Rummaging through a box in the middle of the kitchen, I said, “I’ll make lunch first, then we can get down to work unpacking the bedroom and bathroom boxes.” I shouted with triumph at finding a kettle. In a nearby box I found dinner plates. I knew there was sausage in the refrigerator, but where was my silverware and the canned goods? I wasn’t about to eat kielbasa without pork and beans!
My Mom, who had come to help me unpack boxes, entertained Niki, my 18-month-old daughter, as I searched for and prepared our first meal in the new house. My husband Arnie had done all the heavy lifting the day before, but today he was steering clear of the household chaos.
When we finished eating, I stacked the plates alongside the sink and said, “I’ll wash these later today. Right now, I want to unpack as many boxes as I can.” My toddler was standing at the dining room doorway. Impulsively, I leaned down to give her a hug and a kiss. At the same time, my daughter joyfully threw her hands up to receive my embrace.
In that one fraction of a second, my plans for the day and my future took a dramatic, unwanted twist. One of Niki’s fingers poked into my left eye. The sudden, severe pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life. Involuntary tears gushed out of my eye, while buckets of water ran out of my nose. The slightest movement of my eye or eye lid caused the already incredible pain to increase.
The only option with this amount of pain was for me to be taken to the emergency room at the hospital. The nurses and doctor I saw were calm knowing what had happened. Although my eye felt as if it had been gouged out and left dangling by a few tissues, they said the only damage was a scratched cornea. They acknowledged that it was a painful injury, but it would heal in about three days. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t feel like doing anything during this time. I was given a prescription for codeine and told to go home to bed. They advised, “Try to sleep as much as you can for the next three days.”
Eventually the pain went away and my boxes were unpacked. My little family happily settled into our house on the north bank of the Little Eau Pleine River.
One night three years later, Niki and I were on the living room couch being goofy and trying to tickle each other. In response to one of my tickles, five-year-old Niki made a sudden jerk. In doing so, one of her toes struck me squarely in the left eye. An explosion of pain rocked my world. Instantly, I knew what had happened. My cornea had been scratched again.
What followed was another three days of pain, only dimmed slightly by the brain fog of strong medication. I couldn’t believe this had happened to me twice! That had to be some kind of record.
One day three years later, I was mending one of eight-year-old Niki’s pants. I said to her, “Come over here to the sewing machine and try the pants on to see how they fit.” Turning to one side, I held the pants open for her to step in. With one leg in and one leg out, my daughter lost her balance. As she started to fall, she swung her arm to grab for something to hang onto. Her fingernail gashed through my left eye.
Pain never gets old and comfortable like the friendship of a good companion you hadn’t seen for a few years. Fire and brim-stones combined with gallons of involuntary tears and my fire hose nose. Arnie took me to the hospital again. As we waited to be seen by the doctor, he said, “Kathy, I think when you do anything with the children, you should wear goggles.”
When I had my eyes checked during my forties, the doctor commented that my eyes were dry and that, “Older women often have this problem.”
I thought, “What is he talking about? I’m not an older woman!” My eyes were very dry, though.
A few years after that, I began to have spontaneous corneal tears and not just in my left eye. So much for Arnie’s motherhood work-related injury theory. I was told, “Both of your corneas have scars. With your dry eyes, the scar tissue sticks to the eyelid and rips.”
Through the years I have injured my eyes very often by just opening them in the morning. Anyone who has had one will tell you that an injured cornea is an awful thing to experience. Every. Single. Time.