Pink eye leads to the stink eye and exile from my office
I had an interesting week.
It started with a simple eye infection, but it turned into a plague of Biblical proportions.
Well, not really.
It just seemed that way at times.
Bottom line: I got conjunctivitis, also called pink eye.
Very, very contagious, I was told.
I was shunned by my coworkers, banned from my office and sent home to sit in the darkness with the curtains drawn to let my eyes heal, taking eye drops 4 times a day venturing out in the sunlight only for food, drinks and to post breaking news.
Here's how it started:
Somewhere around income tax day (which this year, fortunately, fell the day after I filed my returns) I got allergy eyes.
Most of us get this from time to time — itchy, red eyes that usually are not much more than a nuisance.
I put up with it for several days. But a week later, it suddenly got worse.
By mid morning a week ago Tuesday, it went from itchy and dry to burning and watery, red and painful, very painful.
Both eyes were so watery and red that one of my coworkers asked if I was crying.
By noon, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. I walked outside and reacted almost like you do after you've had your pupils dilated.
The sunlight hurt.
I retreated back inside.
At 1 p.m. I was headed down to see Dr. Tang.
He looked at me and made a call to the ophthalmologist who's treated me before, Dr. Kai Wong.
So off I went to Bakersfield, with a left eye so red by this time I could have leaned my head out the window on Highway 119 and people would have pulled over thinking I was an emergency vehicle.
Dr. Wong looked at my eyes and right away said “pink eye” and immediately washed his hands.
He took a quick looked through one of those ophthalmology tools and saw where the infection was located in my left eye.
The right eye was infected too, but not nearly as bad.
I’m contagious, I was told.
No close contact with people and wash your hands often with antibacterial soap.
Don’t rub yours eyes.
Wash your cameras down with disinfectant to prevent reinfection.
He told me not to cover the Taft Union High board meeting that night.
That made sense.
After all, I'm probably shedding bacteria like Oreo sheds fur.
He gave me a prescription for eyedrops and I stopped in the pharmacy below his office to get the prescription filled.
While I was waiting, I texted my coworkers and my publisher to tell them the news.
In hindsight I probably didn't help the matter when I ended the text “I AM HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS.”
The reaction was immediate:
“Stay away from me”
First I get pink eye and now I’m getting the stink eye via text message.
It was just a sample of what was to come.
Pink eye or conjunctivitis or whatever you call it carries quite a stigma in our society.
Sort of like bed bugs or bubonic plague or wearing a “Friends of the blunt-nosed leopard lizard” T-shirt.
You are shunned.
When I tried to go into work Wednesday to finish the paper, I was met with immediate rejection and another text storm ensued.
"For the record I have conjunctivitis. I think that sounds better than pink eye," I texted.
It didn't do any good.
"For the record, it's still nasty," was the first reply.
"For the record both sound gross. Get better soon and please don't infect us," read the second.
"...Seriously we need to Clorox his desk and anything he has been around for the last three days," read the third.
There was even a humorous suggestion to run a full page ad to tell the community I was contagious.
I started to feel like a leper from Biblical times.
Should I don a sackcloth and walk down the street yelling “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn people of my affliction?
I decided to go home before I was stoned.
I exiled myself to a darkened house with the curtains drawn and the words of Simon and Garfunkel came to mind: "Locked within my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me..."
That lasted a couple of hours, but by early afternoon I was hungry, and I didn't have anything particularly appetizing in the refrigerator. I thought about going to the store, but I was now getting paranoid about spreading my affliction.
Should I boil my money?
I started outside and squinted in the bright sunlight. My eyes still hurt.
That triggered more paranoia. What if I got some weird variant strain of bacteria and I'm turning into one of those mutant vampires like the ones in The Omega Man (the classic '70s version with Charlton Heston)?
OK Doug, get a grip. It's just conjunctivitis.
Only the whites of your eyes are red, not the irises.
Off I went for fast food (a taco supreme combo) and used a credit card that I wiped down with Lysol Power Foam.
I inquired about returning to work Thursday and was rejected.
Fine, I said. I'll stop texting, too. While I was reasonably sure my conjunctivitis was bacterial in nature, there was a chance it was caused by a virus, and we all know how viruses spread through computers.
So, except a couple trips to the store Thursday and Friday (by this time I'd been assured by a physician friend that I wasn't contagious) and a trip to the office late Thursday to post breaking news, I stayed inside.
My exile from the office lasted until Saturday. By now I was getting better, but still had sore, itchy eyes that got worse as they day went on.
I even covered a story — Mary Caldwell's 100th birthday party.
Prescription eye drops were now supplemented with allergy drops and eye lubricant. It's getting better, but I'm going to need a follow-up care from Dr. Wong just to get my eyes back in shape for an exam and a new prescription for glasses.
If there's a moral to this tale, it's this:
You only have two eyes (four if you wear glasses) so take care of them.