The Shadow in My Eye, memoir by Elizabeth V. Koshy at
Unreal Airtist

The Shadow in My Eye

The Shadow in My Eye

written by: Dr. Elizabeth V. Koshy


That night, I woke up to see lights flashing in my eye like fireflies flitting across a dark room or embers of a campfire blown by the wind.

I switched on the light to see that my right eye was eclipsed by a dark shadow downwards from the point I was looking at. I could not move my eyes to the left or right or around. I tried washing my eye, blinking and closing my eyelids tight and soon realized that the shadow was not going anywhere. It was vision loss. And then the anxiety attack hit me!

The rest of my family was sleeping. I had been down with flu-like symptoms, fever, and headache for a few days. I normally never took medications for flu. I have always relied on steam inhalation. But this time around I also had pain in my eye, for which I had gone to my doctor two days before on 23rd June and taken medications.

I woke my husband to my predicament. It was 1.30 am, too late to call anyone home to stay with the children. Considering that only junior doctors were given night duty in hospitals, we decided to wait through the night. I looked at my sleeping children, and then it was like a dam had given way. Wondering whether I would ever see them again, I held them tightly in my arms and cried. My husband held us in his arms, and we prayed together with tears in our eyes.

I imagined life without sight, sitting all by myself, cocooned in the darkness. I thought of those born without the gift of sight and thanked the Lord for the ability to see all these years of my life, something which I had taken for granted and counted as a given. I begged Him to restore my sight if it was His will. Submitting myself into His hands, I did manage to sleep for a couple of hours.

I woke up the next morning with the dark shadow still in place. I still could not move my eyes. The pain was intense. After the children were sent to school, we went to an ophthalmologist who impressed upon us the urgency of the situation and advised us to go to an eye hospital for necessary tests. The doctors there advised a retina scan and further tests but were unable to diagnose the issue. We went back home without any treatment for my condition that evening.

We went back to my GP on the next day, as I still had a headache and eye pain. He recommended tests for Dengue which turned out negative. My husband met our ophthalmologist once again and asked him to recommend a doctor who would be able to help us. The ophthalmologist recommended a well-qualified FRCS doctor who had a clinic in the city, more than an hour and a half away from our home. As we drove to the city the next day, I looked at the familiar sights of the city half in shadow and was disconcerted. I wondered whether I would be able to see again as before. With nothing better to do, I looked at the road ahead and then shut my eyes, waiting for the drive to get over.

I looked around at the framed certificates all over the walls of the doctor’s clinic. I could not read what was printed on them. Everything was a haze. Even when I cupped my right eye I was not able to see clearly with my left eye. Fear overtook my senses. Had the shadow taken over my left eye too? I was almost in a state of panic as the doctor examined me. He recommended an MRI. Thankfully, he was able to diagnose the problem at once, and he assured me that I would recover my sight.

The MRI was conducted the next day at a renowned hospital where the doctor was appointed as a visiting specialist. The MRI confirmed his diagnosis of optic neuritis. The doctor also recommended an optometry to ascertain the extent of vision loss. The optometry was done on 28th June, a day that was special for me, as it was my father’s birthday. Every year since my mother’s passing, we had celebrated his birthday at my home. I wished him a happy birthday, knowing full well how worried he must have been hearing about my loss of vision.

The shadow in the eye was the result of an inflammation around the optic nerve caused by the JC virus. I was finally given an intravenous injection on 29th June at 7 pm which cleared the dark shadow from my eye over a period of three hours. My father and husband were with me while the injection was being administered. The injection was administered the second evening too. The third morning, I developed pain in the left eye. We went back to the expert who prescribed another dose of the injection. The fourth morning I was free, free of the shadow, free of the pain, free of the virus in my eye! Vitamin B12 deficiency was identified as the underlying problem. I was prescribed supplements and was asked to monitor my Vitamin B12 levels.

Just like an eclipse takes away the light of the sun for a short period of time, my tryst with the virus left me with partial vision loss for a harrowing five days. The shadow in the eye is gone but words in the second line, one thumb away to the left of the word I am focusing on, still get hazy and jump out of the line till I look at them. Edges of walls, tables, cupboards, and portions of grills and meshes swerve till I look at them, an incessant reminder of the shadow. Vitamin supplements and tablets have become my lifelong companions wherever I go! Just like an eclipse once seen, always remains in the memory, the shadow in my eye and the flitting lights in the dark remain a gnawing memory, scary and unforgettable.

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