Don’t shoot til you see the whites of my eyes

Just when I thought I was starting to get over this brutal bronchial cold that I’ve had for the last week, I awoke Friday morning with the feeling that my left eye was stuck shut. It didn’t seem that alarming at first, in part because by “Friday morning” I mean 1:10 a.m. Friday morning when I was called in early to work. At that hour of the day, I’m usually not that surprised by an orifice that won’t open.

When I arrived at work I realized that proofreading was something you needed well-functioning eyes to perform. I faked my way through most of the day by answering “looks good to me,” a pretty non-committal judgment of whether something is right or not. I didn’t want to speculate too openly about my affliction because I feared it was a highly contagious condition, which wouldn’t go over too well after I’ve been coughing so loudly into the office coffeemaker all week.

After work I went online to WebMD to research “pink eye.” It’s also called conjunctivitis, which I would’ve guessed was a grammatical malfunction rather than something affecting your vision. Pink eye is a redness and swelling of the mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and eye surface. The membrane is normally clear but will become red if irritation or infection occurs. Though relatively common and minor, it is so highly contagious that it’s been known to sweep through an entire kindergarten class in just a dozen or so hours.

There are several kinds of conjunctivitis, the most fearsome being viral and bacterial. WebMD was thorough enough to run some really gross photographs of both conditions, and the main difference seemed to be in the amount of yellowish “matter” that was seeping out from the edges of your eye holes. I had rather minimal matter compared to the poor sick bastards shown in the slide presentation, though it was still enough that I probably needed to return to the same doctor I had just visited only two days before. So I called his office and left a message asking his nurse to give me a call.

When Anna called, I briefly spelled out my situation and she proceeded to ask how my heart was. I was confused and more than a little concerned, as WebMD had not mentioned any potential cardiac involvement with pink eye. It sounded unlikely that a little eye inflammation would work its way halfway down your body to your heart muscle, but ever since I heard that cavities can cause arterial clogging, I’m ready to believe almost anything.

“I think you probably ought to come in right away, Frank.”

“This isn’t Frank,” I answered. “This is Davis.”

“Hang on. I think I have the wrong chart. Let me call you right back.”

Once we had our patients and their conditions straight (Frank is to heart transplant as Davis is to minor bronchitis), she still wanted to see me – what doctor is going to sneeze at a $109 office visit in this economy? – so I went in the next afternoon.

Dr. Johnson was able to see me quickly on a quiet Saturday. He remembered my Wednesday visit and that I had just started a week-long regimen of antibiotics, and had me jump up on the examining table to get a good close look at my eye. He agreed that the parts that should be white instead had become pink, but was a little evasive as to whether I had a pink eye rather than the pink eye, which seemed like an important distinction to me. And more importantly, would I have to use eyedrops? (Because I really hate eyedrops.) Are you sure I have to use eyedrops?

The antibiotics I was already taking were going to help, but a prescription for eyedrops was still necessary. It wasn’t that I’d had a particularly bad experience in the past with drops; it’s just that I had no experience with them at all. The logistics of the application didn’t seem that difficult if you could just will yourself to keep your eye open while an unknown and possibly caustic fluid was dripped directly onto your eyeball. It shouldn’t be that hard to miss getting them in the right spot, since you had to be looking directly at the nozzle of the small bottle anyway. But what if there had been a pharmacist error? What if, instead of Gentamicin Sulfate Ophthalmic Solution USP 0.3% (sterile), he had accidentally given me Mountain Dew?

I carefully read the label to make sure I could be ready to experience any of the rare side effects that were observed in test subjects. I took particular note of the warning that these drops were “not for injection into the eyeball,” as if that were something I would consider allowing even in my wildest nightmares. Then I steeled myself, and went to ask my wife if she would do it for me.

Beth, a veteran of years of contact lens use, was kind enough to help. I figured anybody who could slide tiny slivers of razor-sharp glass under their eyelids on a regular basis would be able to handle a few drops and, sure enough, she did an excellent job. I had two applications four hours apart on Saturday evening, then got an overnight break (“do NOT administer drops while sleeping,” the package had warned), then got another dose early Sunday before heading off to work. The problem now: how would I get the dose I’d need in the middle of my eight-hour workday?

“Is there anyone in the office today you know well enough to ask for help?” Beth wondered.

I’m thinking you’d have to know someone pretty damn well to ask them to put drops in your eye, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned. I certainly wasn’t going to ask any of my female coworkers, even though they’d be far more likely to know what they were doing. Besides, it seems like you’d need to dismiss yourself to the closest thing a modern office has to a surgical suite, which in our case would be the men’s room. I did know that Bob was going to be working with me today, and I knew that he was a grandfather and, as such, had probably done some pretty invasive things to relative strangers.

Still, I didn’t relish wondering what everybody else would be thinking as Bob and I headed off to the bathroom together, non-descript plastic bag in hand. Once inside, we’d have the privacy we needed, though I knew it was possible to hear conversations from the hallway. What if someone overheard us make the following innocent remarks?

“Look up at the ceiling so I can make sure it goes in the right way.”

“Are you sure you can’t open any wider?”

“Sorry, I think I dripped a little onto your cheek.”

In the end, Beth was kind enough to stop by my office during one of her mid-morning chores and give me the dose I needed. Two drippings later it’s Monday morning, and I think I see the whites of my eyes returning.

I definitely prefer having white eye to pink eye.

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6 Responses to “Don’t shoot til you see the whites of my eyes”

  1. zmanowner Says:

    haha funny post when it rains it pours huh…hope you are feeling better….zman sends

  2. alantru Says:


    I so hate being sick. Glad to hear you can start to see the whites in your eyes.

  3. planetross Says:

    You can’t self administer eyedrops? That’s kind of like not being able to use a spoon or put on socks properly.
    Glad you are seeing better.

  4. trishatruly Says:

    My ex was like you… a big baby when it came to administering eye drops or ear drops or any kinds of drops into/onto orifices. I showed him that all he had to do was place the drops on the inside corner of his eye where the tears come out but could he do it? NO!

    Good luck! Feel better soon!!

  5. wrjones Says:

    Thanks for the laugh you damn blindy.

  6. chadhend Says:

    “I’m usually not that surprised by an orifice that won’t open.” Hahaha, I don’t want to hear about it, do you understand?

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