Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Eye Cooties

I am hardly ever sick.

There, I said it.  I’ll probably get every strain of creeping crud known to mankind now.  Actually, I have one strain right now, conjunctivitis, which is what inspired this post.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a strong immune system and a reasonably strong body.  I get one or two colds a year, never of any significance, and that’s about it.  I get a flu shot annually, but haven’t had the actual flu in years.  I have no allergies that I know of, and have not had any bones broken, muscles torn, or organs removed in my life.  I’ve never had a disease that couldn’t be treated with rest, aspirin and chicken soup.  Other than at my birth, I’ve only spent one night in the hospital in my entire life, and that was after surgical removal of a small bone spur on my left femur when I was 18.  My medical history is a snoozefest.

I am, however, very susceptible to two kinds of ailment: throat issues and eye infections.  Neither of these is as debilitating as much as inconvenient and embarrassing.  The throat issues usually involve loss of my voice, which actually ends up being a nice break for everyone.  If someone within five miles has strep throat or laryngitis, you can bet the farm that I’ll get it.  There are probably some people in my life who pray that I will, so as to enjoy some peace and quiet for a brief time.

The eye infections are a different story. My eyes have always been sensitive.  Too much dust, bright sunlight, pollen, excessive pet dander, you name it, my eyes will get dry, red and itchy because of it.  My eyes are also prone to strain from too much reading or working at a computer monitor, two things that I spend a lot of time doing.  And when they itch, I rub them.  I can’t help it.  I just do.  I know my hands are probably introducing every horrible bacteria that ever lived into my eyes by doing so, but oh man it feels sooooo good to rub my eyes.  Back in the mid 1990s I tried to wear contact lenses, but it was a miserable failure because it felt like I constantly had something in my eyes, and my compulsive side just could not get past the need to rub them.

So anyway, now I have conjunctivitis, a.k.a. pinkeye, or as I prefer to call it, eye cooties.  The most common symptoms are redness, itching, some swelling of the lining of the eyes, and tearing.  Where all manner of things are blooming in this part of the world right now, I chalked it up to allergies of some sort, but allergies would not affect only one eye.  It’s not like only my right eye would be irritated because there are flowering shrubs only on the right side of my house.

While I feel mostly fine, eye cooties/pinkeye make my eyes look horrifying, like I have either been a) mourning some great and epic tragedy (as a Red Sox fan, heaven knows I’d have reason lately), or b) doing illicit drugs in excess.  It also causes people around me with knowledge of pinkeye to run screaming in the other direction, for fear that they will catch it. Those who do not know much about pinkeye tend to either offer their condolences when they see my bloodshot eyes, or ask where they can score a hit.

My eyes, or more specifically eye, started itching last night while I was petting the cat and reading in bed, so I just figured it was a combination of cat hair and tired eyes.  But upon waking this morning, the entire white of my right eye was a bloody red.  Full blown eye cooties!  At least I hope that’s what it is, because when I searched my symptoms on the Internet this morning, the second choice for diagnosis was a transient ischemic attack, which is a type of mild stroke.  Seriously.  Once I picked my jaw up off the floor and read further, I realized that I was lacking several key symptoms for a transient ischemic attack, so decided that their first guess of eye cooties/pinkeye was the most likely the case.

Whatever it was, I certainly didn’t want other people around me to get it, so I had no choice but to call in sick to work.  I hate doing it, having only had to do it once in the past four years and for this very same ailment, but my colleagues and our clients and patients do not need this mess themselves.

When I stay home from work due to eye cooties/pinkeye, I feel like I am playing hooky, because I can do pretty much anything I would normally do on a day off, except have physical contact with others.  I can go for a hike, get some writing done, work in the yard, or pretty much anything else.  Of course if I actually DO any of these things during times when I am supposed to be at work, I feel terribly guilty, thus sapping any semblance of joy from them.

My regular physician practices 120 miles away.  I’ve kept going to him for ten years after moving out of that area of the state because I like and trust him, and I hardly ever need to see him on short notice.  I have no doubt he could fit me in today, but the idea of driving two hours there and two hours back, with gasoline prices being what they are, just to get a prescription for a tube of antibiotic ointment seems a bit much.  So, on the strong advice of several motherly-types in my life who threatened to put on rubber gloves and beat me senseless if I didn’t heed them, I am headed to the walk-in medical clinic here in town later today.

I am dreading this clinic visit like a man condemned to the electric chair.  You see, I know just enough about microbiology from my line of work to be mildly paranoid about germs, and the unfortunately but true fact that I watched the movie Contagion over this past weekend certainly has exacerbated that somewhat.   Also, take a gander in the column to the right of this post as to what I am currently reading.  Suffice it to say, I don’t want to give anyone else my eye cooties, and I sure as heck don’t want whatever kind of cooties other people may have.  It’s one of life small ironies that germs are spread most freely in the places we go to get rid of their effects. 

Hindsight being 20/20, I probably got eye cooties/pinkeye from inadvertantly touching surfaces when I visited a relative in the hospital a few days ago.  My relative doesn’t have it, but to get to her room I had to touch door handles, elevator buttons and who knows what else that may have harbored nasty germiness from Hell.

So the clinic opens in an hour, and I want to be the first one there.  That gives me an hour to bathe in Purelle, locate a surgical mask and wrap myself in cellophane.  Should be fun. 

I sure hope Ebola isn’t going around.

POSTSCRIPT FROM LATER IN THE DAY: I survived the clinic without contracting Ebola (at least so far) and it is indeed bacterial conjunctivitis that I have in my eye.  I am not able to go to work for 48 hours, which I can deal with, but I also have to put a gooey antibiotic ointment in my eye three times a day, about which I am not so sure.  I can get eye drops and ointments into my eyes about as accurately as a blind elephant can skydive onto a dime.  Plus the ointment in question is STICKY! Stickiness in any form is something I cannot abide, as you may recall from this blog post from last month.  

Yes, it's true, I really do not suffer very well at all.


  1. So, you can do illicit drugs only on one side? That seems like it could come in handy. Try to enjoy the time off. It's not your fault you can't go to work. Or that America was settled by Puritans.

    By the way, I read today that Maine is the most peaceful state in the Union. The most violent? Louisiana.

  2. My eyes are itching just from reading this!

  3. Very entertaining and informative blog about eye cooties. I've only had that once, picked up from my kids, and I don't envy you. Hope you survive.
    ps. I can't believe you would drive over a hundred miles to go to the doctor unless he was a specialist in cloning and you needed body parts. Are you crazy!

  4. My far away doctor is really good, and my health is too, so it works out for now. He'll be retiring in a few years, and I'll make the switch to someone new then. When you live in the northern hinterlands like I do, you get used to traveling for quality goods and services.