The night before, Matt had told me he was having trouble seeing, but he couldn’t find the words to describe the difficulty he was having. The obvious assumption was that the double vision had returned, but Matt insisted that his prism lenses weren’t correcting the problem.
I’d already spoken to Columbia and I’d already moved his MRI as far forward as their schedule would allow, so we went to the next most logical place to help Matt find relief for his latest symptom. The eye doctor. Matt’s mother drove Matt to the eye doctor for a 2:45 appointment.
And then another bottom dropped out.
The eye doctor confirmed that the prism lenses would not help Matt. He was not experiencing double vision. Upon examination, the eye doctor concluded that Matt couldn’t see because he was blind in his right eye. Something was completely obstructing his vision. The eye doctor suggested that Matt have a MRI ASAP. Next week was too many days and hours and minutes away.
I remember turning to Google. I remember reading an article about brain tumors on the optic nerve and what that meant. I remember the panicky feeling, like a thousand pinpricks hitting my skin all at once. I remember telling myself not to jump to conclusions. I had no reason to panic yet.
I called Columbia and the doctor offered a handful of theories to explain the blindness—all of which seemed surmountable, and none of which I can remember now. As is so often the case in this story, cute theories to make sense of impossible scenarios don’t prove true. The doctor agreed that the MRI should occur earlier than next week. But—
I said once before that Columbia—as esteemed an institution as it is—is still a city hospital. Prone to city delays and city overcrowding. I called and explained the eye doctor’s findings, requested a MRI ASAP. They couldn’t squeeze us into the schedule. The eye doctor, hoping to stress the urgency and gravity of what she saw when she looked into Matt’s eyes, reached out to Columbia on Matt’s behalf. Doctor to doctor. Even after that conversation, Columbia could not fit Matt onto the MRI schedule. The only option Columbia could offer us was to go to the emergency room and have a MRI done there. But that meant hours of waiting. That meant recruiting help with G and H. That meant exposing Matt to viruses and infections.
Flu season kicked off hard and fast in the Fall of 2017. By November 14th, flu season was well underway, particularly in the city. We wanted to avoid the Columbia University emergency room at all costs. So we concocted—what we believed to be—a brilliant plan. We’d go to the local hospital’s emergency room first thing in the morning. We’d get a MRI from the local hospital—it wouldn’t take more than an hour or so—and drive the CD full of images to Columbia ourselves. With this plan, Matt might even make it to therapy on time.
But, we all know what they say about the best laid plans…though that’s a story for tomorrow.
One year ago today, I grasped onto the theories the Columbia doctor offered. Those now forgotten theories were the glimmers of hope that I clung to while the invisible monster nipped at our heels.