Earlier in the year, we scheduled a trip in November to see my husband's family in India (my step-daughter lives there so we go yearly); however, we debated whether to go for months due to the situation with my eyes. We had already cancelled our personal vacation to the Maldives that we had added onto our visit to see his family (since we were able to receive a near full refund) but were unable to receive much of a refund for the India trip. Ultimately, since Mayo clinic gave me no answers, treatments, or next steps, we decided to go. Moreover, since my father-in-law is a physician, we knew I could receive care if absolutely needed. Knowing that whatever I was experiencing with my eyes was likely rare, my husband thought seeing a few specialists in India may be beneficial since the physicians there see such a high number of patients in comparison to the USA.
While there, I ended up seeing two neurologists. The first one did some neurologic exams which were mostly about equal strength and evaluations for movement disorders. As expected, these were absolutely normal. Also, he reviewed some of my testing from the USA and thought that perhaps my enlarged blind spot was due to a lack of focus during the exam. I attempted to tell him that the visual field test checks the position of my eye and focus every 15 seconds during the exam and scores it. I had perfect focus throughout the test and it was reproducible at different clinics and different time periods. Ultimately, this physician stated that I was just too "stressed". If you know me personally, you may have just laughed at this statement. At work and in multiple other situations, I am often looked towards to provide a calm and rationale presence. Oh well, another unsuccessful visit.
The second neurologist came to my in-laws family house and was very thorough in his physical exam and questions. While he wasn't able to determine a cause based on his exam, he did recommend a number of testing options to help rule out a number of additional causes that weren't previously considered. Many of these recommendations, we ended up doing when we returned to the USA. More on these results in a future post.
Finally, we visited my in-laws spiritual advisor, also referred to as a swami. Each time we visit India, we do go to the temple and perform rituals to bring good fortune to our family. This time the focus was on me and my eye health. First, I was weighed in relation to jaggery (a type of cane sugar), which was purchased as an offering to the temple. Then, I was to do 14 circles around a portion of the temple and give an offering to the gods each time we did a circle. From there, I was to stare at one of the Hindu gods and was asked to close my eyes. Swami then poured water into his hands and splashed the water onto my eyes. While I used splashed as the descriptive word, it would be better described as throwing the water at my eyes with shockingly good aim and force. This occurred two additional times with a Malayalam (one of many Indian languages) prayer or mantra (repeated words). Afterwards, my husband and mother-in-law were told that my eyes would heal. Swami speaks limited English so the majority of his instructions are translated through my family since I do not speak Malayalam despite multiple attempts.
You may be asking how my eyes did during this month since the majority of the discussion has been on the appointments. During November, my eyes progressively and substantially worsened. During this time, the floaters went from a few at a time to hundreds. I begin to see near constant clouds (or what could be described as fog or smoke) floating through my vision. The scariest thing that began to happen was that lights would appear to flicker on and off. My vision would go totally black and disappear for just a moment but this started happening multiple times a day. Furthermore, I began to have a spot in my vision which was moving and present in both eyes at the same location. When not focusing on it, it looked as though the spot was blinking, but with focus it was squiggly lines moving from the outside of a circle to the inside of the circle. This spot was most evident when looking at either the sky or a body of water but was always constantly there. Needless to say, my eyes were not improving and I began to worry that I would completely lose my vision if we couldn't figure out the cause. Since I am nearly deaf in one ear (which has been present since I was a child) and I use my vision to read lips to supplement my hearing, this truly terrified me. It felt as though if I lost my vision, I would lose a majority of my hearing at the same time.