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.
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.
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.
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.