Eye health that is.
(WARNING … Graphic Eye Surgery Details included below. Read at your own risk if you’re squeamish about your eyes.)
Somewhere around eight years ago, I was sitting in a morning meeting at work when I started noticing weird flashes of light in my peripheral vision. Then I started noticing what are called floaters — little black specks floating around in the vision of my left eye. I talked to a co-worker who assured me I shouldn’t worry since she had floaters since she was a teenager. Well, I hadn’t. So late in the afternoon I went to my optometrist. “It’s probably nothing, but let’s take a look,” he said, mere moments before he then said, “You need to see an ophthalmologist. Now.” I raced to my Kaiser ophthalmologist. He looked at my left eye and said, “I don’t have an powerful enough light to see in there, you need to see a retina specialist. Now.” Through rush hour traffic, I raced to the offices of the Kaiser retina specialist and at 7:00 that evening, I ended up having the first of four procedures designed to fix my detached retina.
I have been told by several eye doctors, retina specialists, etc., since then that if I hadn’t gone in then and had the “repair” done, I could have lost the vision in my left eye.
As I understand it, there are a couple of different ways to repair a detached retina. My father had an air bubble injected into his eye when he had a detached retina. My understanding is that the air bubble holds the retina in place while it heals and re-attaches. The other option is what I had. Laser surgery. No. Not Lasik. This is laser surgery that involves a laser that zaps the surface of the retina, burning it, and creating scar tissue that will hold the retina in place. It isn’t just one or two zaps. It’s hundreds of those zaps. While an incredibly bright light is shone into your eye through a magnifier to allow the retina specialist to see what he or she is doing.
Let me be clear about something … that brilliant bright light shone through the magnifier is beyond uncomfortable. Add to that the green laser that is zapping your eyeball over and over and over again and… I think you get the picture. It’s an odd thing. There isn’t a lot of actual pain involved, but there is something to this that borders on torture. Inhumane. Unacceptable. Beyond anything I ever want to experience again.
So, I had the repair done. I went to Tahoe that weekend with a follow up appointment on my return. And had to go through it again. And then two more times over the course of the next week. By the time those four “fixes” were done, I never wanted anybody to touch my eyeball again.
Problem is I didn’t have a choice. I had regular follow-ups to make sure the retina was holding. As the months wore on, the retina held, but complications set in. I developed a macular pucker — also known as a wrinkle on the surface of my retina. It began as nothing more than what I described as looking like somebody tapped my glasses with the tip of their finger, creating a small smudge in the center. Something that I could work around by re-focusing my eye in a different way. The problem was that the smudge grew and grew and grew as the wrinkle on the surface of my retina also grew and grew and grew. In addition, I developed a cataract in the eye.
So, about two and a half years ago, I had the cataract replaced. The new lens in my left eye provides me with almost 20-20 vision. I’m Ok with that and the cataract surgery went great. I was given drugs that put me in a “twilight state.” Not completely put under, but under the influence enough that I was definitely out of it.
The big hurdle was the macular pucker surgery. Here’s what it involves. (Last chance to avoid graphic eye detail surgery) Three needles stuck in the ol’ eyeball. The fluid drained out. The surface of the retina scraped to repair the wrinkle. Fluid replaced.
After all I had been through to repair the detachment, I just didn’t want to go through this. I wanted my eyeball left alone. But that smudge continued to grow and grow and grow. There came a point where I had no choice. I had to get it done. That was about a year and a half ago. The surgery went fine. It was actually incredible in some respects. Once again, I opted for the twilight state rather than general anesthetic. As a result, I was awake during the procedure. And, here’s what I remember. After the doctor drained the fluid from my eye, he injected a green dye to highlight the portion he would need to work on. I could actually see the green dye injected into my eyeball. And then I could see the tweezers he used to pluck away the damaged layers of the surface of my retina. It was beyond incredible.
And, it worked. The distortion in my left eye is gone.
Over the last eight years I have had to go back to the retina specialist regularly to make sure things are OK. Here’s the deal — for those who have gone through a regular optometrist inspection, even with your eyes dilated, you don’t have a clue what it could really be like. The light a retina specialist has, magnified with a powerful lens, is brighter than a thousand suns. Or at least it feels that way. Plus, they poke and prod your eyeball to open it for them to see every nook and cranny of the surface of your retina. I’ve had this done so many times over the last few years and it is torture to me.
Today, I saw the retina specialist. For the first time once his torture session … I mean, examination of my retina … was complete, he suggested it was time to stop the regular checks. I am now officially in the “come in if anything changes” stage of treatment.
You cannot even begin to imagine how good this feels.