Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I am in my third week of a bout with shingles centered on my eye. How did this happen? I don’t remember having chickenpox as a kid, but the doctor said I probably did and the virus has lingering in my through the years waiting to pop out. A seemingly dormant volcano is the best analogy I can conceive for my herpes. The virus/lava boiled for decades somewhere deep in my system and then burst forth into my eye filling it with pain and draining my energy.
The onset of the disease began with me waking up in the middle of the night on a Monday with a sense of pressure in my eye and for some strange reason wondering if I had brain cancer. The unpleasant feeling in the eye continued through the first day. By the next day, there was a pressure in the bone on the left side of my nose and a distant ache that moved around the eye. Maybe it is my sinus, I thought. I slept through most of the third day and by the time I realized I better get to an ophthalmologist for what I thought must be an eye infection, the day was over and so were the doctor’s hours. I didn’t think it serious enough to go to an emergency room. So, I spent a miserable, painful night. I made an appointment to see my ophthalmologist, who had treated me a year ago for “a deep infection” in my left eye. Up until seeing the doctor, I had not taken any pain killers—I am a person who has both a high pain threshold and resists taking aspirin or whatever until I decide I can’t shake off the problem with meditation or deep breathing or ignoring.
The ophthalmologist decided I had sinus infection, which had moved into the eye. He prescribed antibacterial pills and eye drops. He told me to take Tylenol for the pain. That was Thursday. I got my prescriptions, took them and spent Friday in bed, in agony. By Friday night I realized I had a rash on the left half of my head—on my scalp, on my forehead, on the left side of my nose, and around my left eye and on the eyelid. I assumed I was having a reaction to the medicine. Early Saturday morning, I called the doctor. The receptionist said come right over.
As soon as I walked into the examining room, and by that time I was unable to open my eye, the doctor said, “The drugs aren’t causing that. You have shingles, herpes.” She explained it was a virus that had been lingering in my body since childhood. She prescribed a potent pill and eye drops aimed at a virus not bacteria. She told me not to expect the problem to clear up in three or four days, but to anticipate a recovery process that would take weeks. How many weeks? Who knows? On a follow up a visit a few days later, I was told to expect to experience lingering aftereffects such as fatigue and possibly pain that might last for up to a year.
In reading up on shingles, I discovered that left untreated—and even treated—the complications arising from herpes in the eye (aka herpes zoster opthalmicus) can be blindness and brain damage. Hopefully neither will afflict me since I got treated fairly early in the game, but the threat made me aware again of the dreadful outcomes facing people without health insurance. I fall under national health care, known in the U.S. as Medicare, and have a topnotch health insurance program backing that up.
What if I were among the 43-million uninsured in this country? I would have put off going to the emergency room until my eye closed and I couldn’t endure the pain. If I were lucky, I would be seen by a caring physician after sitting in the emergency for anywhere from a half hour to 12 hours. Hopefully that doctor would arrange for me to get the right drugs and eye drops. If I weren’t lucky and there were three gunshot wounds ahead of me in that emergency room and the doctor just wanted to push me through, I would end up as a leading candidate for blindness or brain damage. Boy, do we need national health care for our entire population.

The next novel I will review: THE GREAT MAN by Kate Christensen

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

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