How I celebrate December 28th. Apparently.

At this time, on this date, one year ago I was running all over town looking for an open clinic or doctor’s office that could administer a tetanus shot without making me sit for hours in a waiting room full of flu-symptomed people.  I didn’t think the puncture would from my rusty screwdriver knitting accident required medical intervention, but I did think a booster was in order since eleven years had passed since my last one.  In the end,  I wound up running across the county to find a clinic that had a latex-free tetanus vaccine.

I won’t be needing another one of those for at least 9 years, or until I stab myself again (whichever comes first – I won’t be offended if you bet) so to keep the tradition of weird medical quests going, today I had to drive all the way to Clayton, North Ceyechartarolina to see an opthamologist for what I was certain was a sprained eyeball from binge-reading my Christmas presents.  More accurately, I was driven to Clayton; I can’t see very well because ‘remove your contact lenses’ seemed like the kind of internet medical advice one actually should follow.  To give you an idea how rare of a medical condition Sprained Eyeballs actually is, my optometrist still refuses to acknowledge that it’s a real thing and referred me to the opthamologist.

Now,  I know what you’re thinking.   Is Clayton, North Carolina really where you want to go for diagnosis and treatment of a rare and debilitating medical condition?  And the answer is obviously no.  But it’s a holiday week and it was either this, or wait until the literal next year.

“On a scale of one to ten, where is your pain level right now?” Sherrie the nurse-type-person asked me.

“A two.  Maybe a three.”  Now I just felt silly.  “But it’s a 2 or 3 in my eyeball, not like, a 2 or 3 on my toe.  That’s different.”

Sherrie nodded her non-judgey understanding.  I like that woman.

Soon, the younger-than-me looking doctor came in and introduced himself.  “I’m Dr. Kevin,” and he shook my hand.

“I’m patient Serena.”  Possibly patient zero for a brand new eye disease you’ve never heard of I wanted to tell him.

“It’s nice to meet you,” he said, his hand shake starting to feel uncomfortably long.  “I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances.”

“Under what other possible circumstances would meet an opthamologist?”  I blurt.

He conceded that opthamology is a bit of a dull profession and got on with his exam.

After shining a bright light into both eyeballs, which I felt was total overkill because my left one feels fine (if not a little strained from having to do all the work of the diseased right eye, too), he retrieved what looked like a piece of litmus paper from an overhead cupboard and rubbed it in my eye.

“Woah!  What is that?  And why did it make my eyeball feel better?”  I admit, I was a little disappointed to realize that if a cure was that readily available, the chances of having an eye disease named after me were dwindling.

“That was to numb your eyeball,” he answered one of my questions.

He told me that I have three white spots on my right cornea (and two, non painful ones on my left) and am suffering from something known as contact over wear.  Even though it’s not a germ-related disease, he gave me a bottle of antibacterial eye drops and wants to see me again on Thursday.

I asked him if I could also have some of that numbing stuff to take home.

“No, that stuff will melt your corneas,” he attempted to be funny.  Opthamologist humor.  Sigh.

Tomorrow I have to go shopping for a pair of glasses, and that’s going to suck a little.  But first, I really just want to stop and give a shout out to the real hero of this story.  The internet.  That internet thing has a really bad rep for doling out unsound medical advice, but today, it really came through for me.  I Googled sprained eyeballs and the internet said, “Woah, I don’t know what that is, but you should really take out your contacts.”

Good job, internet!

Merry Christmas 2015

imageLast weekend my friend, Renee passed a lovely afternoon by writing her Christmas cards.

“Instead of sending cards, maybe I’ll just mail little envelopes full of glitter.  You know, so when people are still vacuuming it up all year, they’ll know I’m thinking about them.”  I told Renee.

She said that was a good idea, as long as I only mailed them out of town so friends can’t track the glitter back into my house.  She’s smart, that Renee.

I’ve never much been a fan of the long-format Christmas letter because it seems to be a tightrope walk between complaining and bragging and I’m not agile like that.   So instead of rehashing the strange and glorious events of 2015, which is now heaving with her final, wheezy breaths, I want to very simply wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  And since I didn’t spring for the postage on those brilliant glitter-grams, just know that every time you don’t see sparkles, you’re on my mind.

The Twitch is Back!

blogLast night I uploaded the following blog post titled, Twitch.  Early this morning I had an email notification of a comment that needed moderating.  It was some advice from my friend, Graeme about which Elvis movie I should watch first.  I approved the comment and a little while later, I had notification of another comment.  When I logged in to moderate that one, the blog post was gone.  GONE!  It wasn’t in my published, drafts, or trash folder.  Kablooie!  I suspect my mother had a hand in this because she doesn’t appreciate when I write about her ghost.  

I put out a call for help and my lovely friend Jan just happened to have a copy of this post in her email!  Can you believe it?  When you subscribe, WordPress (who as of this writing still hasn’t replied to my frantic note to customer support) drops a copy of my blog right into your email account!  It’s a great time to be alive, folks (sorry, mama)!  The lesson in all of this, of course, is that one should always subscribe to their own blog.  And save a local copy.  And just maybe not to stop caffeine, cold turkey.


If this unrelenting twitch above my left eye is any indication I’m presently being haunted by my mother’s ghost.  As much as I could really do without that in my life right now it’s still preferable to the more plausible possibility that I need to lay off the coffee again.  For days I’ve been walking around with my left index finger trying to pin my eyelid to my skull to hold it still and apologizing to friends and strangers whom I’m afraid will think I’m winking.  This weekend I switched back to decaf, but just to be on the safe side I’ve started quietly inquiring about exorcists who may be practicing in my local area.  So far I’ve turned up nothing but concerned looks and one panhandler who claims he can not only see my mother’s ghost, but will banish her in exchange for a bottle of peppermint schnapps.  ‘Tis the season.

elvisBut forget me.  Do you know who had a great twitch?  Elvis.  And this time next month I will be haunting Graceland myself, attending his 81st birthday party.  In order to gain access to this soiree I’ve had to join a cult called the Graceland Insider’s Club.  There is no test of Elvis knowledge (thank goodness!), or bloodletting required for entry, just a $21.99 membership fee, which includes many monetary benefits; if I visit Graceland eight more times in 2016 that membership will have paid for itself with the money I’ve saved on parking alone.

I can see how someone might mistake me for an Elvis fan.  I was married by an Elvis.  The first lie I ever told was about Elvis.  I’ve got Elvis ornaments hanging from my Christmas tree and I also happen to think he’s incredibly handsome when his lip isn’t doing that thingwoodyelvis that my dog’s sometimes does when he’s irritated, but not enough to growl.  But the truth is, I know almost nothing about the guy.  I’ve never seen one of his movies.  And while I recognize his voice when I hear it, I can only name a handful of songs he sang.  I do know there is a difference between an Elvis impersonator and an Elvis tribute artist because I accidentally insulted the first guy I called to inquire about officiating our wedding.  It turns out he wasn’t ordained anyway.

This trip is just the tiny, first step of an assignment I’m sending myself on in 2016 to try and figure out what makes some people capable of being so wholly devoted to one person / object / idea; and conversely what makes me so incapable of such passionate devotion.  There’s a lot to be nervous about here but the one fear I’ve not been able to calm is this trepidation about trying to pass myself off as an insider.  I can see me being left standing just outside the inner circle in my new blue suede boots, just my spectral mama and me, winking at all the Elvis-y people.  That by itself isn’t so terrible.  I’ve met a lot of very nice people by winking at them.  But what if I go through the rest of my life never understanding what it is I’m missing?  And what if that’s actually why I’m twitching?



Twenty-three: the number of echocardiograms, as of yesterday, my son has had since he was two years old.

Jack was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy two months after me, and seven years after his oldest sister.  We were all given the 33/33/33 prognosis; thirty-three percent get better, thirty-three percent stay the same, thirty-three percent get worse.  If fear and dread are any measure, one of those thirds has always been much, much heavier than the other two thirds combined.  And multiplied.  By thousands.  There are three of us, and three equally likely outcomes.  The wait and weight have been excruciating.

Madison’s heart size and dysfunction have remained as they were found almost nineteen years ago.  My own function has fluctuated, with the averaged result and current status being that I’m exactly where I was about a dozen years ago.  Stability is such a wonderful thing, except for when you are wishing for improvement. 

Still, I wasn’t  prepared for yesterday’s news from Jack’s cardiologist.  Jack has grown into his heart.  It is amazing to me that I forgot this was even one of the possibilities.  His physical restrictions have been lifted, except for weight lifting and tackling sports – which is totally ok with me (I am wholly anti-youth-football).  My son has always been and always will be extraordinary.  But now he gets to be normal.  We made the dreary drive home from Duke through drizzle and traffic, excitedly planning his spring tryouts.

Though that 33/33/33 statistic was true two decades ago, huge discoveries in the treatment of cardiomyopathy have been made.  While quality and quantity of life have both been improved, it’s still too soon to know what those new numbers are.  I think I kind of like it better this way, not mentally divvying up our futures.