes just to have them crash back down again. This is a feeling I would soon get used to. In fact, I finally got to the point where I just stopped hoping, until last month.
When I was told to let go of hope in other areas of my life, I was suddenly told I could place hope in having normal sight again. I was told I could stop scheduling surgeries and look forward to recovering just one more time. At first, I was scared to hope, but as humans we need hope to keep moving forward. Like when Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) lies on the tv show Battlestar Galactica, telling the remaining humans that he knows where to find Earth, their last chance for survival, he is simply giving them hope. He knows that without hope, we turn to despair and rage. We lash out and stop trying to live. Without hope, we humans don’t really have anything. The same can be said for religion. Without the hope of God and without the hope of a better existence in heaven, many people would not be able to make it through the difficult trials of simply living. But with hope, we are able to conquer incredible feats.
So today, I am doing my best to hold on to hope. I have been pleaded with to give up hope in some areas of my life. I have lost hope in others. I am pressed now to give up hope on my health, but I cling to the last thread of hope that after this I can move forward. Even with each surgery, I can keep living. I think back to worse times, times when I didn’t have my current support group. I think back to when I felt all alone, and I have to keep hoping. For what? I’m not really sure yet. Perhaps just happier times. Hope for the next smile, hope for the next laugh, hope for the next chance to get out of my own head.
I only stayed in the hospital another week after they found the blood clot. My mother and I drove back to Atlanta in the middle of the night, only to wake up early to arrive at a promised doctor’s appoint to again check my Coumadin levels. It was a crazy trip. We should never have made it on less than two tanks of gas, but that was all we had cash for and somehow we managed. I made it through all the first eye surgeries, through the ridiculous outfits I had to wear (even sunglasses inside at night) to shade me from the sun and the bright lights, through the snarky comments by people who didn’t understand, through the constant longing to do more with my life than sit inside with my eyes shut. I made it back to work, back to school, and into a wonderful set of new friends. I’ve made it this far. How could I give up now?