I was walking to work the other day and I couldn’t read the familiar green street signs.
Where was I?
97th Street? 98th?
I didn’t know because I couldn’t see. My vision was blurry.
I cleared my eyes with my hands, squinted, and moved closer to the sign. 99th street.
By the time I got to work, I could see a little better, but still not perfectly. I wrote the AIM on the board: “WHAT-IS-THE-COLOR-WHEEL?” I walked to the back of the art studio to set up materials for the day. When I turned around to see the board again, I had trouble reading the words I had written just minutes earlier.
I’ve always had good vision. I wondered why things were suddenly unclear. I remembered playing with Maya the night before. As babies do, she kicked and waved her arms in fun. At one point, she poked me in the eye. I hadn’t thought much of it, but maybe that was the reason for my blurry vision.
Then I thought, I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately. Maybe that’s the reason.
Or, Maybe I got shampoo in my eyes.
The Why My Vision is Blurry list went on and on, until I thought of more serious possibilities, like Maybe I have diabetic retinopathy, or Maybe I’m going blind.
And then my first period class walked in. Thank goodness.
People with diabetes are told to get regular eye exams because we are High Risk for Everything. I’ve also heard that pregnancy can be a stressor on the eyes. Since I was pregnant not too long ago, you might assume that I’ve had an eye check in the past year.
Unfortunately that is not the case.
I’ve been negligent. I haven’t been to the eye doctor in over two years. The last time I went, things were status quo. No glasses. No diabetes-related eye problems. I was on my way.
In fact, after all of my prior exams, my doctor has always said these five words: “No diabetes in your eyes.” That sentence has always made me feel secure.
But I didn’t feel secure anymore. My vision was indeed blurry. I worried that diabetes had made its way into my eyes after all.
I finally made an appointment.
My mom drove me to the office since I was having my eyes dilated and I wouldn’t be able to drive home. Maya came along, too. I heard her babbling in the waiting room. Such a supportive little babe.
The doctor examined my eyes and he found a small scratch on my right cornea. I guess baby play is more dangerous than I thought! He handed me a sample of over-the-counter eye drops and he said it would heal in a week.
Then he tested my vision. After several E-S-V-N-Us, or whatever the letters were, he determined that I needed a mild prescription for glasses. So mild that filling the prescription was optional.
I chuckled to myself. How nice to be diagnosed with something to a mild degree. So unlike diabetes.
The exam wasn’t over yet. Though the scratch combined with needing a mild prescription probably accounted for the blurriness, the doctor still had to look for potential diabetes damage. He took out his ophthalmoscope (I hope I spelled that right), and he brought it close to my face. He told me to keep my eyes open wide.
He stared into the black abyss of my dilated pupils. Looking, looking, looking. It seemed to be taking forever! Where were those five words I had come to cherish?
Casually, he said, “No diabetes in your eyes.”
It was nothing to him. But it was everything to me.
It felt like a small victory. Diabetes has been with me for 18 years; but it isn’t in my eyes.
The doctor handed me the prescription for glasses to fill or not fill at my leisure. Then he said, “See you in a year. We’ll send you a reminder.”
My mom was sitting anxiously in the waiting room. I told her everything was okay. She smiled with relief. We walked to the car and strapped Maya into her car seat; she fell asleep as soon as the engine turned on. The car was quiet on the drive home. I reflected on what the doctor had said – the words I’ve been lucky enough to hear after every eye check-up – “No diabetes in your eyes.”
The more I thought about it, the stranger it sounded. Diabetes is insidious. It creeps into every crevice of my life. How amazing that it’s not in my eyes.
I felt thankful.
I put on my sunglasses, shut my eyes, and joined Maya in her nap.