Just over a month ago, several of you kindly expressed hopes that my birthday was a fabulous one. My thanks.
My favorite gift may not really be quantifiable as a gift…but I’ll tell the story and let you decide.
My birthday weekend had a lot of potential. My boyfriend would be in town, and we were planning to go to a JAARS missions aviation event, and have a birthday dinner with my family. Thoughts of the impending weekend should have been my biggest distraction during my six hour Friday turbine overhaul class, but they weren’t. My left eyeball was instead.
It started with some mild irritation and a sensitivity to light that only got worse as the class wore on. I assumed it was my contact, but as it was my last one, I wanted to wait til I got home to take it out. By the end of class, it was almost intolerable, but still, I waited. When I finally got home and took it out, the pain only got worse, not better. Obviously, something was wrong.
I called my optometrist’s office; she was out, but the office had a recommendation nearby. The other doctor graciously took me as a walk in, and somewhat gravely informed me I had an ulcer on my cornea. I know, right? I’d never heard of it either. She said it likely resulted from sleeping in my contacts (there’s a lesson to be learned here, kids), prescribed an antibiotic eye drop, and told me she wanted to see me in 24 hours. But in case the condition worsened, she gave me the number of an on call ophthalmologist. I tucked it away, fairly certain I wouldn’t need it. Sure, this was irritating, but how bad could it be?
My optometrist had told me to use the drops once every hour; when I asked her about what to do when I was, you know, sleeping, she said that should I happen to wake up in the middle of the night, to go ahead and put them in. When I woke up at 1 am, that’s exactly what I did. When I woke up at 4:30 am, I reached for the eyedrops, clicked on my lamp…and realized something was very, very wrong.
I have terrible vision as it is, but I can still, without contacts, make out the thin lines of my ceiling tiles, even at 4 am. What caught my attention was that I could no longer see them out of my left eye. I focused on my ceiling fan, closed my right eye…and the fan disappeared from view, too. In an instant, a terrifying implication had me by the throat: I didn’t know what was happening, but I did know that whatever it was could keep me from flying. I was starting to sweat, I was starting to shake. I threw off my covers, sat on the edge of my bed and prayed. I stopped shaking, and called the number I’d been given, vowing that if the doctor didn’t call me back soon, I would be on my way to the emergency room. He called back within ten minutes and told me to meet him in two hours at his office. I got a fitful hour of sleep, and met the good doctor and his wife at their office on a freezing cold Saturday morning.
He was swift, thorough, and very, very concerned. He explained that his concern stemmed from the fact the ulcer itself was so close to my pupil. He explained what he thought the causes were and walked me through the aggressive treatment plan he was prescribing: three more eyedrops, an optical gel, pills, and cleansing cloths. A rock in the pit of my stomach kept growing with every word I didn’t understand. Finally, I took a deep breath and asked the question I wanted to have to ask the least: “Is there a chance that this is going to leave a scar?”
He paused. He knew why I was asking. “Yes. A small chance, but there is a chance.”
My head started swimming. I broke into a cold sweat. Through welling tears, I told the doctor I thought I was about to pass out. The doctor’s wife got me a cold, damp paper towel, and the doctor told me to put my head between my knees. He also told me I shouldn’t be so anxious, that it wasn’t going to solve anything.
It was good advice. Biblical advice, even. And whether he meant it that way or not, that’s how I took it. Nothing I could do now but take my medicine, go to my follow up appointments, and trust that since God said I would do this, even my own injudicious actions could be redeemed.
The weekend went on as planned, my vision began to improve slowly, and my first follow up was the next day. The doctor was cautiously optimistic, and reduced the frequency of my eyedrops and told me to come in a few days later. At that appointment, he was visibly impressed with my eye’s progress. He further reduced the prescriptions, eliminated some completely, and told me to come back in a week.
After a brief exam, he announced the eye was completely healed, and that there was only a small scar that should go away with a mild steroidal eyedrop. If it didn’t, he said it could also be lasered off if deemed necessary.
He then sat back in his chair, studied me for a bit, and then remarked aloud, “You’re very fortunate, you know. I didn’t think this was going to turn out very well. Certainly not as well as it has.” Tears welled up again, but it wasn’t anxiety this time, it was gratitude, with just a little penitence.
Two days after all of this began, just after my first cautiously optimistic appointment, I was working in the children’s area of our church, with children 4 to 7 years of age. As we do every Sunday, we taught them a Bible verse. That day’s verse was I John 4:18, “1There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
I teared up even as I was writing it on their construction papers. I had been so full of fear, and essentially, fear that I was going to be punished for having been careless with my eyes. Not that I thought it was a deliberate punishment from God, but that it was a natural consequence of being neglectful that I was going to have to deal with. At 4:30 am on a Saturday morning, I had forgotten about grace. And mercy. And perfect love. He loves me, perfectly. And because of that, I have no reason to fear.
Because of that, I have my sight.