I’m not quite sure how many tomorrows passed before I realised, I wasn’t going to be suddenly, or even gradually OK.
The morning after the ‘episode’, I got up and duly used the antibiotic eyedrops the A&E doctor had given me. I even went shopping with my husband. We each had a Christmas shoebox to buy presents for, and the deadline was looming. I slowly felt worse as the day progressed, my vision getting blurry and feeling increasingly exhausted. I thought back to the previous fortnight; the early nights, cancelled meetings and fatigue. Maybe the doctor was right and I was cultivating a virus and a stye.
Each morning for the few days following droopy eye day, I would wake up and feel normal. My eyes would open fully, I didn’t feel dizzy, and I could see. But my vision would get more out of focus, and the dizziness worse as every day progressed.
By day 3 I knew I didn’t have an eye infection and no stye had made an appearance. I was also feeling more dizzy, like being very drunk, with each day that passed. I had phoned in sick, and fortunately my husband was not at work either, because I wasn’t able to go anywhere on my own. I called our GP’s surgery for an appointment to see a doctor.
After examining me, my GP said he thought I had inflammation on my optic nerve. He called the hospital ophthalmology department and made an urgent referral. Within an hour they had called me back and given me an appointment for the next day.
Whilst feeling relieved that I wouldn’t have to wait long to be seen, I simultaneously fretted that the rapid referral meant they thought there was something serious going on.
The next day (day 4), we set off for the hospital. We left a little early and took the opportunity to pop into the supermarket on the way. As we walked from the car park to the entrance, I had to stop and ask my husband to help me cross the road; when I turned my head to look for approaching traffic the double vision and dizziness worsened. I couldn’t take a step for fear of walking in front of a car.
At the hospital I had all the tests to gauge my vision and eye movement. Drops to dilate my pupils stung viciously and made my already gritty eyelid droop even more. When I finally saw the acute referrals consultant ophthalmologist I was filled with apprehension.
“Your vision itself is fine. You have internuclear ophthalmoplegia.”
Of course I had never heard of it. How about you?
It was basically damage to my optic nerve, he told me. But we needed to find out why. It likely had a neurological cause. He was going to order some blood tests to check for infection, a head MRI scan and refer me for a neurological assessment.
Was I losing my sight? I started to cry. My husband, who had sat quietly and stoicly throughout the last few days, spoke up
“How long will this take? She can’t work, can’t even leave the house alone because she can’t see! Will it get better?”
It might get better, Dr P said. OK, I’ll try and hurry things up, I’m going to call the consultant radiologist now.
After speaking on the phone, talking about me being symptomatic, he told us I should have an appointment for the MRI within the next 2 weeks. Which was fast he assured us.
Handing me some blood test forms he apologised for not being able to tell me anything definitive and we left.
At home I looked at the forms. He’d written ‘rule out a stroke and Multiple Sclerosis’.
Google explained what internuclear ophthalmoplegia was. And I almost wished I hadn’t looked. It seemed to always be a secondary problem. Caused by something serious such as MS, a stroke or a tumour. There was more but I’d completely freaked myself out by then and stopped researching.
I was starting to feel deeply frightened. Searching for a way to keep calm and occupy my time, as I couldn’t go anywhere, watch TV or even read much, I took to streaming guided meditation videos.
And the waiting commenced. Waiting for more tests. More hospital appointments. And to wake up tomorrow and be OK.