It was late at night, about 12:30, when the emergency room intern said “detached retina,” and that yes, I should immediately notify my employer that I would not be in for at least several days. When I finally got a chance to call it was later, about 1:15, and I felt bad because in order to cover for me someone would have to leave much earlier in the morning than usual, like around 4:30, and that meant that they would really be getting up in the middle of the night.
As none of what the intern had asked about while talking to me about the loss of sight in my right eye, certain types of pain, any injuries, certain patterns of altered sight, none of what she described had sounded familiar and I had answered no to all of it, it did not surprise me when the emergency room resident came and looked and said I did not have a detached retina. And I was even more impressed as he asked questions to which I could emphatically answer “yep, that’s it,” and “yes, for years.” This was the first time ever a doctor had actually guessed at so many of the weird things that I had felt for so long, and had actually made it sound like they were a group of things that might be related. I was really anxious for him to get to the rest of the sentence, “You do not have a detached retina, what you actually have is…” But he didn’t. He said he was referring me to a neuro-ophthalmologist and he and any other doctors who got involved would take me through tests and tell me what was what.
If you are not asleep at 2:30 in the morning, if it’s that late and you’re just awake, not for a specific reason, it’s usually an uncomfortable place to be. If you are in the emergency room at 2:30 in the morning, with the exception of having babies and maybe something else I can’t think of right now, it can feel kind of desperate, you wouldn’t be there at that hour if something didn’t feel really wrong. If you’re there and you know there is something wrong and nobody wants to tell you what wrong it is, that is really scary. I wanted to ask exactly what was wrong with me, but instead I asked the next thing that was on my mind, “Will I be able to drive, will my sight come back?” He said it probably would. I just sort of was looking at the discharge papers and referrals and saying that I as going to miss work for the first time ever and had had to take the bus and it would be almost silly to go home and come back because it was getting later and he had told me to be at the clinic really early and I just looked at him and said, “You know what’ wrong with me, can’t you just tell me?” Not having an answer is always hard, but in that place that isn’t really morning yet but is past night, like if you go to sleep now you won’t really get much sleep but if you try to stay awake you might not make it; where you have almost made it to dawn and another day but not quite and so you need something to hold on to, in that place, not having an answer is just too hard.
Having Multiple Sclerosis has meant many things to me; it has meant many losses. But it wasn’t until I started thinking about this topic that I realized that the big things, my intelligence and ability to think, my job and ability to support myself, some relationships, the whole idea of planning for much in the future or even the idea that I can count on my legs lifting me out of bed tomorrow, those are so big that they don’t make me cry, they overwhelm me and I just have to find ways to deal with it all and those are the things I work at accepting and so they are the things that I have learned to face with less sadness and more determination.
But this morning I went out for a walk, which I am so glad to be able to do, and I was stopped at the corner and a car went by with the windows open and a great song playing and tears just started rolling down my face. I drove for a couple years, my sight came back and it was okay. But I don’t get up and go to work every day, I don’t have a car anymore and only drive in emergencies and one thing I really, really miss and I guess I never let myself really think about just how much until that moment, is 5:00 in the morning, the sun is around, and there aren’t many cars on Lake Shore Drive and one of my “morning CDs” is playing just loud enough and I feel like I’m ready for anything the day can bring.
Every morning I am happy to wake up, happy to feel my legs and arms and everything else I check on. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t found something to replace that morning drive or not, but I don’t always feel ready for what the day might bring. I guess that late night visit to the emergency room lasted into all my mornings.