I ride the Metro Red Line subway to work every day. But it’s usually never like this, when during New Year’s Eve at around 9:30 p.m. (where all rides are free and trains run for 24 hours), a bunch of passengers decided to applaud and cheer random strangers boarding the train (I was one of their “victims” earlier :)). Happy New Year!
So, after waiting for, like for-ev-er to hear from Kaiser, I get this:
Dear Elson R Trinidad
[We have] been trying to reach you but [have] been unsuccessful. Please contact the Pre-op office regarding your eye surgery. No response within two weeks will result in cancellation of surgical case request.
So I call them back ASAP and talk to the contact person listed. She tells me they called me several times but to no avail. I had never gotten any calls on my cellphone from Kaiser, and I have even checked me home land line messages repeatedly. I asked which number they called, and they told me it was my home number, and I asked them what was the number they called. They said, “The number was area code 213-[home number]”
AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!! My area code is 323.
Anyway, date set for the operation. It will be on Wednesday, March 22. I have a Pre-Op appointment on Thursday, March 16. We are a go.
No appointments today, just an update on my vision and how it’s sort of affected my daily life. Today was the World’s Greatest Hobby On Tour show, a major model railroad traveling show featuring model train manufacturers, layouts on display, and swap meet/retail items for sale. Of course, the show was all the way out in the L.A. County Fairground Fairplex in Pomona, some 40 miles east of me. This show only happens every 5 or so years in a certain city, so I can’t miss this. But no freaking way I’d be driving all the way there, and public transit options are difficult to get to the fairgrounds when the fair isn’t going on. Fortunately my fellow model railroader friend Ryan offered to carpool, plus he wanted to take his new Chevrolet Bolt electric car for a spin. So all was good. Along the way he even shared his experience of getting eye surgery himself a few years ago.
The event is laid out across one of Fairplex’s hangar-like exhibition halls, with multiple rows of exhibitors, vendors and train layout displays. Though I loved looking at some of the new model trains being released this year, as well as shopping for some items, it’s a bit daunting navigating with just one good eye. And now the cataract had progressed where all I can see is a pure foggy white in my right eye.
I model N scale model trains, which is one of the smaller sizes (1:160th the size of the real thing), so having good vision is a must. I refrained from doing any kit-building work or anything that required any degree of accuracy, and just ran trains around my 4×8′ layout.
I should hear from Kaiser any day now…
Today’s appointment: Kaiser Ophthalmology, 1:30 p.m. with Maria Elena Vallez.
The whole purpose of the appointment was to take measurements of my eyes for the artificial lens that will be placed in my eventual surgery. I guess it was a precursor to the actual surgery as my eyelid was propped open, eyeball was given numbing drops, water squirted in my eye, and a caliper-like device was placed on my eyeball. It didn’t hurt, but it felt a little uncomfortable, but that’s part of the deal I guess.
Although at my last appointment, I was told that today was when my operation date would be set, instead, they would call me “in a week” with the date.
The waiting begins…
One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 was to “retire” from voluntary community involvement activities (with the exception of Friends of Cahuenga Library and any community projects currently in-progress, of course). So, this was the latter. I assisted LA Commons with doing community outreach for a “story gathering” event today at the proposed park/community garden at 1175 Madison Avenue in East Hollywood.
The organization was tasked with creating a mural for a structure that would be built on the park, including the process of hiring an artist and facilitating the recruitment of local high school students to help paint the mural, which was similar to the process of the utility box murals that were painted along Hollywood and Santa Monica boulevards and Vermont Avenue here in my ‘hood.
But the event today was focused on gathering stories and opinions from people in the neighborhood, which would influence the eventual design of the mural. The extent of my outreach was getting event flyers to students/parents of the nearby Lockwood Avenue Elementary School and Lexington Avenue Primary Center, who are in close proximity to the park and would no doubt benefit from it once it’s built. The effort turned out pretty well, as over 60 people came to the event, which also featured some Zankou Chicken. Fellow local (and Friends of Cahuenga Library boardmember) Jimmy Recinos recited some local-centric poetry, and I got to sing and play (on my new Breedlove acoustic guitar) “My Part of Town” and a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” (as an allusion to um, the current leadership of this country).
I also met Dalila Mendez, the muralist of our project (whom I helped lobby to be selected due to her community ties and relatability to the students) and chatted with a writer from the Eastsider L.A. blog who was covering the event.
It was a great time, on a sunny winter day, though at the same time a bit surreal due to my partial blindness, which I talked about with some friends there. At least I didn’t have to drive to the event.
Today was my first step to treating this thing. My first appointment, 3:30 p.m. at the Ophthalmology (it took having this eye condition to get me to finally spell the word correctly) department at Kaiser Permanente’s L.A. Medical Center. Dr. Hyong Sok Choe, M.D. I underwent an eye test on both eyes and after a long wait, finally sat in his examination chair. My head sat on some sort of frame while he examined my eyes with a bright light. Almost matter-of-factly, he diagnosed my right-eye blindness as a cataract. The malady was so advanced that he couldn’t see into my eye, so he did an ultrasound of the eye. Fortunately, he couldn’t detect any unusual issues besides the cataract, but I’d need the cataract removed for him to if there were any other issues. And then scheduled me for surgery.
Surgery. It sounded so…serious. I asked him what it entailed.
Basically, my cataract-encrusted natural lens that I have been seeing through for some 45 years would be removed and replaced with an artificial one, which is fixed for near-sighted vision and that I would require glasses to see distances. But after reading and participating in a thread in a model railroading forum on the topic of cararacts (how timely!), I discovered about a multifocal lens, which allows one to see both near- and far-sighted, but would come at a cost. I inquired about that, and he said that they do provide it, though it would cost $2,500, as it’s not covered by insurance ($2,500 is a lot of money, but we’re talking about eyesight here; I consider that an investment).
And the whole procedure would take all but 15 minutes. But I would have to be put on the track for the procedure, which means it would take at least a month to happen.
That means at least a whole month of walking around, cloudy-eyed, closing my good eye periodically to realize that I am indeed visually-impaired, and sometimes bumping into people in the subway station on my right side because I can’t see them. A whole month of driving cautiously (a friend of mine lost one eye in his youth yet still drives, so I figured I could do it), though limiting my driving to nearby distances, familiar streets and avoiding nighttime driving as much as possible. At least a whole month of being super-conscious of whether my right eye will wander and cause me to look obviously blind, at least a whole month of being somewhat hermit-like and just passing the time away so we can all get this over with.
It seems though, it’s all going to be worth the wait.
My pupils were also dilated for the appointment, and though I returned to work after visiting the doctor, I eventually took the rest of the day off because I basically couldn’t read anything in my condition.
Next stop: Lens measurement appointment next Monday.
A few days ago I woke up not being able to see very clearly with my right eye. Everything was overtly cloudy and blurry.
It was both a shock, yet not really.
About eight years ago, I saw an optometrist regarding some vision problems I had that suddenly appeared while at work. My eyes were straining to see clearly and there was a faint dark “blob” spot that formed in my left eye’s vision. The optometrist said I had an early form of glaucoma, and prescribed me some eyedrops to ameliorate the issue. The other issue was that in my right eye, I had an early form of cataracts (which, after getting to a certain point, would have to be operated on).
The eye drops have largely worked, I don’t have any eye blob issues (although it has returned a few times, and later shrank again due to the drops) in that eye. But while the left eye got slightly better, my right eye’s cataract gradually got worse. In dark rooms with bright lights, I would close me left eye and rapidly blink my right to see a gradually-increasing halo or glow around the light source. I even recall performing on a stage a few years ago not being able to see the audience because the light (and the glow) were too overpowering. And in late 2016, the fogginess in my right eye got noticeably worse, I would unconsciously blink it habitually, and the eye would tear up without any irritation or provocation.
So this didn’t really come as much of a surprise. I would have to face the music and have this surgery sometime in the foreseeable future, a prospect that simultaneously brings me relief and anxiety.
Pardon me as I dust off this old blog and get more mileage out of WordPress. I promised myself I should be writing more (both music and articles), and most of all broadcast my words to the world, as opposed to just friends on Facebook, which I’m also trying to leave (more on this later). In the meantime, stay tuned…
My first KCET.org article in almost a year just made the site today. It’s part of the Lost L.A. section, a piece on Los Angeles’ true geographical location, titled, Is L.A. a West Coast City? For Many, It’s the East. Or the North.