The Eyes Don’t Lie

Living with keratoconus and the treatment I’ve sought.

Important things. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt ©2021

I had my follow-up visit with the Duke Eye Center for my recent diagnosis of keratoconus on Friday, October 22, 2021. The news my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist shared was good. There is no scarring and no significant change in my eyes — no additional con-caving or coning of my corneas. This is good for multiple reasons, but I’ll just mention two of them. 1. Negative progression of the corneas is minimal. 2. It keeps me out of the tunnel with surgery (a cornea transplant for both eyes) as the light at the end. If you remember, I mentioned not wanting to even think about surgery, so I am ecstatic about this recent news.

My ophthalmologist wanted the same tests done as my previous visit, but two more had been recommended as well. One process required a numbing agent for my eyes. The nurse’s assignment was to assess the pressure of each eye. She announced her need to get near me in order to do this — as she rolled on her stool closer to me, my breathing halted. I am not a person who cares for people in my personal space, however; I recognize sometimes; it has to take place in certain situations. As she dropped the numbing agent in the first eye, I stopped breathing and she held her hand up to go to the other eye and said, “I need you to breathe, Tre. This doesn’t work if you don’t breathe.”

I instantly exhaled and inhaled as I normally would. I apologized — informing her it was simply my body’s natural defense and reaction to someone getting so close. She smiled and said, “It’s absolutely normal and expected, but you still have to breathe.” And breathe, I did. After the numbing agent had been applied, she said softly, “Blink. Blink. Blink.” I did as instructed. She announced coming closer to me again and this time, there was a device in her hand (it looked a lot like this, I failed to ask what it was and I beat myself up for it when I left the building) and she rubbed the tip of the device on my eyeball rotating it in small circles. She did the same thing for the other eye.

The look on my face caused her to giggle. She said, “Wasn’t expecting that, were you?” I most certainly was not! To have someone rub some type of device which captures the pressure of your eyes on your actual eyeballs was clearly not on my list of to-dos that morning when I awakened. Afterward, I saw little black dots for a few moments. It took a few more minutes before I could see clearly again without the little black dots and swirlies, and then we were off to yet another room where I would wait for the ophthalmologist.


I appreciate my ophthalmologist. His bedside manner is one I’d rank a 10 out of 10 and he’s also pretty funny. He entered the room as he did six months ago — ecstatic and noticeably happy to do his job. We elbow-bumped, and we were off to him asking me a few questions to which I had the answers. He began by telling me about the numbers collected at the most recent visit versus my previous one. He also showed me the slight change in my corneas by using the cornea model in the exam room. Just in case you’re wondering, a healthy cornea model looks like a huge contact lens and a cornea model deformed by keratoconus looks like that same huge contact lens bent bottom-up as if it were going to tear in half and come clean off the eyeball. *shudders*

He was pleased with the numbers, and images gathered from the testing. The reassurance I received from him about my current status eased my nervousness and worry as well. I am in a good place to still be a candidate for scleral contacts, however, no surgery is needed at this time. The scleral contacts are supposed to help sharpen the blurry images and my need to squint (natural reaction) to try to see small writing or images far away. To have a sharper vision will be a godsend and I await it like the day awaits nightfall.

Taking into consideration the fact I am severely near-sighted, have astigmatism in both eyes, and have also been slapped with keratoconus, and my vision has not changed drastically in the last six months, was paramount. The news was the best I had received all morning, and I could not contain my elation. Before leaving, they had advised me to continue with the changes I have made, keep up the Pataday regimen, and take as much time as I can away from devoting my eyes to the blue light of electronic devices.

Listen, I appreciate the $5.00 off coupon the center gives for the Pataday eye drops. That mess is expensive for a teeny tiny bottle. But, I digress. It is necessary, and it works.


As it stands, I have an appointment with my optometrist on Friday, February 25, 2022, for my annual eye exam and the fitting of the scleral contacts. I will follow up with my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist on Friday, May 20, 2022. He wants me to have at least a few months under my belt using the scleral contacts before coming back for additional testing. The flip in visits between the two of these doctors for my eyes will take place for as long as my ophthalmologist deems necessary. Keratoconus is lifelong and currently, there is no cure (outside of surgical procedures), so I’d better get rather comfortable with the entire process of it all.

I am thankful for decent vision insurance — I could not afford this level of care without it. By stating this, I am not flaunting the value of my healthcare coverage, but the truthfulness of the aspect to the level of care of which I am receiving. The care is not an inexpensive one and my pockets do not run deep. Take care of your eyes, beautiful people.


Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

Read more about this: The Beginning and The Follow-up.

spent

a lamentation

the work comes — it goes
every call is torture to the bones.
we communicate with vigor, yet
with ease. 
patients want to know 
listeners can schedule their appointments
and offer empathy too.

a doctor’s office landed in
my teammate’s queue — their issue
crept in without cause.
a 3-month-old showing symptoms
of a virus meant for adults and the elders
in the early stages, but really
did they know who it 
would attack and who it
would leave alone?

when we start scanning babies
with machinery doling out
radiation because their lungs
are about to collapse, the world
is truly at its end.
I shout at the screen housing 
messaging tools and the software
we need to scan through 
thousands of accounts.

it doesn’t shout back.

I can tell my days are beginning
to blend — Monday is Friday.
Tuesday is Thursday. 
I don’t know what weekends are anymore.
and the lovers of this world continue
on, sampling pain in
little festive bags — afraid to share
their happiness.

who will appreciate it?

“I am spent,” I say this to 
my mom as she breathes on the
receiving end of the call.
she’s breathing . . . breathing. 
how often have we taken this for granted?
breathing . . .
she hears me — pauses for effect.
she tells me she is afraid to
go outside and I understand.

I understand.

I spend many of my days
arguing with God — telling him how
I really feel. he knows. I know he knows.
but, I tell him anyway.
I want to wade through waters
less choppy and with each
passing moment, the hardness comes
and my face has bruises I
no longer hide.

“I am spent,” I say to anyone
who will listen.

I am almost at my end.


Originally published in my new publication soliloque via Medium.

Why Goodbye Really Isn’t Goodbye

And how I’ve learned to say “See You Later” instead

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Succulents (Luna, Venus, Mars, & Jupiter). Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I have learned to say “See You Later” when I am leaving people or a place I love. It’s more accurate than “Goodbye.” Goodbye is final — an ending. Everything in life may not always require an ending, especially when bonds and love exist for the person/people/things. Friday, November 06, 2020, was my last day at my previous job. It was full of tearful expressions, gifts, social-distance hugs, and well-wishes. I have stated this once and I will state it again — I am not (have not) leaving people I hate, I left people I love. It is hard. It has been hard. But ultimately, this decision is still the best one for me.

This week, I have had patients cry, want to hug me, and talk to me longer than they usually do as they learned of my decision to transition to our Central Scheduling Unit. Patients have brought in gifts, written up remarkable cards for me to hand to my supervisor, and shared their respect and admiration for me. The one phrase I have heard more than I can count this week was, “Thank you for making us feel safe.” I will miss many of them and others I cannot be happier to get away from — to possibly never see again in a professional setting.

I have learned to say “See You Later” when I am leaving people or a place I love. It’s more accurate than “Goodbye.” Goodbye is final — an ending.

The law firm above our facility consists of a team of one man and three women. Each of the women I have grown to care for and respect. The three of them got together to give me a card with such heartfelt notes written in it that drew tears from my eyes as I read them. As Ms. Leslie approached me and readied her speech, I stood there — fully in tune with her words and thanked her profusely for such a kind gesture. She made sure I knew how loved I was and how much my presence meant to them. She asked if I would train my replacement and I informed her I would.

So, this past week was made up of me training my replacement and getting her ready for the week ahead. I was thankful we did not have as much traffic as we usually get in the facility so it made training her much easier, but we had several instances occur of which she will need to be aware and ready to tackle when they take place with no one else around to assist her. After our third day of training, her question to me was, “Did you do this by yourself?” and I informed her I did. Her response to that was, “This is not a job for one person.” I agreed with her.

The one phrase I have heard more than I can count this week was, “Thank you for making us feel safe.”

Some days I would screen over two hundred people for Coronavirus, COVID-19 symptoms, and out of that two hundred, I would probably have to turn away five to ten per day for having symptoms or refusing to wear face coverings/masks. The job is taxing, and on my best days, it completely exhausted me. I am sure it had to be pure adrenaline and the high-energy of my nature that kept me afloat.

My replacement is a bubbly middle-aged woman who has a cheerful disposition and a need to be around people again. She is transitioning from a remote position back to a clinical setting. I could tell this past week that perhaps she may have made the wrong decision. In the middle of a global pandemic and at one of the busiest facilities in the area, trying to get as much information as I could transfer from my brain to hers felt like an act of futility. The job itself is tough, but having to train someone in the midst of the job made it even tougher.

My most important piece of advice to her was, “Find a groove that works for you. This foyer is your baby. You will have to own it or it will own you.” I could also feel her level of discomfort too as some of my coworkers came out to the foyer to bid me farewell in front of her. They were emotional, they kept asking me to think it over and to not leave, and others wished me the best but let it be known they were sad I stuck with my decision.

Regardless of what I did to get them to curb the conversation for a later time, they went on. I am a fan of giving people the floor to express themselves, but I am also a person who is constantly connected to the feelings of others. I wanted this transition to be smooth for the new Screener and not one filled with anxiety of having to step into the shoes of someone else before her.

The job is taxing, and on my best days, it completely exhausted me. I am sure it had to be pure adrenaline and the high-energy of my nature that kept me afloat.

We made it through the week with her trained as much as anyone could be trained for a position such as this — questions had been asked and answered and she will have many more; I am sure. They will not be for me. I left the entrance space of our facility in her hands. I hope she takes care of it.

I worked six hours that day, knowing in advance I would need to leave earlier than my normal to rest up for the new job next week. Prior to my leaving, I went to each modality to see their faces and spread some love before I turned in my keys. The blessings that flowed from the mouths of these beautiful people reminded me of why this decision is such a hard one. The plant you see above as the cover image is just one of the many gifts given to me shortly before I exited the building. I instantly fell in love with it.

One of my coworkers, the one in which I am closest to, grabbed me, and hugged me, and I felt her body shake a little and I said three times, “Don’t you dare cry,” and she didn’t. I said to her, “This is not goodbye for us — it’s not. This is, see you later.” And it will be.

I have learned the difference between the two. You say goodbye to those people or places you never intend to see again. Goodbye isn’t reserved for the team I had the pleasure of spending nearly three years with — no, goodbye has no place regarding them.

Not one bit.


Originally published via Medium.

Hello, Happiness. Hello, Sadness. Which of You Will I Feel Today?

On: moving through these two emotions as best as I can.

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Photo by DEVN via Unsplash

I am seated at my kitchen table in my breakfast nook — laptop propped up, my therapist’s voice in the background . . . We are meeting, but virtually. This has become — dare I say it, Our New Normal. I have adjusted my life in such a way that allows me an evening once per month with my therapist so I may stay on track in managing my emotions, dealing with personal breakdowns, and understanding the many changes happening in my life that have affected me more than I thought they would. For now, this plan is proving to be helpful and as soon as I transition to my new position, we will find a better time of day to conduct our sessions.

For those of you unaware, I will switch jobs soon. On November 06, 2020, I will say goodbye to the facility where I work and transfer to another department within our organization for a remote position. This will be good for me — it will keep me out of some intense situations with people who have proven to be more selfish than selfless. Screening for COVID-19 symptoms during what is now “Flu Season” is taxing. It was already a strenuous task hard on my body, but the level of exhaustion has increased in recent weeks.

I am open and honest when I say I would rather be at home during a global pandemic and I am overjoyed about this change, however, happiness is not the only emotion I feel as I count down to my last day.

I am leaving people I love

Although I will still work for the same organization, I will be in a different department — handling mostly different tasks. This moves me from a group of people I love — cherish as a family. My team is outstanding and walking away from them will leave me gutted in a way I had not prepared for.

I can already feel sadness settling in intermittently. It overwhelms me. It stifles me and drains my energy. It keeps me from being my best self at work.

When you learn and grow with an amazing group of people who go above and beyond in doing their jobs and have a mindset of providing remarkable care to patients, this is hard to forget or dismiss.

My team will be one person short until there is a replacement. I think about how that will impact them — how they will have to work doubly hard to keep up with our facility’s pace, and what that might do to them both mentally and physically. Ours is a fast-paced facility servicing a demographic that isn’t always responsive or respectful, so trying times come more often than not.

I can already feel sadness settling in intermittently. It overwhelms me. It stifles me and drains my energy. It keeps me from being my best self at work.

Making this decision to step down and away from my current position was hard because I am not leaving a place I hate . . . I am leaving a place I love — one filled with people who care, are concerned, and want to help others.

It was time I “chose” me first

I decided to do this for me — to put me first, and I will not back down from it. When I look at how what I do warps my emotions, pulls me away from others, and makes me want to retreat more than invite or welcome anyone in (be it virtually or while social-distancing), a work-from-home position could be the peace and safety I need to regain some semblance of my former self.

We are all quarantining or distancing ourselves from those we love — we’re all feeling the brunt of this global pandemic. My question to myself was, “How can you change one thing to make what you do better?” Given what I do, there is no way to change it to make it better. It’s a hands-on job with involvement and physical interaction with people who are seeing us for the care they wish to get. So, I then said to myself, “You can still be in the medical field, but be hands-off.” And therefore, I applied to remote positions within our organization.

I know where my heart is, and it’s in helping others — it always has been there. I feel strongly about this purpose. Moving towards this position to schedule invasive procedures and imaging scans for our patients while still being able to communicate with them (over-the-phone or via our chat/email options) relieves me. I will still do what I love doing.

What day will this be? A happy or sad one?

As I work down the last two weeks of my resignation, I am moving through two emotions rather wildly. My sense of self feels off-kilter and unbalanced. One day, I’m happy to count down to my last day. The next, I am sad. I am moved to tears. The hurt cuts deeply. I know what I am doing. I know why I am leaving. I want to feel as though it validates my reasons for doing so without the added baggage of enhanced emotions.

I am open and honest when I say I would rather be at home during a global pandemic and I am overjoyed about this change, however, happiness is not the only emotion I feel as I count down to my last day.

My therapist to me during our last session: “You will move through those emotions as they come, Tre. What did we discuss during our last session about feeling all of them?”

“Feel them, then move on from them.”

Moving on is the hard part. I feel them just fine. They welcome themselves into my daily routine unannounced, and I have to reassure myself that what I am feeling is sound — it is normal. I have a right to be both happy and sad about choosing to leave my job and the people I love, but why can’t I understand this?

Quietly, I belittle myself for moving from one emotion to the next as the days pass. I have to learn to be kinder — to acknowledge that this is monumental for me and to give myself a little more love. It took me months to crack down on a job hunt and a few more weeks after that, to pursue the jobs for which I had applied. This was a process — a well thought out process. I did not make the decision in haste.

It all boils down to my reluctance to adapt to change — this, I know. I am aware of this. It crushes me to shift a routine, to uproot my habitual status, to move with the wind . . . I am happier planted — a tree should be my spirit object. I made a mental note of this to discuss with my therapist during our next session. Perhaps this is another reason both happiness and sadness have become my bedfellows.

The time is nearing and my team members and some patients who are knowledgeable are telling me how much they will miss me and sending me my roses while I am still alive. I appreciate them. I look forward to them. I am blessed to be a person so loved and accepted. I am happy they are allowing me to smell them before I leave — to embrace their compassion before I say “Goodbye.”

It crushes me to shift a routine, to uproot my habitual status, to move with the wind . . . I am happier planted — a tree should be my spirit object.

And as the days continue to dwindle down to the final one, I will continue to acknowledge what I am feeling and why.

Regardless of when happiness or sadness greets me, I will be ready to stare each down fearlessly.


Originally published on Medium.

gifts and blessings #2

Photo by Ken Tomita via Pexels

The job I mentioned here, I got it! I interviewed for the Central Scheduling Specialist Entry Level I position this past Wednesday with the department supervisor and nailed it! On Friday, I had a second interview, this time–with the department director and did quite well in it and was offered the job on the spot.

The scheduling position is still within radiology and I will continue to have an opportunity to provide “remarkable care” to our organization’s patients, but from behind the scenes. I will be taking inbound calls from hundreds of patients throughout several markets and scheduling them for the hundreds of thousands of imaging services we provide.

The position is completely remote/work-from-home and as soon as I hear from HR (which should be sometime early next week), I’ll be able to begin my 30-day notice with my current job. I already have my resignation letters drafted up and will provide one to my direct supervisor and the other to our center manager.

When my 30-day notice is complete, I’ll begin rigorous training at the business office for scheduling. The duration will be several weeks. When that’s complete, I’ll be sent home with my equipment and from there on, expected to shine as I have for the last 2 years and 1/2 with this organization and I will.

I feel like I have to slap myself. I cannot believe that in about one month’s time, I will no longer be expected to physically screen or come in contact with patients on a daily basis. Doing what I do puts an incredible fear inside me and every day is a task heavier than the one before.

No more asking patients to put on a mask or imploring that they keep it on. No more coming in contact with patients who tested positive and decided to use one of their quarantine days to come and get some X-rays completed. No more advising doctors’ offices of proper protocol and our company’s COVID-19 algorithm. No more reminding people that we are on a no-visitor-rule and no they cannot have their mama’s sister’s best friend’s aunt with them in the waiting area. The list goes on.

I prayed for this . . . for the chance to feel some semblance of peace and safety once again and my prayers have been answered. I am overwhelmed with excitement and joy and I can only hope this decision will prove itself best for me in the future.

I feel as though it will be.