It would be awesome to reach the ripe old age of 145 except there is one main drawback: The body rots. When I read about living supercentenarians, I can’t help but analyze their photographs. I see leathery skin with more wrinkles than a sharpei puppy, tired eyes half closed in the middle of what looks like bags of potatoes, and sunken mouths. Okay, in fairness, exceptions do exist, but they are still ancient frail packages of bones wrapped with parched skin, ravaged by time but still breathing.
In all the interviews, supercentenarians answer the question, What’s the secret of your longevity? I don’t remember reading them answering the question, How many medical maladies have you survived? Should I ever become a supercentenarian, I’d insist that the interviewer ask me the question because I have plenty to brag about. Of course I’m assuming when that time comes, I’m not frantically shuffling around asking everybody, Who am I? Who’s my Daddy? with panic in my eyes.
Which takes me back to my most recent mysterious medical experience that occurred in the small hours of one morning last August. Something happened to my right eye that woke me up. I cupped my hand over it and it felt like a mound of pebbles. I thought, What could that be? I moved my fingers to my left eye. It felt normal. I tried to blink my right eye but it wouldn’t open. I pried it open with my fingers and I could see the lights amidst the darkness of the bedroom. I alternated opening each eye and confirmed that both eyes did have vision. Finally, I tried to resume my disrupted sleep, but couldn’t. I had this crying need to look at the mirror to see what happened to my right eye.
In front of the bathroom mirror, I pried open my right eye and what I saw shocked me. My right eyeball was 100% textured pitch black. Amazingly I had this calm feeling, a sense that everything was going to be all right. I returned to snoring.
That morning, while my little sister and I were sipping our hot coffee, she asked about my right eye. In response I deadpanned, We can’t keep much longer our family secret….that I am half-Filipino, half Roswell alien.
My insurance eye care center took me in as an emergency patient later that morning. A parade of eye care technicians went through the motions to check my vision, eye pressure, and blood pressure. They ordered me around. Put your chin here, your forehead here. Read this, look at my ear. Don’t blink. They asked if I was taking blood thinners. I answered no every time. Soon the Big Kahuna – the real doctor of Ophthalmology, the one specialized in diseases of the eyes – sashayed into the examination room. A comely young Caucasian with fascinatingly arched eyebrows that seemed to announce, C’est moi!, she asked me if I experienced pain then or before the event. I said no. She gave her verdict: This thing happens for no reason. No worries. Nothing needs to be done but I want you to moisturize your eyes several times a day.
Come on! Some doctors are just so stingy with their knowledge as if their brains would shrink if they shared a little.
You’d think that since I had dodged the bullet, I’d just be happy with the good doctor’s pronouncement. Oh no, not me. I’m an engineer; I needed to know why I was suddenly outed as part Roswell alien. I needed to unlock the mysterious secret that Dr C’est Moi was keeping from me.
At this point I invoke the mother of all disclaimers. I am not giving medical advice here because I am not a physician. The only claim to fame I have related to the medical profession is that I happen to personally know a man who is doing time in prison for impersonating a doctor in Saudi Arabia.
I rushed to Google University (GU) and audited the course Eyeballs 101.
On one site, a man had the same story as mine but a major headache preceded his episode. A real doctor decided the root of his problem was brain-related. It made sense for him but not for me. No aches anywhere preceded mine.
Discussions in one legitimate medical website after another cover bleeding of the eye capillaries. They all agree the hemorrhage is not serious, contagious, chronic, acute, hereditary, terminal, all the words I wanted to read. Straining can cause it, which made sense to me. Immediately before my eye hemorrhage event, I had battled constipation, given it my best shot and won.
So I bought Dr C’est Moi’s verdict, but when I asked her how long before my right eye would return to normal, she answered, Very long time, which sounded to me at my age, like, Be prepared to take it to the grave. I refused to buy that. Besides, I only intend to take to the grave the few remaining teeth in my head. I went back to GU to find the answer to my question.
Professional boxers’ faces get pummeled by their superior opponents and their eyes become swollen black and blue and the eyeballs bloodied inside like my capillary hemorrhage. I have seen fighters during and after bouts, then weeks later, they are on TV being interviewed, looking normal, as if nothing ever happened. So in my search, I asked the question, How long does it take for boxers’ shiners to return to normal? One professional trainer said, If your eyes don’t seem to get well in three weeks, see your doctor. I liked that. I noticed on the fourth day of my episode, the normally white part of my eyeball had turned from tar black to purple, which meant my body had been absorbing the blood. Amazing. As of posting time, my right eye is back to normal. I’m batting my lashes again at anyone who makes eye contact.
Life after retirement has indeed thrown me a domino of problems. My aging body is drying up, which causes constipation, which causes straining, which causes eye hemorrhage. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate is my battle cry!
Which takes me back to the supercentenarians. They probably don’t go for the jugular when they battle constipation, proving that sometimes, Win some lose some is a healthy proposition.