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Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Body parts can fail without warning. Working one moment, malfunctioning the next.

That’s what happened on a weekday evening as “Schitt’s Creek,” our current favorite show, began to stream.

A bright light flashed across my left eye. I swiveled my head to find the cause. Perhaps car headlights sweeping our house?

Seeing nothing, I refocused on the show. Then it happened again. And again.

This wasn’t my imagination, but the source disappeared so fast I couldn’t turn my head fast enough.

How spooky was that? Very spooky.

Particularly when the notion dawned that maybe the flashing wasn’t from an external source. Might my eye be firing off on its own?

I considered sharing my optical puzzle with Cheryl, but thought better of it. No point having the both of us in a crisis mode.

Conceivably I was going blind in one eye and soon my other eye would flame out too. This thought drained the humor out of “Schitt’s Creek.”

We wrapped up our evening and went to bed with me continuing to remain silent about my private light show. Sleep did not come. My eye continued to flash mini bolts of lightning. Every so often the smoke alarm above the bed would join in.

I got up before dawn to jog. My left eye was still at it, flashing so frequently that it practically lit my path.

I decided I needed to see an ophthalmologist. Ideally, immediately.

I could have searched the internet for some understanding of what was going on, but I resisted. I feared I would latch onto the worst possible diagnosis. Who needs that?

At 10:30 a.m. I was in the doctor’s chair having my eyes dilated. When I explain my situation in greater detail, I got dilated some more.

I didn’t expect what happened next. After telling me to relax, the doctor used a socket probe to lift up and examine each eyeball from all sides.

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I was in full submission mode. I uttered not a peep. In a delicate situation such as this, I didn’t want the ophthalmologist distracted by my questioning.

Finally the doc spoke: It’s not bad news, he said.

Not bad news? I liked the sound of that.

My situation was this: My aging eyes are filled with a vitreous gel that can start to thicken and form clumps. When these clumps rub or pull on the retina, they trigger what I was experiencing as lightning flashes.

These flashes can appear off and on for several weeks or months, but usually go away. For me, they seemed to have stopped that morning.

If the flashing were to intensify or I experienced a storm of “floaters,” I needed to get to the doc immediately. My retina might be torn.

I left the doctor’s office feeling decently OK. My prospects were good. I hadn’t yet been struck with horrendous biological misfortune.

When I told Cheryl about my vision crisis, she experience a range of emotions, starting with alarm and ending with acceptance. Secrets are bad, she said.

I went a week without flashing, then last Monday I stepped out of the house for my early jog and my problem was back. Flash, flash, flash — the same pattern as the week before, only not quite as intense.

Then the sky lit up. The flash stretched from my driveway to the hills beyond.

I gasped. Had my eyeball just exploded?

It had not!

I’d just witnessed a spectacular last gasp from that night’s Perseid meteor shower.

After that, I jogged a happy jog. My eye problem felt puny.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.