Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Out, vile jelly!

Imagine your spinal cord as an old fashioned telescope: a set of interlocking barrels pulled taut in extension. Place the eyepiece at the base of your skull, with the lens pointed down toward your coccyx. With red paint, make a mark on each barrel, corresponding with an area of spinal cord damage.

Now imagine you were to collapse the telescope, allowing the red-dotted barrels to nestle one inside of the other in a series of concentric circles. Hold the collapsed telescope over your face, so that the eyepiece covers your mouth and the circles radiate out from it. Using the red paint marks you made earlier as a guide, you should be able to map the areas of your face impacted by the spinal cord damage. Damage by the eyepiece will impact an area by your lips. Damage further toward the lens will be evident somewhere on your cheek or ear.

There's an elegance to how our bodies are put together. I think about it when it feels like one corner of my mouth is dribbling masticated mint. You have to appreciate the symmetry of the taut telescope and its collapsed concentric circles. Something here can impact something there, so predictably. It's beautiful, in a way.

But eyes, I don't know... Eyes are harder. Overly complicated, perhaps. Bits of specialized brain sticking out from your face, such an area of weakness. You'd think the body would have known better.

Hand over one eye, the world is blurry. Hand over the other eye, the world is in focus. I can find less to appreciate in this than in the telescope. The symmetry -- the balance -- is unclear to me. "The could be the MS," the ophthalmologist tells me, "but maybe it's not." Yes, yes -- I've heard this before. At least in the developing world, I'm paying less for this ambiguous diagnosis.

Maybe it's nothing or maybe it's everything or maybe it's just a thing, one more thing to deal with. And you can appreciate the symmetry of the neurologist, five years ago, holding up a red-capped pen and the ophthalmologist today holding up a red-capped bottle, and both saying the same phrase in the same tone: "Try closing your left eye; now your right eye. Do you see a difference?"


Gdine said...

Oh, Katie....I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. Would glasses or a contact lens help?

Anonymous said...


We love you and will pray for this, and all that you are dealing with.

Come to the Isle of Wight for some R&R...


Katie said...

Thanks, guys. It's better now than it was a week ago, for which I'm grateful -- and at least it's only in one eye. More than anything it's just really annoying, but I'm rolling with it. (I do admit that 'Blast, and I look TERRIBLE in glasses' was one of my first thoughts when I noticed what was going on. Vanity.)

And Pam, I would love to come visit you guys again. It's been a long time.

Anonymous said...


I look terrible in glasses AND wrinkles, but such is life! Glad to hear it's a bit better. Gareth and Megan would love to see you again... Gareth from a view that is taller than me! They remember you more by name and stories than anything now, so it would be great to see you again whenever you can get yourself to England. In the meantime, take care of yourself.