On Saturday afternoon, July 8, I started to see thousands of dots and big ropey floaters in my “good” right eye (as opposed to my “blind” left eye that had had a retinal detachment 25 years before), but then it was better on Saturday night. The dots came back Sunday morning while I was riding my bike with my good friend John Blackburn and his sister-in-law. I joked that perhaps I was going blind, and that later on they’d be able to say that “We were there to see it — how we laughed!”
I had already decided to go see an Opthamologist on Monday, but then at about 6:00pm Sunday, I started getting a lot of the big floaters and my vision in my right eye deteriorated catastrophically to a cloudy mess (and by the way, if you want fast service at the Emergency Room, “Sudden Catastrophic Loss of Vision In One Eye” is a real door-opener; “Right this way, sir.” They didn’t even finish taking all my paperwork before sending me back. Initial reports from the ER Doc were not good: “I can’t see anything — it’s all orange in there.” He paged a retinal surgeon, who confirmed (as expected) that my right eye was bleeding internally (hence all the floaters and dots, and eventually total cloudiness).
The retinal surgeon couldn’t see well enough into the eye to tell for sure what had happened, but he thought it was a bleed without a detachment, and he told me to come to his office the next morning for an ultrasound and possibly he would freeze part of the eye to stop the bleeding He said that the eye is actually pretty good at clearing small amounts of blood from the vitreous humour, and that I should regain all or most of my vision in that eye.
The next morning (Monday) I went into his office, and he did the promised ultrasound, and showed me pictures of the retina, which was plenty detached. He said that he’d have to operate that night (!!), and that they would stick instruments (straws) into my eye and remove the bloody vitreous gel. This would be replaced with saline solution and a sulpherous pressurized gas to force the retina back down against the eye wall, where they could use cryo (super-cold) probes to kill parts of it, which would create more scar tissue and tack it down.
I arrived at the hospital Monday at 4:30pm, and they were completely surprised to see me then — the doctor had intended for me to go over to the hospital immediately, but the directions that he had given me said to go there at 4:30pm, so now they were just racing, racing, taking blood, doing EKG’s, completing the pre-operative physical, and by the time the anesthesiologist was ready to knock me out, they still didn’t have the blood work back. So, the surgeon and the anesthesiologist looked at each other, and said, “He’s 44! He’s healthy!” I offered that I had ridden 100 miles on a bike in a single day twice that year, and the anesthesiologist said, “Ok, you’re healthy in my book, and don’t let anybody tell you any different! Let’s go!”
They took me into the operating room, and we’re just chatting, and then I guess they put me to sleep for about 5 minutes while they paralyzed my right eye and inserted the straws and other microsurgery instruments into my eye. Then they allowed me to wake up for the rest of the surgery, but I didn’t realize that I had ever been asleep or that anything had happened, so I started to chat and they said, “No, no, no, not now, we have things in your eye now.” So I stayed quiet underneath my blanket. My whole body and face were covered except for the eye that they were working on, so it was a bit cadaverous for me under the blankets. So it was simultaneously scary and boring for about two hours.
Plus, they were having trouble, which I could listen to because I was perfectly lucid. The retinal detachment was small, but there was also a huge retinal tear — about a 1/4 of my retina was flapping around.
When they were done operating, they asked me if I would like to spend the night at the hospital, rather than going home immediately as per the original plan, because the operation had taken much longer than expected and I was likely to be in pain (and in the hospital, they can give you delicious Demerol shots). I said sure, and was really glad I had.
Tuesday morning I checked out of the hospital and went to the retinal surgeon’s office for a follow-up. He looked in and said that it looked good so far.
So now I have to keep my head down for at least the next several days, and possibly as much as the next week, while we wait for the gas bubble to dissipate, and for my eye to manufacture new clear vitreous humour gel to replace it. This is because if the gas has too much contact with the lens, it will cause a cataract (which might happen anyway). My inter-ocular pressure is high (which is good for the retinal detachment), but it’s too high (which is bad for glaucoma) so I have to take medicine for now to lower the pressure.
My current status is that I have totally unfocused and dark vision in my right eye. I’m typing this using my left eye, the eye that for 25 years I’ve called “my blind eye”, but which I’m now going to call my “excellent eye”.
Thanks to everybody for the cards and flowers — it makes a huge, huge difference, when you’re in pain, to know that people are thinking of you.
More news as it happens.