22 | Specialist Appointment — Part 8

“Hello again, Elizabeth,” Dr. Patron said as he sat on a black rolling stool. “Hi,” I said, as I stood to shake his hand again and then raced into the exam chair in the center of the room, perennially the straight-A student and now, aspiring perfect patient.

“Let’s just take a quick look at your eyes before we discuss the results of these tests, alright?” he said.

“Okay,” I said, willing myself to smile but aching inside – here he was with the answers, and I needed to wait for him to fiddle with a machine or two before he tells me what he knows?

22 | Specialist Appointment — Part 8

21 | Specialist Appointment – Part 7

I walk into the exam room and sit in a mauve chair on the edge of the room. I text Jeremy, squinting to see the letters and hoping auto-correct will help me communicate the gist of what I mean to say: “I’m in exam room 2 now. Looks like dr will come in here. Want to come?” “Z is continuing to throw up,” Jeremy texted.

“Oh no :(,” I texted.

21 | Specialist Appointment – Part 7

20 | Specialist Appointment – Part 6

“So, I’ll give you a shot in the arm with a red dye. The dye then flows through your veins and toward your eye, illuminating the blood flow in your eye for us. It’ll give us a better idea of what’s going on in the back of your right eye. The only real side effect is that occasionally people feel woozy once the whole dose enters the blood stream,” she said. “Oh, and your urine will be neon for awhile, and you might look in the mirror and your skin might look a bit yellow – that’s all normal.” “Okay,” I said, nodding and reaching for the paper and pen she held out to me across the desk. “Doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Nah,” she said, shaking her head.

“I am totally fine with yellow pee,” as I scribbled my signature.

20 | Specialist Appointment – Part 6

An Interesting Event

An explosion in my flesh. I writhe in pain, splashing in an inflatable tub in my living room. “Shit!” My husband ducks to avoid flying elbows, arms, my scratching fingers. Midwife eyes — six in all — look over the edge of the tub, cheering, but I cannot hear their words. I do not care what they are saying. Is it over yet? I push with all my might and split in two, and then blood and a cough: my husband holds in his hands a naked, slippery, breathing child.

An Interesting Event

19 | Specialist Appointment – Part 5

I waited, listening to the tapping, to the computer fan quietly humming, as my eyes adjusted back to the dim room, the orange fading like my first grade teacher’s name. A song flitted into my mind. We had sung it, Jeremy and I standing side by side in the pew, that previous Sunday: “You’re a hiding place for me / you preserve me from trouble / you surround me with shouts of deliverance…” I let it pull me back into my body. I noticed my feet touching the floor and I felt them tapping in time with the melody. I imagined myself melting into my chair, firmly rooted. I felt my heart bump in my chest as I breathed deeply, each inhale and exhale a prayer.

“This will all be over soon enough,” I thought.

19 | Specialist Appointment – Part 5

18 | Specialist Appointment – Part 4

The nurse strode out the door; I followed, Jeremy and Zeke rolling behind me. We snaked along another hallway until Amy stopped before a door. On the frame, a plastic green flag laid flat against the wall. Amy reached up and flipped it toward the hallway, then opened the door. “In here,” she said. I walked inside the beige room while Amy stood in the hallway, scribbling on her clipboard, and I sat in one of the two mauve chairs edging the room. I noticed a computer and stool to the right of the doorway.

“Actually, Dr. Patron will need you there,” she said, looking up and motioning to the black exam chair in the center of the small room.

18 | Specialist Appointment – Part 4

17 | Specialist Appointment – Part 3

Just then, we heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” Amy said. The door opened a crack and a blurry Jeremy entered with Zeke.

“Hi, hon,” I said.

“Do you want us to sit with you?” Jeremy asked.

“Please!” I said, grinning. “I failed the eye test, by the way,” I said to Jeremy, smiling. “No surprise there.” He grimaced.

17 | Specialist Appointment – Part 3

16 | Specialist Appointment – Part 2

I walked straight down the corridor and trailed the nurse into an open room to the right. “Take a seat for me,” she said. I glanced around the beige room – it was no larger than a walk-in closet. I sat in the black vinyl chair in the center of the beige room. The nurse sat on the perimeter on a stool facing a desk, a computer monitor behind her on the counter. She tapped the keys, and then swiveled to look at me. “I’m Amy,” she said.

“I’m Liz,” I said, holding out my hand. We shook. She was blonde, friendly-looking. She looked like the sort of person who might go camping over the weekend.

“So,” she said, “what brings you in today?”

I said, “Well, there’s something wrong with my eye,” then smiled.

16 | Specialist Appointment – Part 2

15 | Specialist Appointment — Part 1

The doors swung open, and I walked inside the beige specialist’s office, hoping to look young and healthy and confident, perhaps like a feminist lawyer with a full schedule — instead of the partially blind stay-at-home mom that I was. Jeremy followed behind, pushing a stroller with Zeke inside, half-asleep and gripping his cowboy doll. I walked up to the receptionist, who was on the phone, while Jeremy and Zeke retreated to a corner of the waiting room.

“I’ll be with you in one moment,” she said, raising one finger.

15 | Specialist Appointment — Part 1

14 | Mercy All Around Us

The next morning, I woke up tired: Zeke had woken us a couple of times with crying and throw up, and by morning, we had draped his bed with towels, and the washing machine thundered with the soiled fitted sheets, pajamas, and blankets from the nighttime. I opened my eyes, staring at a blurry ceiling and remembered in a flash that today we’d finally learn what was wrong with my eye. Just a few more hours of not knowing, I thought, and I sat up suddenly. Jeremy sighed and turned onto his stomach, burrowing his face into his pillow. I looked at my phone and saw a text from Kiley: “Can definitely still watch Hope. We’re planning on it. Keep me posted if anything changes.”

I smiled and whispered, “Thanks, God.”

14 | Mercy All Around Us

13 | Night Before – Part 2

Once we were finally driving home, a plastic grocery bag wrapped around Zeke’s torso as he dozed in his car seat, I asked Jeremy: “What are we going to do?” “I guess we bring Zeke with us,” he said. “Kiley can watch Hope, and we’ll take Zeke.”

“But if Zeke’s really sick, then she won’t want to be around any of us – otherwise her kiddo will get sick, too,” I said.

We’re quiet for a bit, and then I said, “I can’t believe this.”

“Yeah,” he said.

13 | Night Before – Part 2

12 | Night Before – Part 1

The night before the appointment in early February, Jeremy, the kids, and I brought a salad to Morgan and Joel’s house for a Superbowl party. We milled around, sometimes reclining on their yellow couch, sometimes filling plates with food at their long table and sitting on the benches along the length of their table. We talked, ate guacamole and chips, glanced at commercials, and drenched salad in homemade dressing as their kids and ours run up and down the stairs in wild delight, chasing each other and building towers and playing hide-and-seek. While I chopped cucumber to finish assembling the salad, crammed into an alcove in the kitchen, Joel filled cups with water.

He asked me, “So, how is your eye? How are you feeling?”

12 | Night Before – Part 1

11 | Hope I Didn't Scare You

“I’m so sorry, Liz,” Sheryl said. “Thanks, Sheryl.” My friend Sheryl had stopped by during naptime a couple of days after the appointment. We talked on my teal couch in the basement, surrounded by bookshelves, cups of hot tea in our hands.

“Who is your specialist, if you don’t mind me asking?” she said.

“Colorado Retina Associates,” I said.

“That’s who Carl saw – did I ever tell you he had an eye issue?” she said.

“What? No – what happened?” I said.

11 | Hope I Didn't Scare You

10 | Debrief – Part 3

I called the specialist's office back the next morning at 8AM, determined to demand that the receptionist write my name on the calendar, to discover that Dr. Jordan had done my work for me. “You can find all the new patient forms online, if you’d like to fill them out ahead of time," Sherry said.

“Thank you,” I said. “Um, by the way, how much do these appointments typically cost? I don’t really have insurance – it’s a sharing program, so we pay all the bills up front.”

“You’re self-pay?” Sherry asked.

“I guess so,” I said.

“For self-pay clients, you have to pay $250 up front when you arrive, then the rest after the appointment - depends on the tests they do. They usually do an ultrasound on the first appointment. Could be up to $1200.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Wow,” I said. “So, the doctor actually already took photos of my eye… could we use those instead so we won’t have to repeat tests?”

“Sorry, these doctors like to take their own photos,” she said.

"I see," I said.

10 | Debrief – Part 3

9 | Debrief – Part 2

“Hi, my name is Liz - Er, Elizabeth – Grant. I just got back from the optometrist. Er… Dr. Jordan. His clinic is in Arvada. I think it’s called Peak Eye Care, or something like that? Anyway, he referred me to you all because he took some photos of my eye and there’s a problem with my…” I scrunched my eyes, “macula. I think that’s how you say it?”

9 | Debrief – Part 2

8 | Debrief – Part 1

I sobbed on the way home, squinting at road signs through the roll-up sunglasses wedged between my glasses and my face. The plastic clung to the edges of my forehead; my dilated pupils ached in the afternoon sunshine. By the time I pulled the car into the driveway, my husband had already emailed his boss and claimed a personal day. I opened the door and my husband stood in the center of the dining room, my kids on the floor playing beneath him – they turned to look at me.

“Mommy!” said my two-and-a-half-year-old son, while my four-year-old daughter hid beneath the table, giggling.

“Hey, bud,” I said to him.

“Hi,” my husband said to me.

I closed the door and walked toward my husband. I rested my head on his chest, and he embraced me. “Are you okay?” he said.

I stood up straight and said, “It looked like an explosion in my eye.”

8 | Debrief  – Part 1

7 | Appointment - Part 5

I texted my husband: “Bad news – definitely an issue with my right eye. loudly crying emoji” He texted back: “Oh no!”

“Yep,” I texted. “Dr is doing dilation test to find out more…So I’m waiting for my pupils to dilate more…He told me, let’s not do glasses today”

He texted, “Are you going to be able to drive?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I texted. “I’m just trying to cry too much – ha.”

“Aww…Praying for you my love,” he texted.

7 | Appointment - Part 5

6 | Appointment - Part 4

“Let’s try with your left eye and we'll get back to that right eye in a minute,” Dr. Jordan said. “Can you flip around that occluder? Yep, like that. Now we’ll do the same with your left eye. And go ahead and read that first line for me.” “H, S, K, R, N,” I said.

“Okay, the next one,” he said.

“C, H, K, R, V, D,” I said.

“And the next one,” he said.

“O, K, H, D, R, N,” I said.

“Next one,” he said.

“D, N, K, U, O, S,” I said.

“Next,” he said.

“U, E, O, B, T, V,” I said. “And T…W. Then J, uh… S… P.”

“Good,” he said, nodding, and turning to his keyboard to make a note.

6 | Appointment - Part 4

5 | Appointment – Part 3

Dr Jordan said, “First, I’d just like to test the pressure of your eye. Please tip your head back, and I’ll just place some numbing drops in your eye, like so…” I leaned my head back against the chair and one at a time, he raised a bottled, squeezed it, and liquid dropped into my eyes. I blinked furiously and the solution streamed down my cheeks.

He handed me a tissue. “Go ahead and wipe your eyes if you like and then tip your head back again for me – thank you,” he said.

Then he approached my eyes with an object I couldn't identify, which he seemed to touch to my eye before I heard, “Good. Eye pressure looks normal.”

5 | Appointment – Part 3

4 | Appointment – Part 2

I trailed Dr. Jordan down a short corridor and through an open door. He motioned with his hand for me to sit in a blue vinyl exam chair. Two arms extended from the chair, one with a light on the end, and another with a black device I recognized but couldn't name - it reminded me of a many-eyed metal mask. A small table also attached to the chair and held what looked like a microscope, and in another corner of the room, an angled table held a monitor and several other contraptions.

4 | Appointment – Part 2

3 | Appointment - Part 1

The next day, I left the kids with Jeremy and drove to an office building in Arvada, a city in the northern suburbs of Denver. I drove right past the optometrist's office at first because I couldn't pick it out among the other concrete and glass boxes engulfed by parking lots, but after some cursing, a jaunt through an adjacent parking lot, and a U-Turn, I pulled Jeremy's truck into the right lot. I parked, stepped over a parking curb and into a bed full of red mulch and an evergreen shrub, and then up onto the sidewalk. I'd worn my leather ankle boots because it made me feel like a grown-up – I needed every boost I could get – and the heels tapped as I strode across the concrete. I reached the glass doors and looked up, noticing the numbers: 12191 in a 70s font. I was at the right place.

3 | Appointment - Part 1