Dread, that’s what I felt. Pure dread, the pit in your stomach kind, bordering on, “Excuse me, I think I’m going to be sick now.”
Entering the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University for the first time was like walking onto the set of a science fiction movie. Glass walls, glass floors (thankfully not clear glass since we were on the second or third floor, but translucent), uncomfortable modern furniture and it felt sterile. In fact, it seemed so sterile that you could lick the floors and not get sick.
The waiting room was long, like a corridor leading to another world with all of its glass and bright natural light, too bright for most people visiting a uveitis clinic, which is what I was there for. But, sunglasses are also a prerequisite for someone with inflammatory eye disease, so pulling those out was not a problem. It was the unknown that was the problem.
In case you haven’t caught on yet Sci-non-fi is shorthand for Science Non Fiction. No, it’s not a real term, but it’s my term. No matter how many times I have tried to write this part of my life off as fiction, it is and will always be an undeniable non-fiction reality. And my first experience at OHSU was definitely not fiction, but it sure seemed surreal.
The first member of the Sci-non-fi crew I met was a student in a white lab coat who asked me all of the questions that I’d already answered on the mandatory questionnaire that I had to mail to them before I arrived. Efficiency is not their strong point, but research is!
This student was followed by a couple of other students also in lab coats, all eager to view their science project, Me, through their handy dandy microscope. Next a fellow with a land down under accent came in and questioned the students about what they saw as she peered at one of my eyes and then the other making comments with each turn of the microscope nob. Then the giant contact lens with a rubber suction cup appeared and more bright lights shining in my eyes, which she apologized for, but couldn’t help.
The climax was a visit by the rheumatologist expert doc, followed by a few more students, who took his place at the microscope and then used the giant contact lens. They were all circled around my eyeballs, not me which was a little weird. Personal engagement is also not their forte, but learning is!
After the godlike rheumatologist completed his examination a discussion in gibberish followed. Then the grand finale occurred, the rheumatologist turned to me, complemented my nice earrings and then presented me with treatment options and a list of tests that should or could be done to rule out serious diseases.
Risks and benefits were weighed out and sometimes debated by the sci-non-fi crew who were soaking up every word and recommendation made by the rheumatologist expert, but in the end it was up to me. I had to choose.
When it was all said and done, I was quite tired. A dinner out was welcome as long as someone would read me the menu and the restaurant lights were dim, since my eyes were still dilated. Dinner would be followed by a three hour car ride home, dark sunglasses, the seat going back, a pillow and blanket I had thought to bring and dreaming about all of those white lab coats and testing procedures that were to come.
Please…feel free to ask a question. Your comment or sharing a thought is also welcome.
*A quick note: While I am poking fun at the OHSU residents, interns, fellows and doctors, I want to be clear that I am very thankful for their knowledge and their work, without them and others like them, I know that I and many others would already be blind. So thank you OHSU staff for all you do. I for one, am truly grateful.