by Pseud O'Nym

A couple of weeks ago I visited Moorfields eye hospital, ostensibly to have my eye checked but in reality more to satisfy the concern of my housemate, Old Blue Eyes, who was concerned for my eye health. The cause for this concern was a faint red line that was either a burst blood vessel or something indicative of a more serious problem. Initially skeptical about the whole enterprise, looking back on the results I’m bloody glad I did so.

Now I will admit that everyone has their own experience of the National Health Service but I have to say this experience was outstanding. From the initial check in assessment, cursory eye examination and then being seen by a doctor, took less than two hours. Which in anyone’s book is very good going and a worthwhile investment of one’s time, especially when eye health is concerned. The examination of my eye revealed that there was no major problem but what was really interesting and of use was what followed next.

In the course of outlining the procedure for taping up the eye at night – a lubricant applied to the eye, then taping it shut, then carefully affixing cotton pads to the closed eye to keep it closed before firmly fixing the whole thing in place with plasters – the doctor was mystified. Had I not considered using a moisture chamber? Given that this was the first time anyone had mentioned moisture chambers to me I was both ignorant of what they were and how they might be of use to me.

Given also that I’ve been to Moorfields numerous times since my Bells Palsy diagnosis and repeatedly explained this Heath-Robinson approach to taping the eye shut at night to them, I was astounded. Especially as on one occasion my secondary goal was to outline the whole rigmarole to a doctor, who would then send us a letter setting out the procedure as medically authorised so as we could present to a district nurse. Who as individuals – in their personal lives – may be bastions of common sense, but as a collective –in their working environment -they’re just bast*rds.

Anyway, a moisture chamber is a way of enclosing the eye, so that dry air doesn’t come into contact with the eyeball and thus the eye remains moist. In practice what this means is as I write this I’m now wearing a pair of swimming goggles. Not only do the suction cups on the goggles provide an airtight seal to trap the moisture in the goggles, they also have the benefit of having blue lenses that compliment perfectly any number of my outfits. I’ve also got a pair that not only have blue lenses, but a blue strap. And two with different shades of purple.

This point is of no little concern to me, as anyone who’s read any of my previous posts will no dobt be aware, I pride myself on my colour coordination. Therefore swimming goggles afford one a most excellent opportunity to do so. As with most things a little effort goes a long way. I was mindful of this when I was looking up moisture chambers on the interweb. A company in the U.K made moisture chambers in the form of ordinary blacked out glasses with suction cups on both eyes. Which were as ungainly as any pair of blacked out glasses would be. However the search also revealed that in the United States a manufacturer had made a moisture chamber eye patch that one could wear at night.

This neatly illustrates the difference between the respective healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the United States healthcare provision is patchy at best, based primarily on your ability to pay for care. Whereas in the United Kingdom access to healthcare is free, based solely on need. Granted these are generalizations to make a point, but really, ask yourself, ‘Where would I rather have emergency surgery?’ But it is when one is looking for aids and devices that might assist in the recovery process that it really hits home. In America there seems to be a plethora of inventive products that imaginative solutions to every assistance, whereas in the United Kingdom there is a dearth of them.

However, the fact that incompetent bureaucracy knows no boundaries, was bought home to me – quite literally – when I to found my discharge sheet from my initial visit to hospital where my Bells Palsy had been diagnosed. The diagnosis was made by a specialist from the stroke team. As such she would have been well versed in all aspects of neurological care by the hospital, so it was with no little amazement that I learnt that the hospital was in fact a center of excellence with a specialist neurological unit for the South East of England. That further more one of the consultants had a specific interest in Bells Palsy. My flabber was well and truly gasted! Seemingly no one had seen it worth their while to impart this information to me.

However back at Moorfields, the doctor moved on to discuss possible future options for my eye. Observing that my current treatment regime of lubricating the eye throughout the day was unsustainable for much longer, he suggested that if no significant improvement had been made in three months then an internal eyelid weight would be fitted. An internal eyelid weight is much like the filling in a kebab, if you imagine that the eyelid is the pitta bread and the surgeon cuts the eyelid in the same way that the ‘chef’ slits open a pitta bread. This creates a cavity into which the greasy meat and derisory salad will go. The eyelid weight is the kebab meat! Only its very slim – less than a millimeter thick – and gently curved to the eyelid. Of course naturally my worry is that at the moment when the surgeon applies a scalpel to my eyelid he will have a coughing fit!

Next week..As I’m on holiday, you’ll get my recipe for my Warm Tasty Salad, you lucky people…!