Ahoy there, mateys!
I am currently in recovery mode, post surgery for a retinal detachment in my left eye. I’ve learned a lot through the process, so I’ll update and inform you here on the blog.
In early January, I noticed some bright flashing lights and then what looked like an oil spill in my eye. I quickly saw an ophthamologist, who treated the tear with laser surgery done right in his office. I was able to return to normal activity immediately, while I waited for the bits and pieces of blood to clear out of my eye. Everything returned to normal, and last week I went in for my regularly scheduled four-week post-laser check up. An examination revealed that the original tear had sealed, but the retina had begun to detach. This is a worst-case scenario; left untreated, it leads to blindness. Caught early, there are several treatment options and a high success rate.
HOW DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG?
I didn’t. That’s the interesting part; when it tore, I immediately realized there was an issue. When I went in for my checkup on Wednesday, I never anticipated a problem. The doctor assured me I would have noticed the darkening within a few days, but until he looked in my eye, I had no idea.
WHAT CAUSED IT?
I am very nearsighted – a -8.0 in each eye – which means my eyeball is “longer” than the average eye. As I understand it, that creates an extra bit of tension for the retina, which makes a detachment more likely. As all of our body changes with age in terms of elasticity and tone, parts of the eyeball go through similar alterations. There are no other complicating factors – not too much reading or computer usage or anything else. It is what it is, and I’m more susceptible because I was born nearsighted.
HOW DID THEY TREAT IT?
There are three possible treatments in my case; I received a scleral buckle, which is – literally – a band around my eyeball that will stay there permanently. It tightens the tissue so that the retina can reattach. I also welcomed a gas bubble into my eye; it creates internal pressure so that the retina will be more likely to stay attached. I think the doctor did some sort of “glue” type procedure on the retina while he was in there, maybe some sort of freezing – but I’m a little unclear on that. The bubble will eventually disappear on its own.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
My recovery orders are seven days home, off work. I feel fine, my brain is engaged and the pain is relatively minimal. However, in order for the gas bubble to do its trick, I have to do my part. Depending on where the retina detaches, this requires different “positioning” for each patient. Some folks have to spend a week face down. Thank you, Jesus – not me. I have to spend 55 minutes of every hours (and all night) with my head leaning to the right. I can see the bubble, really; so it’s fairly easy to keep it in the right spot. I get five minutes to move around, stretch, etc. – but the rest of the time I’m trying to obediently lean to the right. My neck hurts, but that’s a pretty minor inconvenience. My couch and I are good friends.
WILL MY EYE BE NORMAL WHEN IT’S OVER?
Full recovery will take up to six months. Up til then, my vision will be somewhat compromised – though how I manage it is up to me. My prescription for contacts and glasses will definitely change- for the worse – but that’s better than being blind in one eye. All indicators are that my eye will work normally, just a bit more nearsighted than before.
WILL IT HAPPEN AGAIN?
Who knows? I just plan to be hypervigilant – and you should, too – regarding any change in vision. Darkening around the edges, loss of peripheral vision, an unusual amount of new “floaters” – DON’T HESITATE. See your eye doctor!
I’ll be spending the next seven days as an opportunity, a gift to be down, move slowly, sit still, think long. I’ll catch up on Mad Men, I think; do a bit of reading (thought not TOO much) and rest. I’m convinced that God will teach me something while I am “seeing through a glass, darkly”.
Plus I’m working the pirate patch.
Thanks to all who have called, texted, emailed, sent Facebook messages and sent food for the troops here. We feel very loved and well-cared for.
Special joy this weekend as all my girls made it home Friday! Sarah was in town for a wedding, and Shannon and Sydni came home briefly to see their sister.
Also, big shout out to the folks at the Retina Institute of Virginia, where my wonderful optometrist Dr. Tonya Sylvia sent me right away. Dr. Juan Astruc has provided most of my care, including the laser surgery, but Dr. Bryan Schwent “installed” my scleral buckle and the gas bubble. I am impressed by the care I have received at every level – from the nurses and office management at the Retina Institute to the folks at the Stony Point Surgery Center. I can safely say that this experience with the medical profession has been the most positive of my life, in every regard. I strongly recommend this practice to you, and I’m grateful for their expertise.