Pat Wilson – Your Eye’s Up The Spout, Nanna

I was over at my neighbour’s place back in 1992 when it happened. We’d just been for a walk and were going to Weight Watchers when I passed out and fell down the stairs. The nose part of my glasses pierced my eye.

My GP called an ambulance when he saw my eye—it had blown up. When I got to the hospital, I had no idea how bad my eye was. I just thought my cheek hurt.

I think when you have a trauma like that, your body protects you from what’s really going on. I remember thinking about a good show coming up on TV that night. And when the nurses asked me the name of the American President—they had to test me because they thought I’d had concussion—I raved on for half an hour about the election at that time of Bill Clinton. And I don’t even follow or really like politics!

For two years, they tried to save my eye. But it was very sensitive to light, and nothing they could do shut out the light. I was in a lot of pain. I had to sit in a dark room or wear darkened glasses. The constant pain and living in the dark affected me mentally. I got depressed and angry with my husband.

Then my good eye began to go out in sympathy. They even tried to superglue the bad eye closed to stop this from happening.

Then one day, I went to my GP and said I couldn’t take it anymore, that I needed stronger medication to survive. Finally, my eye specialist at the time agreed the eye had to be removed.

I wanted it straight away. Back then, they were just discovering coral implants. I got a phone call from someone in the eastern states, telling me I had to pay $1,000 up front and they’d send the coral implant over. We didn’t’ have a lot of money, but we found it and the surgery went ahead.

I was one of the first people to have a coral implant in WA with a peg. The movement in the artificial eye was unbelievable. You couldn’t pick it from a normal eye.

In these two years, I had a really bad experience with one eye specialist at a public hospital. He kept telling me he had “a trick up his sleeve”, but never told me what it was. When I had to see a different doctor because he wasn’t there, they said I had a tear in my eye and sent me back to him. But he kept denying it. Finally, another eye specialist insisted I get it treated. But I got no apology from my original specialist. In fact, every time I went to see him, I felt scared and intimidated.

What I want people to know is that you can get a second opinion if things don’t feel right. I’m glad I finally got a second opinion and switched specialists. I think it only came about because I had my son’s wedding coming up and I knew something bad was going to happen to my eye if I didn’t get help.

One problem with having a peg is that you are prone to getting infections. I also suffered a lot of pain. I went to a specialist in pain management who couldn’t believe I’d put up with the pain for so long. Nerves had actually grown into the peg. The pain was making me aggressive. It made me do stupid things.

My eye specialist removed the peg six months ago, thirteen years after it had been put in. Three weeks ago, he took out the sleeve, which wasn’t easy. My eye was black and blue afterwards, and my artificial eye just sort of stared. It’s better now, but I know Paul and Jenny will want to make some more adjustments. The movement without the peg isn’t as good, but it’s not bad. My eye specialist reckons that I should go and see an iridologist, because he thinks they wouldn’t know it’s an artificial eye.

I owe Paul and Jenny a lot. They’re like therapists. I miss my eye even more now than I did at the time when it was removed. Jenny told me this is normal. With only one eye, I’m scared of falling and I walk into people. But if I wear an eye patch, I don’t walk into anyone because people move for me!

One strange thing is that when I do wear an eye patch, I can’t see as well out of my good eye.

My six-year-old grandson, Ben, tried to make me feel better when my eye was black and blue. We were playing a game where you cover one eye with your hand. He said, “Oh, nanna, you’re so lucky; you don’t have to put your hand over your eye!”

If my eye ever swings upwards, my grandkids let me know by saying: “Nanna, your eye’s up the spout.” So I just turn it down again.

My daughter teaches kids with special needs at her school. She asked me to be part of a program where volunteers spend an hour a week with a child, playing games or reading. There were twin boys in year one, one of whom had lost an eye to cancer and had an artificial eye. My daughter thought it would be good for him to meet someone else with an artificial eye. When I met him, he didn’t believe I had an artificial eye like him. He wanted me to take it out. I said no, because you needed clean hands to handle the eye. He still didn’t believe that I had an eye like his, so I agreed to do it next time.

And I did. I washed my hands and took it out to show him. He was amazed, and got his brother over to show him that I had an eye like his.

I went right through primary school with this young boy. My husband and I went along to the first Kings Park picnic with Art Eyes, and saw the boys there. We didn’t think they would want to know us, because we were so much older than them. But they ran up to us and threw their arms around us. It was wonderful.