"I've decided that perhaps I'm bulimic and just keep forgetting to purge."

-- Paula Poundstone

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adventures of the Elusive Herpes Eye

Dude. I've got The Herpes Eye. Again.

I know, I know. I usually only write here about weight loss. But there's been absolutely none of that going on, yet I'm itching to write (no pun intended).

My truths tend to be stranger than fiction, and my Herpes Eye is no exception. Plus, I think it's hilarious if past lovers Google "herpes" and my blog pops up. And so, I'll write.

(Grandma: If somehow you've magically gotten the Internet, there are no past lovers. It's just for comedic effect. Ha ha?)

[caption id="attachment_472418" align="alignright" width="360" caption="This is a form of The Herpes Eye. This picture is not mine, and this is not me. I don't have face blisters. And my eyebrows are better. A little."][/caption]

So, back to The Herpes Eye. And how I've got it. Again.

First things first: It's not what it sounds like. OK, it's exactly what it sounds like. But I'll go ahead and answer the question I've gotten for 15 years: No, my husband did not have "bad aim." That is not how you get it, Perv.

It all started in 1996-ish. I was in college, heading into finals week before Christmas break, and I got The Herpes Eye, more eloquently known as Herpetic Keratitis (Type I). It's the same virus that causes cold sores, but it attacked my eye.

This happens in relatively few people. I'm among the few. What an honor.

I'll spare you the details, but I almost lost my left eye. The light from even a TV was excruciating. I lost driving privileges for what seemed like forever. I was sent to Vanderbilt Hospital for fancy eyeball photographs and analysis. My cornea is scarred, and talk of a transplant still comes up from time to time.

I spent that Christmas break in agony and was hit with it again a few weeks later when I was trying to start my new classes while making up my missed finals in my old classes.

Ah, memories.

But after that second round, I had not had any recurrence of The Herpes Eye until this week. I caught it very early this time, and the cornea specialist says my virus "clusters" are not in my direct line of sight where my previous scarring is, so my vision likely won't be affected.

And thanks to some pretty expensive drops, I'm already relatively pain-free.

Oh yeah: The drops.

When I went to the doctor Tuesday morning, I was given a sample of Zirgan, a new eye gel that I later found out would cost me $120 (and the pharmacy would have to order it — remember, I'm in "the few").

So I called the doctor and asked for another sample to get me through until my next appointment, scheduled for Thursday. They told me they didn't have any more samples, but I could come back in that afternoon because the cornea specialist was now in, and she would write me a different prescription.

So on Wednesday afternoon, I was given a prescription for Viroptic. It's been around "for at least 20 years," the doc says, so cost and availability shouldn't be an issue.

I go back to the pharmacy, drop off the second prescription and am told it would indeed be cheaper — only $99 — but they've never heard of it and would have to order it.

What the eff — $99? So I call my husband and have him call our insurance company to see what the deal is. Turns out, each person in our family has a $100 annual deductible on medicine, and guess who hasn't had any prescriptions filled yet this year. That's right: This gal!

(OMG. This story is friggin' long. Is anyone still reading?)

So, I go back to Pharmacy #1 and tell them to give me back my prescription because I have like one drop left in the Zirgan sample and can't wait for a delivery the next day.

"Gurrrl, we gotta save that eyeball!" says the same pharmacy tech I've dealt with for two days. "Word," I say, taking back my prescription.

("Word?" I have no idea how that came out of my mouth.)

I drive across the street to Pharmacy #2 and hand them my prescription. "They don't have it across the street," I tell the pharmacist. "Well, I'm willing to bet we don't have it anywhere here in town either," he tells me.

"But this has been around for 20 years," I say. "Twenty years 40 years ago," he answers.

Oh my God, what does that even mean, I think. So, "Oh my God, what does that even mean?" I blurted out.

I could feel my pulse pounding in The Herpes Eye at this point.

"Oh wait! I found one," he says. It was a few miles away in Zilwaukee, so I grabbed my prescription again and flew out the door.

At Pharmacy #3, I handed her the prescription and tensed up as she gave that "What the hell is this?" look. "Another store already told me you have it," I said. She looked for a good five minutes before finally finding one last bottle in the back of a refrigerator.

"Well, I sure never heard of this," she said, quite obviously looking at my Herpes Eye, back down at the bottle, and back up at my Herpes Eye again.

"I'm one of only a few," I tell her, lifting my glasses and leaning in to give her a better look.

"What an honor," she says, stepping back a little.