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Piece of Cake

I was putting drops in my eye in a department store restroom one day when a lady asked if I was okay.

I said, "Yes ... I have Glaucoma," and I capped the eye dropper and placed it in my little soapdish carrier.

She said, "Oh, Glaucoma ... Piece of cake ... you just do a drop once a day and thatís all there is to it!" and she repeated Ďpiece of cakeí as she left the lounge area.

I could feel that prickly feeling in my nose ... the one that precedes tears. She had no idea what she was talking about. She was just blathering something she had heard from others.

I lowered the lid on the soapbox covering five different prescriptions that I had to use from fifteen to eighteen times a day for a period of fifteen years, in order to keep the pressure down in my left eye. This was in addition to having had laser surgery on the drain to perforate it like a sieve. I swallowed hard to keep from crying. Piece of cake!  Try remembering which of five prescription drops to do when and in which eye? I had come to the powerful conclusion that this was an unbeatable disease and I would lose my sight in time. Perhaps because of this reasoning, I set myself on a schedule of a story a week for class. I felt my time was running out.

I remembered my mother buying a typewriter and taking typing lessons at age 60 so that she would have some means of communication if Glaucoma blinded her.

I purchased a medicine timer with built in alarm, but it had to be reset each time I did a prescription eye drop. This became a nuisance, and furthermore, it had a raucous ring that could awaken the dead. Finally, I bought a manís sport watch and programmed it to alarm me with a mild beeping every hour. I did not need to do drops every hour, however, it kept me alert for the times that I did have to do them. I cut the straps off the watch, and I crocheted a little bag for the watch to live in, and made a crochet chain for it so that I could wear it around my neck. I wore it everywhere. 

When people get older, it is quite normal not to remember things quite as well as we had when we were young. Mostly, it is a matter of not engaging the mind. Wearing the watch, and being beeped on an hourly basis helped me to keep my mind in gear!

Glaucoma seldom is accompanied by pain, depending on the kind you have, but it becomes a silent thief of eyesight.

Because it is a family disease, that my mother and brother also had, I want you to be apprised of the importance of being checked for it often by an Ophthalmologist.

The following I have copied from medical reports on Glaucoma from the Internet:

"The goal of glaucoma treatment is to prevent further vision loss by controlling intraocular pressure. This strategy is similar to controlling blood pressure to prevent a stroke. 

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a specific pattern of optic nerve damage and visual field loss caused by a number of different eye diseases which can affect the eye. Most, but not all of these diseases, are characterized by elevated intraocular pressure, which is not the disease itself, but the most important risk factor for the development of Glaucoma.

The disease is called the `silent thief of sight´ because it strikes without obvious symptoms. Therefore, the person with Glaucoma is usually unaware of it until serious loss of vision has occurred. In fact, half of those suffering damage from Glaucoma do not know it. Currently, damage from Glaucoma cannot be reversed. 

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Everyone should be concerned about glaucoma and its effects. It is important for each of us, from infants to senior citizens, to have our eyes checked regularly, because early detection andtreatment of Glaucoma are the only way to prevent vision impairment and blindness. There are a few conditions related to this disease which tend to put some people at greater risk. This may apply to you if: you are over 45 and have not had your eyes examined regularly someone in your family has a history of glaucoma you have abnormally high intraocular pressure you are of African or Asian descent you have diabetes myopia (nearsighted) regular, long-term steroid/cortisone use previous eye injury high blood pressure 

Because Glaucoma medications may have side effects, their use may be limited if an individual has other medical problems. For example, some Glaucoma medications should be avoided by people who have heart failure or asthma. 

In angle-closure Glaucoma, (this is the kind of Glaucoma my brother had) intraocular pressure (IOP) can increase suddenly, causing an angle-closure (acute glaucoma) attack. This attack can occur within a matter of hours and become very painful. Possible indications include: Intense pain, which may result in nausea and vomiting red eye(s) swollen or cloudy cornea(s) halos around lights (rainbow-colored rings around lights) recurrent blurry vision morning headaches pain around your eyes after watching TV or leaving a dark theater 

Risk factors for Glaucoma:

Family history, myopia (nearsightedness) previous eye injury high blood pressure, African descent, diabetes, long exposure to cortisone.

In August 1999 my Ophthalmologist transferred me to a Glaucoma Specialist at Scripps Clinic because, even with five different prescriptions, the pressure in my left eye continued to spike up.

After a thorough examinination, he decided that I was a candidate to have the Baerveldt Drain implanted in the sclera of my left eye, thereby replacing the defective drain that I was born with.

Again from Medical Journals:

"For more advanced cases, or for glaucoma that is difficult to control, an artificial glaucoma drainage implant may help decrease pressure by tapping excess fluid from the eye, usually through a tube that drains fluid from the eye to a plate placed above and behind the eye. The excess fluid is then absorbed into the body. One of the more commonly used implants is the Baerveldt implant. 

After a month of weekly progress visits to Dr. Nguyen, the stitches have dissolved, and the new drain is functional ... itís working! Now, I have normal pressure in my left eye. I will not lose any more vision in it. I will not regain the vision I have lost, but I wonít lose any more! I no longer have to do drops in it at all. I will still have to do one drop at night in the right eyeÖlike people who have the piece of cake variety of Glaucoma. The piece of cake variety mentioned by the stranger in the Ladies Room so many years earlier.

So, before you say "Piece of cake!" to a person with a disability, know what youíre talking about! Or as the American Indians used to say: You donít know how I feel until you walk a mile in my shoes. Donít be obtuse, like Marie Antoinette when she heard the peasants had no bread. She said " Let them eat cake!" One manís cake can be another manís poison and a thoughtless word, even in jest, can be deeply troublesome and hurtful to someone who has lost hope. I had lost hope when that lady thoughtlesly said "Oh ... piece of cake!"

Post Script: Now I am in withdrawal. I donít know what to do with myself. I look for my little soapdish full of eyedrops that I faithfully put in my eyes for fifteen years. Weird thoughts have enter my mind like "Did Dr. Nguyen really mean me?" "Are you sure that you never have to put drops in the left eye again?" "Is it only to be one drop at night for the right eye?" "Whereís my little soapdish?" I know that it will pass, and I am so grateful to God for teaching doctors how to do the Baerveldt Drain. It is changing my life completely.

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