I knew there was an Eye Clinic on the ground floor of the hospital. I went there many times with the Communist.
I would trundle him in his wheelchair, and buy him a coffee and a newspaper, and chat with him while we waited to see the consultant. The Communist had suddenly lost all the vision in one of his eyes and he wasn't pleased about it, though the other one still worked. He was hoping that they'd be able to do something about it.
But in the middle of the visits, he got pneumonia and died, back in December 2008.
To me, the Eye Clinic was locked into that period of time and somehow I never thought that it would still be there.
Back in September last year - on what would have been the Communist's eighty-sixth birthday - I had an appointment at a different hospital to check for Diabetic Retinopathy. This is when diabetes does damage to your retina and it can lead to blindness.Silverback
kindly gave me a lift, in case they did any tests that would mean that I couldn't see too well afterwards. Three years ago, on my first visit there, they put eye drops in my eyes to make the pupils bigger. To cut a long and rather thrilling story short, I fainted dead away and felt horribly ill for the rest of the day. So for the following two years, I explained that I had some kind of allergy to the drops and after lots of exclaiming and saying they'd never heard of it, they looked it up and found it was a known - though rare - reaction.
So they did the test without the eye drops and actually could see fine and all was well.
But this year they said they were no longer allowed to do it without the drops, in case they told me it was fine, and it wasn't, and I sued them.
So they said I'd have to go to the Eye Clinic instead, and cruelly turned Silverback and me away, and we had to go and have lunch in a pub instead. Traumatic, eh?
Some months later, this was the appointment for the Eye Clinic.
For some reason, I just didn't make the connection. It never occurred to me that I had an appointment for the Eye Clinic on the ground floor - - and it was always going to be the identical Eye Clinic that I used to come to with the Communist.
So when I arrived - by taxi, since Silverback is currently sitting under a palm tree in Florida - I was rather shocked. The same receptionist was there and the same Incredibly Tall Man working behind her. What - - - the Eye Clinic still there, still going on, when the Communist is dead?
I had that Eye Clinic locked away in 2008 and I was very confused.
Pretty soon I was called in to see a nurse.
"Right, I'll just put the drops in," she said.
So I explained that the reason I was here was because I couldn't have the drops and this was why I'd been sent to this specialist Eye Clinic. She looked at me in surprise and tutted a bit.
"Oh, no, I don't think they'll be able to do the examination without the drops," she said. "but you can wait and see the consultant."
I waited in the next waiting place round the corner, where I used to put the Communist's wheelchair on the end of the line of chairs, and I looked at the gap where it wasn't, and welled up with tears.
After about half an hour, one of the consultants called my name and I at once recognised him as the one who'd been seeing the Communist.
He's Irish and like an Irish Tourist Board advert for Genial Irishman who's Kissed the Blarney Stone. The Communist always thought he was great.
"You used to treat my Dad," I said, "and he thought you were great."
"I miss my Dad every day," he said.
I told him my story, about how everyone insisted that I couldn't have the test without the drops, but how I really rather dreaded having the drops, and how it was very unclear what could be done about it.
"Well, I know what I'm going to do," he said, "I'm going to have a good look in your eyes."
"You have no signs at all of diabetic retinopathy," he said, "but you can have a more thorough test with the drops if you wish."
"No, I'll take your word for it," I said.
"And please come back in a year and I'll look again," he said.
He was lovely - warm and delightful.
But although Mr O'Leprechaun didn't dispute my "allergic to the drops" story, I didn't discuss it with him either.
I was talking to Silverback later by the wonders of the Interclacker, and he said that in America they have some kind of computer system for examining the eyes of people who can't have the drops (sorry, Silverback, I have not passed on your explanation very well but I expect you know by now what I'm like with all things technical).
And indeed, since I mentioned this, several people have said to me that they can't tolerate the drops either.
So why did the medical staff I've encountered over the past few years all look at me blankly when I mentioned it? It may be rare - - but it doesn't seem to be that
rare. I'm not sure whether it's a case of the NHS not understanding about things that are out of the ordinary (which can sometimes happen) or whether it's just another example of medical staff assuming the patient is completely misguided. Answers on a postcard, please. And because I don't have Diabetic Retinopathy, I'll probably be able to read it.