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“I take it this is just during waking hours?”
“Yes, waking hours only.”
“I don’t believe in patches…so we’ll leave your eyes uncovered.”
“Here’s my card. You have a standing appointment tomorrow. I’ll let my staff know in advance to expect you.” They left the hospital before Cassandra realized she’d forgotten to ask about pain killers. Hopefully, Tylenol would do the trick.
“Are you hungry, do you want to get something to eat?” Maggy asked, “’Cause frankly, I’m starving!”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“First, let’s find a place for the night. We can either order from room service, or I can run out and get us something to eat, whichever you prefer.”
They checked into the Best Western on Cliff Avenue. After receiving their plastic keys followed the directions to their room which was decorated in soothing browns creams and rich mahogany woods.
Maggy decided to do some scouting. Cassandra relaxed on the bed trying to think of something anything other than her eyes. Still her mind wandered back to how this could have happened, and what in fact, this, was.
When she returned, Maggy informed her, “The restaurant isn’t open until after 6:00 so I’ve taken the liberty of ordering from the pub.”
Plopping down on the chair in front of the desk, Maggy asked, “Are you interested in a drink?”
“The room isn’t too bad, hey?”
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Cassandra agreed.
“Not much of a view, though,” Maggy sniffed.
“What? No eligible bachelors in sight?” Cassandra smirked.
“Droll, very droll.”
“Well, at this point, I’m ok with that,” Cassandra joked.
Within fifteen minutes their order arrived which Maggy placed on the desk. “Here, come, sit, eat. I’m going to turn on the TV and eat on the bed, if you don’t mind.”
“Wow, delicious.” On any other occasion she might have agreed, but food wasn’t high on her priority list at the moment.
She covered her eyes in turn, first the right then the left. There was a marked difference in the vision in both eyes. With her right eye, everything was dark, while with the left, all she could see were dark and light images surrounded by a halo, as if she were looking through layers and layers of crumpled cellophane. Consequently Cassy felt both vulnerable and scared. Since she’d always been a positive person, she was confident the doctor would assess and correct the damage to her eyes. Still she couldn’t quite dismiss the feelings of dread and trepidation that lurked on the edges of her mind.
Afater the three hour drive along Highway 19, they arrived at Comox waterfront, which had blossomed into a delightful resort-like area with a population of around 12,000. It was a pretty little place, with plenty of accommodations from hotels to B&B’s with a varied compliment of entertainment. Thankfully Maggy knew the area well, so it didn’t take long to find the hospital. She dropped Cassandra at the front entrance and went to find a parking spot.
Maggy hustled back to join Cassandra ushering her inside and assisted in filling out the required forms at reception to the waiting room as instructed. Unable to read, Cassy stared at the floor her legs bouncing. She couldn’t quite sit still.
“Well champ, first hurdle overcome. I parked, right next to a fab car…maybe there’s a fab man to go with it,” she snickered. “If he’s totally rad, he’s mine, if not, he’s yours…as the instigator, I get first dibs.”
Cassandra chuckled, ”I have to go on your word since I can’t see straight, but if your pulling my leg and I end up with a fat old bald guy, there will be hell to pay!” she kidded.
“Do you want me to go in with you?”
“I’m feeling unusually rattled so I’d appreciate it, Maggy. I feel like my brain leaked out my ears. I can’t seem to keep things straight.”
The waiting room was quiet blues and greens the middle of the floor taken up by a huge coffee table littered with books and magazines. The walls were lined with modular chairs. Everyone sat dutifully avoiding eye contact.
Nearly an hour passed before the doctor arrived to usher them into a small room containing a variety of equipment.
Dr. Jamison was of average height, and slim build, 30 – 35 she guessed, with brown hair and eyes. He introduced himself, and sat down in front of her on a stool. “Ok, lean forward Ms. Jeffreys and I’ll have a quick look.”
“I have to put these drops in your eyes. Things will be orange for a while so don’t be surprised if your tears change colour.”
Cassandra didn’t move a muscle. He played with the equipment adjusting here and there.
“How did this happen?” He asked, sitting back in his chair. Cassandra explained she had no idea but brought him up to speed on what she’d done so far. His perturbed and somewhat confused look did nothing to reassure her. Clearly he was concerned even mystified.
“I’m going to have some drops made up in the hospital pharmacy. You’ll need to put them in every hour until I see you again tomorrow in my office.”
“Can you tell me what’s going on?”
“You have several problems. None of which make sense. So we’re going to try these drops to see how it goes. That’s why I need to see you again tomorrow. We may have to make some adjustments and switch the drops to something else.”
“Sit back and try to relax, I’m going to freeze your eyes to take some scrapings to send them to the lab. Hopefully we’ll find out exactly what we’re dealing with.”
Since the morphine was still active, she didn’t flinch. He knew this was going to hurt for several hours if not days. Maggy, watching over his shoulder, winced instead.
They both waited expectantly for an explanation. “You have ulcers covering a small portion of your right eye, about seventeen percent; which is causing the pain and blurred vision. However, the real concern is the left eye; the ulceration covers more than fifty percent and is undoubtedly far more painful. I’m not even going to try and map it!“
At her baffled look he continued, “Our eyes are usually very well protected so it’s extremely rare for bacteria or a foreign agent to infiltrate and cause damage. However, since the top layer of your eye is no longer in-tact, with over 55 percent of your eye exposed, a microbe has managed to get inside. The scrapings will assist us in determining what type of foreign agent it is so we can treat it accordingly.”
“Your contacts have done a number on you.” He added, sending an indecipherable and quirky smile her way as he rose to leave. The perplexed look she understood only too well; since it mirrored her own feelings on the matter. ”I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“What do you think he means, Cassy?”
“I don’t have the vaguest idea. Something tells me he doesn’t either.”
“I am always very careful with my contacts, always have been, they come into direct contact with my eyes.”
“So I’m confused…if he thinks you got something in your eye from of contacts, then, how and when did it happen and what was it?”
“I don’t know.” And frankly, Cassandra didn’t care! She felt too confused and detached to think clearly much less come up with answers to questions she hadn’t thought of.
When Dr. Jamison returned, he was carrying two types of drops. “I’ll put these in now, and then in an hour, you must add them again. They are very both fragile and perishable so must keep them on ice or refrigerated.”
Although she’d tried golf, and hated that little white ball with a passion, she’d often directed other to Seven Hills Golf & Country Club where nine holes of spectacular golf for real golfing enthusiasts, was available. There were many amusing anecdotes regarding golfers. Some had chartered a planes from both down south and Alaska in order to play this course. The operative word, attempting, for some had not been challenged by the little white ball’s trajectory but golfing bears.
Cape Scott Provincial Park, one of the wildest, windiest, most woebegone locales in the province offered its own set of challenges. Journeying to Brooks Peninsula was only for those whose mettle has been tested by repeated exposure to the bellows and blasts of nature in the raw.
Lately, according to Maggy, storm watching had become the thing to do. It was exciting, but dangerous. Only the “hardy” attempted storm watching during winter months, for the winds could reach a registered 210 miles per hour. It was believed the winds probably went higher but that was what was recorded before the equipment broke during one windy altercation.
Some of her best photography was taken at Brooks Peninsula and hung proudly on her walls. After securing a guide, she and Maggy eagerly set off. A sudden and unexpected storm blew in, trapping them for three days before letting up. She’d captured spectacular photos of the waves, the scenery, their little group huddling around a fire over which they’d taken turns in a constant vigil for warmth. It had been scary and spectacular.
She’d driven every logging road the north end of the island offered. Photography was a passion; she had scrap books full of beautiful scenery, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, even some of the local wildlife, surrounded by its natural habitat. She longed for her camera and the peace and tranquility of trudging through underbrush to capture the next illusive picture for her collection.
Local tour operators dazzled visitors with an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities including spectacular marine life consisting of Orcas, Grey whales, Humpbacks, Minke whales, Sea lions, and Harbour seals, to a large variety of birds from Eagles to Herons and Puffins. For the more adventurous at heart, there were Grizzly and Black bear tours.
Her first whale watching trip had blown her away. Seeing the grace and beauty of Orcas traveling in pods had captivated her and was the impetus for her introduction into painting. She’d gone to the craft store and bought supplies and begun painting, whales, seals, eagles, and gulls on sea shells after cleaning and curing them.
What’s more they were very good. She was good. A talent she’d inherited from her grandmother and which she’d never indulged in or knew she had.
Would she ever participate in any of these activities again she wondered? The thought saddened and impelled her. This was not going to be the end of it for her. She was determined to fighter harder than ever to overcome this incident for lack of a better word.
“Oh, god, Maggy, the pain is worse…just unbearable and the morphine hasn’t kicked in…I thought it was under control, but I guess not,” she whimpered.
“What can I do? Do you want to go back to the hospital?”
“No. I just have to make it through until the morphine hits…oh my god, oh my god…” she stood and paced; Maggy stood helplessly watching, half afraid Cassandra would bump into something or fall, as she weaved back and forth, apparently without any sense of balance. She wanted to pace right along with her.
Another half hour elapsed before Cassandra seemed more comfortable. “I’m going to try to sleep,” she declared before heading upstairs to bed. Maggy turned out the lights and checked the alarm system before making herself comfortable in the guest room all the while thinking the whole situation was totally bizarre. Shaking her head, she reached out to set the alarm for 7:30 before sliding into pj’s and turning out the lights.
The alarm hadn’t gone off as yet but she heard Cassandra rummaging around. Still sleep drugged, she dragged herself downstairs to see how she was doing. Coffee was already made.
“Mmm mmm mmm, the elixir of life!” Cassandra grinned.
“I hope you’re not too insulted; Porsche came and slept with me last night.”
Cassandra looked down at Porsche, “You traitor, what’s up with that?” She patted the top of his head, ruffled his fur along his neck. “Yeah, you’re a rascal alright. You’re your own master, aren’t you, Porsche?” Her black Chantilly cat with the gorgeous gold eyes, her Halloween cat as she fondly described him, looked up at her and purred, rubbing up against her legs.
“How are you?”
Reaching down to give him an affectionate pat she replied, “The morphine hasn’t worn off but it will soon, so I figured it might be a good idea if I got showered, dressed and packed to go before that happens.”
“Hey, all I need is a cup of that incredible coffee of yours and I’m set.” Cassandra laughed as she was meant to.
The nurse on duty was prepared with a shot of the wonder drug ready for her, so she slipped her jeans down over her right hip and it was done.
Getting back into the car Maggy asked, “What do you think happened?” as they drove through the hospital entrance and turned toward the highway.
“I don’t know, I’ve been having troubles for a while. I went to emergency a couple of weeks ago because my eyes hurt, enough to get my attention anyway. The left one felt scratched or cut. The doctor on call gave me some drops and said if it wasn’t better in three days, to come back, but that the drops should do the trick.”
“She told me and had a nurse wash my eyes out with saline, now, this!”
Since they were about to lose radio reception, Maggy turned the SAT on instead.
Cassandra loved life; quietly, deliberately, joyously. Not with a wild-eyed free-for-all kind of joy, but mostly relating to achievement both hers and that of others. She was always delighted by other’s success as much as her own and supported close friends, family and assisted anyone who required it, no matter how it came about. Because, success usually required work, hard work, commitment and plenty of both. So, pain aside, this was but a bump in the road. Or so she thought.
As they drove along, she thoughts drifted to life in her small town with a population of just over 4500. Perhaps because it was so isolated (three hours from the next largest center) it meant there were few secrets here. The streets were filled with familiar faces. Lives intertwined here. There was an understood sense of cooperation along with a real sense of caring and support for anyone in need or in trouble. It was home. There was safety here.
The town slogan was “Where the Highway Ends & Adventure Begins!” Port Hardy really was the gateway to many eco – adventures, from Kayaking, either guided or self-guided day tours, with Port Hardy serving as the launch point for spectacular paddling areas that appealed to all skill levels. From Beaver Harbour and its sheltered islands, to rugged Cape Scott with kilometers of sandy beaches – to the archipelago of islands stretching across to the mainland, the diversity was truly as amazing as it was compelling.
What could be more awe-inspiring than paddling with the Orcas or surfboarding on a wave at Raft Cove or San Josef Bay or perhaps canoeing at one of many lakes enjoying all the quiet solitude the north end of the island offered!
She hadn’t tried white-water rafting or spelunking due to her claustrophobia which precluded that possibility so she’d settled for photographs of Little Huston Caves. And she knew there were other more adventurous alternatives with local guides as well.
“How did this happen?” the doctor asked, daring to shine a light in Cassandra’s eyes. Cassandra’s involuntary flinch as she grabbed both sides of her head and rocked concerned her, indicating extreme light sensitivity. She continued her examination then said, “Be right back.”
Dr. Freeman walked to the phone and placed a call to another hospital down island. A few moments passed. Cassandra tried to eavesdrop on the one-sided conversation but only managed to catch a few words which indicated an immediate trip down island.
Walking back to where the two women waited, Dr. Freeman said, “Cassandra, an excellent Ophthalmologist, Dr. Jamison, will meet you at emergency at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon at the Comox hospital.”
“Ok, good.” Her answer was quiet and relieved.
“As he hasn’t seen you and can’t make a diagnosis, all I can do for the moment is give you something to ease the pain, so we don’t complicate or confuse what is.”
“Thank god for drugs!” she laughed. “Never thought I’d hear myself say that, since the Tylenol didn’t do much to help I’m afraid. I guess once I exceed my pain threshold, nothing seems to help.”
“I believe there’s more to it than that Cassandra, but I’m not sure what. If anyone can come up with answers, he can.” She gently patted Cassy’s hand.
“Do you have a ride?”
Without hesitation, Maggy piped up, “She sure does, with me!
They left the emergency room after a shot of morphine was administered and, although it hadn’t yet taken effect, Cassandra desperately hoped it would and soon.
Maggy drove her home, unlocked the door and walked her inside. “You going to be alright, or would you like me to grab a bag and come back? It would make things less complicated in the morning.”
“Ordinarily, I’d say no worries, but tonight, I think it might be a really good idea. The doctor did say that I could go back for another shot of morphine because once this and the Tylenol wear off, I’ll need one. That way I can travel down island flying high and feeling no pain,” she joked.
Maggy touched her hand, “Ok, I’ll be 20 minutes tops, just have to grab an overnight bag and I’ll be back. Can I get anything for you while I’m out? Chocolates, food, Tom Cruise…you know, that little extra something to help take your mind off your problems?”
Cassandra laughed half-heartedly, ”Oh, Tom might help, but one look at me and he’d bolt I’m sure.”
“Well good, because I don’t know where he is today; the Bahamas, Sweden, Italy, it could be tough tracking him down….back a.s.a.p.” she promised closing and locking the door behind her.
Cassandra plopped down on the chesterfield, tears streaming down her face, and then she was sobbing….the pain was intolerable. “God what am I going to do?” She cried to an empty room. “Please morphine, kick in, this is just so bad….so bad!” For someone who rarely cried, she sobbed buckets and Maggy was shocked to find her weeping into her hands when she returned.
Cassandra had an extremely high pain threshold. It had never been a problem before, but this time, it would complicate her life to the max.
“Maggy, are you there? Pick up, please!” she begged. Moments later, a breathless Maggy grabbed the receiver and replied, “I’m here, I’m here, what’s going on Cassandra, you sound …”
“Please, can you take me to Emergency? I can’t drive!”
“I’ll be there in 10, hang on!” Maggy was close to panic just listening to Cassandra! She’d never heard her so distraught; in the fifteen years she’d known her, Cassandra had only lost it a couple of times and to hear her outright begging for help made her crazy! Racing to her car, she put the pedal to the metal and sped to Cassandra’s.
Maggy entered the driveway, slammed her Taurus into park alongside Cassandra’s jeep and without turning the engine off, charged up the front steps, through the front door into the house. “I’m here, Cassandra, where are you?” she called loudly.
“I’m up here … “
It took a moment before Maggy realised she meant the bathroom. Rushing up a short flight of stairs, Maggy reached the door just as Cassandra downed some pills.
“Must be bad for you to take drugs! Oh my god, Cassy what happened?”
“I don’t know…but I know I can’t handle it anymore.”
“Your eyes look like, like… well, I don’t know what they look like…can you see?”
“Yeah,” she paused, “some, not really, but it’s the pain!”
“Come on, we’re gone!” Maggy said nearly dragging her best friend back down the stairs she’d just climbed. Grabbing her own set of house keys, she locked the door and led Cassandra to her Taurus. Barely resisting the urge to tuck her in, she hopped around the car and jumped into the driver seat.
“How long has this been going on? And why didn’t you call me earlier? No wait, I know the answer you stoic bitch,” she drawled.
Cassandra laughed for the first time that day. “Takes one to know one,” Came a somewhat amused rejoinder.
“I know! It’s why we get along so well.” They laughed in unison at an old standing joke.
Maggy buzzed them in through the double doors at Emerge where a nurse met them and hustled Cassandra into a one-bed room in the left wing.
Heading to the phone she promised, “I’ll be right back”. They heard her calling Dr. Freeman. “You’re needed in emerge.”
Within moments, she arrived. “Cassandra, what’s going on?”
“To tell the truth, I don’t know, Dr. Freeman. I am beyond uncomfortable – my eyes are burning and I can’t stand the pain.”