Corneal Damage

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Last week, I had to make a small repair to one of the hanging cupboards in our kitchen. The people who built the cupboard for the previous owner used ordinary #8 screws to affix the cupboard to the contrete ceiling. With three screws along the back of the cupboard and one or two screws on one side of the cupboard all giving excellent vertical sheer support to the cupboard, the builders must have thought that a couple of normal screws into the ceiling to stop the cupboard from slipping outwards from the back wall would be sufficient.

Well the screws worked for a couple of years but finally gave in to the weight of the cupboard and its contents a few weeks ago. We noticed the cupboard slowly creeping away from the wall and down from the ceiling and knew something would have to be done to avoid a disaster: plates and containers all over the floor, a broken microwave oven and perhaps somebody seriously hurt if they were under the cupboard when it fell.

cupboard before fix

The cupboard before the fix. Notice how it's falling away from the wall.

The fix was easy enough: a couple of quarter-inch expansion bolts designed specifically for concrete. I've done a lot of home repair work in my years including water, electricity, masonary and carpentary. I have to thank my dad for my small abilities in these areas. When I was young, he often required me to accompany him as he built and fixed things around our farm. I was never allowed to hold the circular saw but I guess using the electric drill occasionally was enough to give me a feel for electric tools. Some of the tools I'm comfortable with include electric drills, sanders, circular saws, routers (mine is two and a half horsepower), jigsaws and 'rock cutters'. I'm not the only one in the family with these abilities. My first sister is probably more skilled than I am. While I once upon a time renovated a flat in Tai Po and built every piece of furniture within it, my sister has renovated a whole house in Australia and done an excellent job. She's very talented with her hands. Her specialty is lead/stain-glass windows and doors. And just in case you're interested, my younger sister is also talented. She's incredible with cooking, baking, sewing (including bras and wedding dresses) and handicrafts. I think she received many of these talents from my mum who used to sew all of our clothes. To top it all off, my sister's currently back at university at the tender age of 37 getting a degree in education. She's going to be a teacher.

cupboard after fix

Now that's much better, back exactly where it was when it was originally built.

Back to the main topic here: So the cure for the falling cupboard was to insert two expansion bolts up through the cupboard into the ceiling, all without taking the cupboard down. This required leveraging the cupboard back in place with a strategically placed length of wood and then drilling through the top of the wooden cupboard into the ceiling. It was while doing this simple chore that it happened. I wasn't wearing safety goggles because the only goggles I have are too scratched to see through. Since I was in a confined space looking up at wood and concrete falling down toward me while watching the drillbit carefully so that the holes wouldn't be too deep for the bolts, my eyes were making direct contact with far too much debris.

After finishing the work, I was very aware of something in my eye. Blinking hurt. I looked into our bathroom mirror and couldn't see anything at first. Then I saw something directly over the iris of my eye. I tried to gently move it with my finger tip but it wouldn't budge so I assumed that it was in fact part of my iris pattern. I also assumed that there was probably a small particle of concrete beneath my eyelid.

I put up with the discomfort for two days believing and hoping that tears and blinking would eventually remove the concrete. One night while filming at TVB, the discomfort was bad enough that I tried using a tissue to remove the supposed particle from beneath my eyelid. It didn't work and instead left a small piece of tissue beneath my eyelid. Not good! Fortunately, with some eye drops and a blunt rounded toothpick, I was able to get the tissue out. The discomfort remained though.

My eye continued to tear and water during that night of sleep. I occasionally woke to find spots on my pillow soaked with tear fluid. The next morning, my eyelid was swollen and I knew it was time to visit my doctor.

Incidentally, I have one of our dogs to thank for getting me to the doctor. If Dallas; our first dog; hadn't been barking at two other dogs in front of the kitchen while trying to defend his place in line for possible tidbits, I wouldn't have woken up with enough time to realise the seriousness of the situation and visit the doctor.

Driving to the doctor's clinic was very challenging. The sun was relatively bright and my eye hurt quite badly while I was driving. The only way to reduce the pain was to reduce the incoming light by partially covering my eye with the fingers of one hand while I drove with the other hand. Because my fingers were spread, I was still able to see with both eyes but without the pain.

My doctor; the one who studied one year ahead of me at the University of New South Wales; asked me to lay down and then took a look at my eye. When he couldn't find anything beneath the eyelid, he took a closer look at the middle of my eye and was surprised to find a speck of foreign substance embedded in the cornea over the iris. It turns out that the object I had first observed in the bathroom mirror was really there afterall. By this time though, it had been whittled down by my continual blinking from a small splinter to just a small speck of wood embedded deeper into my cornea. That of course explains the pain I experienced while driving. The wood would have irritated and hampered the cornea while my eye was trying to adjust to the bright sunlight.

The wood had to be taken out of course but how? The eye would have to be absolutely still while the wood was pulled out and that would be very difficult. My doctor gave me two choices. Either book an ophthalmologist and do the operation in a hospital for an estimated cost of around HK$20,000 or lie perfectly still while my doctor took it out. I chose the latter.

Before he had examined my eye, he had applied a local anaesthetic to my eye. I concentrated on this fact knowing there would be no pain during the procedure while I stared at a single point on the ceiling, conscious of the doctor's blurred hand and long needle being directed towards the centre of my eye.

It was over in less than ten seconds; probably five; and the doctor showed me the speck of wood. It's hard to believe that such a small speck could cause such incredible discomfort and if left alone would have eventually lead to infection and blindness.

I began swimming at our local beach a few weeks ago. I swim out to the far side of the shark nets and then swim laps from one side to the other and back again. I was getting used to the distance (approx 640m) and could feel my body strengthening. It was great. I haven't been swimming this week though. My doctor said that my eye would need to be protected from dust and dirt for approximately one week while the cornea healed. The sea water here is so cloudy and mucky (and polluted?) that I can only see one meter ahead of me while swimming. It would most probably lead to infection if it entered my eye so swimming was definitely out of the question this week.

Tomorrow or Monday, I'll be heading back to the doctor for a follow-up examination. He'll apply a special solution that will cover my eye with a coloured film allowing him to see clearly whether the damage has completely healed. I'm pretty confident that everything will be ok. I have never felt pain in the eye since the extraction procedure and it generally feels pretty normal except for some irritation caused by the antibacterial eye drops I have to apply every few hours and some dryness caused by the generally dry air we're experiencing as we enter Autumn here in Hong Kong.

my right eye
Sometime soon, I'll be making a visit to Sheung Wan 上灣. A friend of mine has informed me that there's a shop there specialising in safety equipment. The shop's name is easy to remember because it sounds like one of the local triad organisations, 新儀安全設備有限公司. Hopefully, they'll have a good selection of high quality scratch-resistant safety goggles and I'll be able to avoid a future replay of this incident.

By the way, my eyes are green which you will rarely see in the TVB series because the lights are too high up to illuminate the irises of Caucasian actors whose eyes are usually set deeper than those of Asian actors.

Update (Tues, November 15, 2005)

I saw the doctor yesterday. He applied an orange-yellow liquid to my eye and found that everything is fine. The hole has healed although there's a slight cloud which will need another three to four weeks to heal completely. For two hours after seeing the doctor, I walked around with a yellow band around my eye, looking as if I'd been hit in the face by someone. My wife thought it was funny.

Incidentally, my wife and her sister saw the doctor too. It would appear that everyone in our household has been affected by the bug that made our helper sick. I had slight diarrhoea for a few days last week but recovered fairly quickly. All I have left is a slight cough. My wife and her sister are still suffering though, and so is our helper. Hopefully, they'll all be better by next week. That's what happens when families live together. When a bug pops up, everyone shares it. It's just the way things are.

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24 Responses to “Corneal Damage”
  1. asget says:

    I had a similar incident when I was pulling some dead gum tree branches off our roof. Some bark/dust/debris fell into my eye, through the side of my safety glasses (they had a little gap near corner of the eye). Actually a chunky part of the branch fell on my head and at the time that was of more concern (it hurt a lot, quite heavy) than the eye thing. The glasses were the only ones I could find, should have got better ones.

    My eye felt irritated as well but after a couple of days it was fine again. Perhaps it (whatever it was) fell out. I gotta be more careful, as I will be doing a lot more renovating/building type work (putting up a new shed, renovate, etc).

    Saw you on the tele yesterday as the photographer in 《佛山贊師父》. Hope to see you again on the tele (via TVBJ).

    PS: Just to let you know, on my computer the preview didn't work for Firefox or Internet Explorer. It changed the URL to "http://www.typepad.com/t/comments" but didn't actually load that page. No biggy though

  2. 河國榮 says:

    Asget,

    what do you mean by "preview"?

    putting up a new shed? way to go!

  3. Tonia says:

    I knew what Asget talking about the "page layout error", becuase I have the same thing happen on my monitor when I load it today, you can try to Click on "SWITCH to 3-col Layout" on this page left hand side, then you can view the page Normnal again.

  4. 河國榮 says:

    I'm not seeing any problems with Safari, OmniWeb, Opera or Mozilla. which browsers are you people using to see the errors?

    (Reminder: Mozilla, Opera and FireFox are all free modern browsers and they're far far better than the current version of IE.)

  5. Tonia says:

    I do have know anything about the softwares you have mentioned above, and I'm using the IE 6.0
    , it may be the your web-page hosting problem !? on the last couple hours...! Because it seem fine now. And hope you and your helper get well soon.

  6. olee says:

    hey nice meeting u.. randomly found ur diary on the net..
    hope u'll recover soon!

    im using firefox and i dun have any problem while loading ur page :)

  7. katie says:

    I was so scare when I was reading your Bloglet. But it's good to see you are confident with the doctor, hope you can recover soon!take care! :)

  8. asget says:

    By 'preview' I meant the button under "Post a comment" the one next to the 'post' button. I wanted to preview just in case the Chinese characters I entered in to the comment box did not load properly. It still is not working but it is not a big problem, probably just my PC :)

    And I am using Firefox on WinXP Service Pack 2.

  9. sapphire says:

    河生,一般香港人很少好像你那麼 handy,可能跟你在澳洲長大有關吧!我們一家人以前住在香港時也很白痴,甚麼東西壞了都不懂修理,往往請別人做。但住在這裡後,雖然沒有你及你的"河大姐"那麼 handy,簡單的好像水龍頭的 spout 漏水,都懂得換 seat, spring or cartridge;如 flush tank 壞了都懂得換 flapper 或 ballcock 等等,再加上一些名廠產品如 Delta faucet 的 parts 都有 lifttime warranty,只要花少少時間,一毫子都不用花就可以把壞了的東西弄好,(這裡請人修理比香港貴很多),而且做完後還有少少成功感。(哈哈!)
    你下次修理東西時記住用 safety goggle 保護眼睛,painting 或 sanding 時用 N95 保護呼吸呀!

    P.S. preview 那個問題我在 Oct 16, "Ouch!" 的 article 中都有告訴過你,詳情你可以 refer 我那天的 commemt。

  10. MY says:

    Greg, glad to hear that you were able to get that piece of wood out of your eye.

    In the past I was never aware of protective equipment such as safety goggles, earplugs, hand gloves, steel-toed boots, visible vests, etc. Since working in an environment which requires frequent visits to a shop work area with large moving equipment, machinery and noise, I become more aware of safety in general. Even around the house, I make sure to wear safety glasses when mowing the lawn and covered shoes with long thick trousers when trimming the grass with the electric trimming. Don't want my legs to be whipped with the trimming line which is what happened to a co-worker of mine who was wearing shorts at the time. At work I sit next to a First Aider so I've heard enough "horror" stories of eyes popping out(sorry for the gory description) and other injuries. Lifting heavy items is one very common thing people forget. Keep the back straight and use your legs to lift. Move your whole body when turning, not just your waist.

    Btw, is it very convenient to get household repair items in hardware stores in Hong Kong as in Australia? I always thought that most Asian countries do not have hardware stores that supply what you need. Of course in North America you can get materials and equipment to build a whole house!

  11. 木子 says:

    Hey Mr. handy.

    Hope you'll get well soon and back to swimming! Be cautious when putting on makeup around your eye ^^

  12. sapphire says:

    Reading MY’s lawn mowing safety has reminded me of a terrible accident. One of our neighbors, a Caucasian was electric shocked with his electric lawn mower years ago. Due to the electric wire of his walk-behind mower was too long and kinky; he mowed the wire by negligence. Fortunately once the wire was damaged, the power shut off automatically. He was hospitalized for a day only for check-up and observation.
    In spite of the fact that electric mower is environmentally friendly than the fuel combustion mower, we decided to swap it for a fuel riding mower (the John Deere one) after our neighbor’s accident. My big brother was fond of mowing since then, and he called the “toy car” as Mercedes on the lawn.
    Also he told me that there’re some hardware stores and building material suppliers on Shanghai Street, Mongkok, particularly the section near HSBC MGK Main Branch.He worked for one of their internal departments in that building before.
    Mr. Ho, do you think you can find a safety goggles from there?

    >>The shop's name is easy to remember because it sounds like one of the local triad organisations, 新儀安全設備有限公司>>

    Btw, you’ll probably have a chance to meet some of the organization’s members when you go to MGK for your goggles. Don’t miss out! (LOL)

  13. MY says:

    Sapphire, have you tried the manual push reel mowers?

    http://www.cleanairgardening.com/reelmowers.html
    http://www.homedepot.ca/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10051&storeId=10051&categoryId=13109&langId=-15&parent_category_rn=13105&top_category=13105&level=3

    We have bought the 20" Yardworks 4-Wheel Reel Mower. It works quite well and we actually cover more surface area at one time because of the wide 20". We didn't bother to get the grass catcher tray because the clippings are now equally spread on the lawn and serve as fertilizer. No more noise and dust. Save on fuel. And the pushing even gives you a good workout!

    The first reel mower was invented by an English engineer named Edwin Budding in 1830. I remember my parents mentioning that 30 years ago they would watch their neighbours run around their yard with their reel mower. Any slow down and the mower wouldn't cut. Nowadays they have improve the gear ratio and a simple stroll will do the job.

  14. zane says:

    omg ~ is your eye ok ?sounds terrible ,,,,but still you wrote the whole story,,you can really be a writer besides acting wakaka~~

  15. Arthur Heng says:

    Now thats one lengthy entry haha, so thats what you'd been doing these few weeks. Seems like you didnt blog as often as when I started reading your stuffs, but I guess you're just extremely busy, plus the time limit program thing haha.

    Glad everything's ok with your eye, right one, right? But I wonder what will happen if you did blink while your doctor's removing the debris? -_-;; HK$20,000 operation?

    Your family sure're skillful eh? haha, I guess that's the main difference between Asian and Westerners, we're a bit too passive =(.

  16. 杜格拉斯 says:

    好o的未呀?覆診搵我飲荼o丫,不過唔好到o左先搵我。

  17. Anthea says:

    hey, first time that I stopped by your site. I've been seeing you on Tv since I was a kid. Interesting. U're making a journal too, wow. :)

    Anthea.xx

  18. sapphire says:

    >>>I guess that's the main difference between Asian and Westerners, we're a bit too passive>>>

    Arthur, I think it’s noting to do with Asian people are passive or active. You’d be very handy too if you lived in a western country. The reason is simple; we all have the ability to adapt to new things or new situations.
    Just like me, as a female member of the family, I’ve never fixed any home repair in HK before. Two weeks ago some wires from one of our telephone jacks disconnected due to wear and tear. Even though no one taught me how to fix it before, I opened up the good one for observation first (we got 5 jacks in the whole house.) Finally I successfully hooked up the phone wires within 10 minutes and saved abt HK$375. A licensed technician charge me abt $375 for first 45 minutes, and abt $130 for every extra 15 minutes plus a half day off from my office for his arrival at home. Under such circumstances, there’s no reason for me to remain passive.

  19. pyrrho says:

    my goodness! what a delightful (and surreal) surprise to find the blog of the "white guy who's always in those TVB shows and has WAY better cantonese than me". i must admit, it feels a bit unusual to see you express yourself using English, because in the 20+ years of watching TVB shows and seeing you in numerous roles, you have used fluent chinese in what seems like 90-95% of your lines. the exception was in "Angels of Mission" where you used virtually all English (with the nice Aussie accent!), and i thought that THAT seemed "unnatural". kudos to your work and your contribution to TVB! keep up the great work!

  20. AIKO says:

    HEYA !! COOL SITE N HOPE U'LL RECOVER SOON !!!=]

  21. Winza says:

    Nice site. I was happy to find this site through google's blogsearch when I typed in Hong Kong.

  22. california says:

    阿 greg: 下 次 整 屋 一 定 要 小 心 0的 喇. 獨 眼 龍 做 明 星 唔 夠 靚 仔. take care.

  23. california says:

    the beach at 石 澳 shek o seems to be a popular swimming place in hk. i have gone hiking in that area (龍 脊) but have never been to the beach. would it be a good choice for swimming, or are the beaches in nt better?

  24. mist73 says:

    Greg,

    Would can't believe someone will charge HK$20000 for a simple procedure. Hehe though I am quite junior but I surely have removed more than a dozen 'corneal rusts' from my patients! BTW, that orange fluid thingy is a solution to stain up any corneal abrasion.

    Hope u have recovered :p