On the air conditioning unit of a room number I don’t remember in the Backpacker’s Hostel K’s House Tokyo, 20-10, Kuramae 3-chome, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan 111-0051. I posted this sticker before I knew the full story.
I recently returned from a trip to Japan with my brother. On our trip we spent time in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. While in Osaka, we ventured to the top of the Umeda Sky Building (pictured below) to get panoramic views of the city and watch the sunset.
As the sun set, I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera with my right eye, closing my left eye, to compose several shots over the duration of about half an hour. Between shots, I’d take breaks, opening both eyes to enjoy the sunset in its presence.
Later that night, on the train back to Kyoto, I started to develop a headache behind my left eye. I didn’t think much of it, and popped a couple ibuprofen.
The next morning, it was clear that something was wrong with my eye. The pain was intense and I was extremely light sensitive in that eye. After spending some time on WebMD, I had come to the conclusion that I had burned my retina the previous evening, photographing the sunset. It was in my left eye, which was the eye I had closed to look through my camera. My theory was that while my right eye had more exposure to the sun, the pupil in that eye was properly contracted, while the pupil in my left eye would have dilated while my it was closed, and then would have let in more sunlight when I opened it. WebMD said there wasn’t much you could do for a burnt retina, and that it would just heal with time like a sunburn.
The itinerary for that day had us exploring a couple sites in Kyoto, and then taking a bullet train to Tokyo, where we had started our journey, and would spend a couple more days before flying back home. While in Kyoto, I pressed on, just kind of closing my left eye, and trying to unfocus my eyes, as that seemed to relieve the pain. But by the time we arrived at our hostel in Tokyo, I wanted nothing but to just stay in our room and keep my eyes closed in its darkness. My brother went out and bought some adhesive eyepatches for me to help keep the sun out of my eye, and explored Tokyo on his own.
I spent two days in that hostel room alone, in agonising pain, wishing I could be out exploring Tokyo with my brother. And what was worse was I had a ten hour flight ahead of me, across the Pacific, to LAX. And what was EVEN worse, was my car was parked in LA, but I live in San Diego, a two-four hour drive depending on traffic. And I was in no shape to drive. My brother couldn’t help, because he was continuing onto Atlanta from LAX.
Web chatting with my girlfriend from the hostel room the day before I left, she offered to fly from San Diego to LA, and then drive me and my car back to San Diego. BEST. GIRLFRIEND. EVER.
My flight left Monday morning and arrived later that evening. So we arranged for her to get a flight into LA Monday evening. Unfortunately, I had failed to consider I’d be crossing the International Dateline. So I left Tokyo on Monday, but I arrived in LA on Sunday. So I had to find a hotel in LA, and do the agonising-pain-in-a-hotel-room-when-you’d-rather-be-somewhere-else thing all over again, until Monday evening, when my girlfriend would be there to pick me up.
She ultimately picked me up and drove me back to San Diego. On Tuesday morning, I was still in agonising pain. We called the ophthalmologist, and he saw me later that day. He took one look at my eye, and said, “Oh, you have shingles. Here are some meds that will clear that up for you.” And that’s why you see a doctor instead of self-diagnosing on WebMD.