Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Be Prepared: Anything Can Happen!

I’ve been under the weather with a cold.  Feeling grumpy and miserable.

Then, Monday night, I started to see flashes of light (photopsia) from the periphery of my left eye.  I blew it off – not recommended – and went to sleep.

As I showered the next morning, I suddenly noticed what appeared to be a black spider over my shoulder. She multiplied into quite a few black, lacy images dancing vibrantly about in my visual field.

I called my doctor and was told to go immediately to the eye doctor.  He said, “Tell the staff you may be having a “retinal” emergency.”

Emergency?  Was I ready for a medical emergency?

On the positive side:

  • My car had a full tank of gas;
  • My insurance card, list of drug sensitivities, and doctor’s phone number was in my wallet.

On the down side:

  • My cell phone was dead.
  • I didn’t know the location of the nearest emergency room.

Meeting my Destiny

I grabbed my Swiss Army crafted computer bag.  It houses all my key personal items like my wallet, cell phone, and calendar.  I threw in my prayer beads (gently, of course), medication, and an apple.  Then, I headed my car north toward my destiny.

Thanks to the cold, my brain was too fuzzy too drift into wild scenarios.  The frenzied dark creatures in my field of vision had gradually morphed into one less wild, lacy friend.

A piece of the gelatin-like substance (vitreous humour) had separated from my retina.

Posterior vitreous detachment” is a common condition for older adults, but not rare for people in their 40’s or 50’s either.  Not serious, but there is a small risk of retinal detachment.

It’s important to monitor symptoms for the next week.  Any sign of serious symptoms – like loss of vision or a veil descended over the eye – I need to hightail it back to the eye doctor or emergency room.  For the time being, I need to rest, not move my head around a lot, or bend over and pick up heavy things.

Tuesday night, I had another episode of photopsia.  My doctor – having already checked my eyes thoroughly – felt confident enough to have me rest at home and simply return the next morning for another check.  Generally, photopsia can be an early sign of a retinal tear or detachment and should be checked immediately by a doctor.

Wednesday meant another round of dilation.  Another round of looking.  Thankfully, there’s still no evidence of a retinal tear or detachment.  This time I brought my I-Pod, which is full of inspirational teachings.  Just in case I had to be put on a plane to Honolulu; there are no retina specialists on the Big Island.

Be Prepared

I’m not the kind of person who is usually prepared.  But this time, I felt relatively prepared because I store all the main things I need in my Swiss Army bag. I always have it nearby at night in the event of a natural disaster.

The earthquake in Japan made me think more about being prepared.  At the time, I wrote about how to prepare for a natural disaster.  I haven’t turned over an entirely new leaf, but I’m a little more prepared as evidenced by the current episode in life changes.

If you would like to be more prepared for a medical emergency, you could print these guides, read them over, and have them close at hand so you will be ready to intelligently deal with whatever arises.

Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide on Emergencies and First Aid

I felt so tired driving home Wednesday, I collapsed into bed.  I eagerly followed the doctor’s advice to rest.  At the same time, I was counting my blessings.

  • I feel grateful for the body’s elegant system of communication called “symptoms”.
  • I feel grateful to have a medical doctor that I can actually call on the phone.
  • I feel grateful to have a conscientious, caring, and competent eye doctor.
  • I feel grateful that I was relatively prepared.
  • I feel grateful that I remembered my spiritual priorities when I packed my bag.
  • I feel grateful that my mind didn’t wig out over possible scenarios.

All this reminded me once again that anything can change in a moment.  For me, the best preparation is having a steady mind.

Due to current affairs, I won’t be posting more on my blog this week.  I need to catch up on rest and catch up on the work I missed.

Are you ready for a medical emergency?  What would you take along?

P. S. Nothing here constitutes medical advice.  If you experience similar symptoms, contact your medical doctor immediately.




January 2012 Review: On Writing and Micropublishing


  1. Scary times. I hope you will be OK. Retinal detachment is a serious issue. I’ll pray that your eye will heal and you will not have any more emergency trips to the doctor. Your readers will miss your posts for awhile but we certainly understand. You come first. Treat yourself well.

    • Thanks for your good thoughts and prayers. I think my doctor is being extra cautious, which is good! So I am optimistic that my eye will be fine.

  2. thanks for thoughts are with you and remember the pain of change can be far greater than the pain you were in–so stay focussed and come back blogging when you feel right– as in rest and energy–we will miss your posts but that is not your no 1 now

  3. Thanks for your kindness. This is an interesting idea: “the pain of change can be far greater than the pain you were in.” I would love to know more about that!

  4. I’m very nearsighted, so my optometrist drummed the symptoms of a retinal detachment into my head at an early age. I hope I never need to know them, but thank you for the reminder that I should be more prepared than I am. Rest up and feel better soon!

    • Jennifer, I’m glad you are aware of the symptoms and know that if they occur immediate attention is required. It wasn’t intelligent for me to blow off the flashes of life, but fortunately no harm was done. The experience of the multiple, dancing black coils the next morning was too wild to dismiss. I hope you never have this problem! And I hope I don’t either.

  5. Two days ago, my neighbor called in distress and asked me to take her to the hospital. I raced over to find her shaky and scared, thinking she was having a stroke. I didn’t even consider driving her to the hospital. I sat her down and called 911. They were there in minutes and whisked her off to the hospital where she spent the next 24 hours going through tests. She is fine, but has a small brain cyst (benign) that apparently caused some small seizures.

    This impressed upon me that life can change in the blink of an eye (no pun intended about your retina). Being prepared is a good plan.

    Glad your eye is okay. Take it easy and be a good patient!

    • Your neighbor is luck to have your support! These kinds of events tend to make an impression on us. Of course, we can only be prepared to a certain extent, but I think it’s good to do our part and help the universe out! Then we can all relax with it a bit. I’m being quite good as a patient!

  6. I have had Photopsia before, but never the black spiders – this post scared the crap out of me – I am glad you don’t have a retinal tear or detachment. The only thing I am prepared for is my death – I have my phone list, important information and funeral plans in a doc on my desktop (my poor long suffering husband gets a little scattered at times).

    Your posts makes me think I should put the same effort into my life that I did into my death. I hope you heal soon and get some good refreshing rest.

    • I hope the spiders didn’t scare you! It did look like a spider at first, but then they were more like black coils or lacy coils less like spiders. I would love to know what happened when you had photopsia before. Did it go away?

      I think it’s fantastic you are well prepared for your death. That is a great kindness and a help in letting go when the time does come.

      Like you, I need to put a little extra time into preparing properly for medical events. I felt good about my level of preparation, but I could do a little more.

  7. Mine looks like a prism ring that sparkes – usually in a loop design. It looks like flames look in a mirror – I hate it because I can’t read when it happens. It happens three or four times a year, lasts about 4 hours and then goes away.

    • I sometimes get something like that. I always thought it was a visual migraine. Mine only lasts about 30 minutes, but yet it does make it difficult to read@

  8. Your mindfulness has rewarded you yet again, Sandra, and I’m grateful for that. The longer we live, the more likely it is that something in the physical machine we inhabit will develop a problem, even if you do everything “right”. The body is material, material is impermanent, and diseases, accidents and environmental changes alter its functionality. We can’t control all the factors all the time. Everyone dies of something, and very few complete their lives without facing some sort of medical emergency. Your links and pointers will definitely benefit others.

  9. Mike,

    I appreciate your realistic attitude! While some people believe we can imagine away these sufferings, I don’t see that’s actually the case. My thinking is more aligned with yours. At the same time, I do believe the mind is powerful and it’s up to us how we perceive whatever medical events occur in our lives.Thanks for your encouragement. I always love to “see” you.

  10. feel good, sandra! glad you were so prepared!

    • Thank you for your positive thoughts, Robyn. It’s the cold that really got me! It’s improving. With this particular condition, the eye itself doesn’t feel pain.

  11. Hi Sandra — I admire the equanimity with which you presented what happened to you, and how you use it here as a springboard for offering resources to others having a medical emergency. Although, I’d add, I for one certainly wouldn’t put you down if you felt scared when all this happened, and let us know. I wish you good health and a speedy recovery and I’m looking forward to reading your posts again soon.

    • Hi Chris,

      So nice to “see” you. Thanks for acknowledging my moment of equanimity! It’s not unusual for me to feel scared. I’m really glad you said that it’s OK to share when/if I do. Often it’s an emotion that feels less acceptable (at least in my world). So your supportive view means a lot to me. In this case, for some odd reason, I didn’t feel much fear. So I’m celebrating my moments of equanimity!

  12. I hope you feel better! I hate medical emergencies. I had a kidney stone once and was rushed to the hospital. It was scary because I never had that kind of emergency before–of course I didn’t know it was a kidney stone at the time, or else I would have been more relaxed.

    Thankfully, I was fine. But yes, be prepared!

  13. Yikes, that can be really painful! Was it a cacium-oxalate kidney stone? If so, you might want to read my post on the low oxalate diet:

    “Foods high in oxalate may cause or increase inflammation, pain, and burning, irritate tissues and mucous membranes, and contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones.”

    Hope that doesn’t happen again!

  14. I get the sparkly zigzags like readytochangenow several times per year, and just laying down and not looking at anything in particular for a while helps them to go away faster. They are often associated with migraines, with or without the headaches. You, however, are experiencing something more serious, it sounds, and I hope and hope and hope it’s all under control. Hugs, Sandra 🙂

  15. I’m so happy to see you, Meg! I hope so too! But also trying to just let go and be with whatever is. Thanks for the hug. I need those these days!

  16. So glad you’re ok Sandra. As I read this post I did find myself wondering if we were prepared and I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re not. Yikes, that got my attention!

    The other impact of this post was the idea of being prepared mentally and emotionally, which it sounds like you were and I find that inspiring. I’m sure it’s an outcome of years of mindfulness and that gives me hope for my own practice 🙂

  17. Oh dear, Sandra, I’m so sorry to hear of this problem. Sounds like things are settling down, in no small part because of your preparation. In a medical emergency I would want to make sure I had something to read! I remember being in the ER with my Mom and not having anything to read for hours. That’s a nightmare for me. Take care of yourself.

    • Thanks for your kind thoughts and support, Charlotte. The right reading material is a real treasure when there’s long waiting periods that can happen in an emergency. I agree with your choice 100%

  18. I’m so glad that you’re better, Sandra. For a writer anything involving the eyes is even more scary than normal. It’s wonderful you dealt with your emergency the way you did. I hope someone will be inspired by this to be better prepared. Take care of yourself.

  19. I’m so glad to hear your eye is okay, Sandra. Like readytochangenow and Meg I get the sparkly zigzags associated with cluster migraines a couple of times every year. I think that the fact that we live where we do do and the fact my husband was a paramedic means we are more prepared for medical emergencies than others are. (I’m a Harvard Medical School newsletter subscriber too.)

  20. timethief,

    I’m so happy to hear that your husband is a paramedic! Lately, I’ve been wondering how people feel about living out of the city. I don’t live in a remote place, there are plenty of people here, but there are no nearby emergency services. We are still 20 minutes from a “town” and a good 45-50 minutes from a hospital. It can take a good 20 minutes for an ambulance to get here. I enjoy being in a more natural surrounding, but these other considerations come up from time to time, especially after having this minor medical problem.

    May you always be safe!

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