is an experienced nurse from Bengal, not Bangladesh. It was the first thing she told me, in response to my question about her name. Her father is a devoted GP in the south east of England. She has seen tigers in the wild. Music
is the surgeon who told me her name means music – when the Hindu gods spoke, it was called music. One of her grandfathers had hoped she might be a musician but both father and mother are surgeons and she is too. Once she had chosen the eye (opthamology), she concentrated on the retina. If the retina can’t work, there is no sight.
I have macular degeneration and the right eye has slid from dry to wet mac. Several weeks ago I went to Moorfields the specialist eye hospital for the first time in 50 years where there was a slender hope of a variant. This week that hope vanished.
The treatment in the NHS for mac is a drug called aflibercept, injected into the eye.
What stops people taking part in research ? I was asked to take part in a study asking if retinal images can predict response to the aflibercept therapy (etc) and enthusiastically agreed. That imaging takes ages,
a skill of its own, requiring you to sit very still in an allocated position. Somewhere in there the researcher said “You can relax now” and I growled “Shut up”, went on concentrating till we were done, and then apologised. From there I was escorted to a quiet room with Music and the Tiger in the research part of the hospital where I said immediately that I was a complete coward, not good with needles, needles and eyes – not to be thought of.
But it is the treatment and often effective (if I had asked, Music would have given me the percentages). As it was, I had hoped to evade this for a time when I would be ready (never) and it didn’t work like that.
When I met the Tiger, I asked if she held hands. She said “Yes” firmly. And Music explained, what, why, where and three more dates. Ayse who is running the project put the letter with the dates in my hand.
We’ll skip blow by blow, because all interventions are highly personal. There are men and women who have suffered pain at levels I would find unthinkable.
There must be an accommodation over time, the body must biochemically adapt, as does the mind (pain is perceptual). There are painkillers, the right position, coping strategies, etc but nevertheless, pain is. This is a big deal to me, because I have been witness to so much – physical, emotional, sexual, social – so easy to cause pain. And I know my physical levels of pain tolerance are low. (A great friend is going through a procedure at the moment which is made more difficult because she is used to putting up with pain and she has to approach it another way if she is to heal.)
The Tiger did indeed hold my hand, Music told me what she was doing as she did it, through anaesthetic, antibacterial, retractor and injection.
There was indeed a moment of profound discomfort and I spent the rest of the evening wanting to shake my head like a donkey with a bothersome fly (one of my favourite poems is GK Chesterton’s The Donkey). But there is no pain. There wasn’t last night and there isn’t this morning.
I was given drops and told how to use them (in the worst designed ever bottle but then I am clumsy). And they asked “Would you like us for the other appointments? ” And I said yes please, it would give me clinical coherence, explaining how in my professional life I spent time with people who never saw the same person twice and constantly had to go back to the beginning. And how distressing that is, a diminishing loop.
I doubt that Music and the Tiger said anything they hadn’t said before and before, but I met them with one of my few gifts – communication – and it’s a two way street. Two women, both mid 30s, committed with admirable skill sets and experience, kind hearts and clever hands. My mother well wished me. It was her birthday.