Have you ever watched “House” on TV? No, it’s not on the Home and Garden channel. It’s a doctor show on FOX about an infectious disease specialist named Gregory House who treats all kinds of weird diseases. Typically his patients come in for something minor, say a sore knee and end up with all kinds of horrible symptoms. Their skin turns wild colors, their livers fail, they vomit blood, they go into cardiac arrest and are just short of dying when someone realizes that oh, they went to Outer Mongolia six months ago and picked up a parasite. With treatment, usually something against hospital rules, they immediately recover, and House is lauded as a genius.
I’ve been feeling like one of those patients this week. Last Saturday, my only problem was a runny nose from the dust emitted when my vacuum cleaner went ballistic from all the dog fur stuffed inside it. After spending hours taking the ol’ Bissell apart and cleaning it, my nose was running like Multnomah Falls. But that’s just allergies, I thought. Yes, it was still running on Sunday and I sneezed while playing the piano in the middle of Mass—and squelched a couple of other sneezes—but I was not sick.
Monday I woke up tired and achy. I was sure a little caffeine would fix it. Nope. The aches got worse, and slowly I developed a fever. By bedtime I was shaking so bad with fever and chills that my teeth were clacking together. Should have gotten that flu shot, I thought as I retired to bed, huddling in a fetal position.
Tuesday morning, the fever was higher, but I took some Ibuprofen and over the course of the day I cooled down to normal. However, now I had a new problem. My stomach hurt. I couldn’t even look at pictures of food on TV, and things got more miserable from there, with some symptoms I won’t describe. You can guess. Another day in bed, hugging my dog against my tummy. But I got to watch my favorite talk shows on TV.
Wednesday when I woke up, I had a new problem, a strange one. I was seeing this thing out of my right eye. It looked like I had a cockroach perched on my eyelashes. In fact, I swatted at it a few times, but it wasn’t actually there. It was like a super-floater in my actual eye. This was quite distracting. I left off my writing mid-sentence because it was hard to see and I was freaking out. I’m sick; it will go away, I told myself.
When the cockroach was still there on Thursday, I called the eye doctor. My stomach still hurt, and I was worn out from the fever, but I joined the ranks of white-haired cataract surgery patients for the long wait to see Dr. Haines, much more handsome than Dr. House. When I did get in, he dilated my right pupil and took a long look. Now, I wanted him to say it was nothing and it would go away, but instead, he looked at me with a serious face and told me I had a definite “vitreous detachment.” A what?
Now I’m not going into the medical description he gave me. I barely understand it myself, but the vitreous is the gel-like goo inside the eye that kind of holds things together. This detachment is common in older folks. Best case, nothing more will happen. The cockroach will remain, but I’ll get used to him, maybe give him a name. Worst case, this leads to a torn or detached retina within the next six weeks. If I start seeing flashing lights or what looks like a curtain across my eye, I have to boogie back to the doctor ASAP for laser treatment.
This made my stomach hurt worse. I also got a bloody nose. This morning, I’ve got the antsy stomach, I’ve got the cockroach, I’ve got the bloody nose, and I’ve got a singing gig at 2:30. Life goes on. Maybe I should call the cockroach Gregory.