Tuesday, October 2, 2012

She brought a tear to my eye

Warning - if you're squeamish about eyes, read no further.
Last Thursday at work I noticed an enormous new floater in my right eye.  The outline of it looked like a monkey hanging from a vine.  It was very annoying because it was right in the center of my field of vision.  Sometimes when I looked from my computer screen to my keyboard I noticed a momentary flash of light. 

Frustrated with a technical glitch discovered while editing my department's website, I took an earlier than usual lunch.  My usual lunchmate was busy so I sat and ate by myself.  It was during that quiet time over lunch that the words of warning from doctor upon doctor returned to me: "because of your extreme myopia, you are at high risk for retinal detachment.  Should you ever see flashes of light, call a doctor immediately".

I started paying closer attention to the flashes and the floater, then I looked up symptoms of retinal detachment on my phone. 

Holy crap:
  • flashes of light... check
  • sudden onset of large floaters... check
I hightailed it to my office and called the eye doctor right away.  While I was speaking to a technician, I remembered that the previous night Rosemary had gotten a little too excited and had head-butted me in the eye. It had hurt like hell.  After a couple of minutes the pain subsided and I had forgotten all about it.

But wait.  An eye injury was also on the list of symptoms of retinal detachment.  Oh no.  Rosemary's head-butting to my eye counted as an injury.
  • recent trauma to the eye... check
The nearby eye clinic didn't have an appointment.  They wanted to know if I could drive to the clinic that's about 15 miles away in an hour.  Does a bear poop in the woods?  Hell yes, I can get myself there.  I drove home, grabbed Gene, and we went up together.

We walked into the clinic at 2:10.  By 2:45 I had been diagnosed with a horseshoe retinal tear but not retinal detachment.

The optometrist said that the resident opthamalogist would perform immediate laser surgery to repair it. 

"Whuuut?  You mean, right now?" I gaped ever-so-eloquently.

"Yes.  We're going to 'spot weld' the tissue around the tear in place to prevent further leakage of the fluid in your eye and to avoid any loss of sight.  Gravity will continue to pull at that tear and you don't want to wait any longer than necessary.  If you leave it, it'll develop into full retinal detachment and you'll go blind in that eye."


I must have looked like a fish, opening and closing my mouth without saying anything.  I had been expecting this to happen - for years, actually - but it was going really fast.  Gene is squeamish about eyes the way I am about broken bones.  When I went into the waiting room to tell him what was happening, he visibly blanched.

About 30 minutes later I had laser surgery.  It's not a pleasant procedure.  Some of the 350 laser blasts hurt, but at least I'd been warned of that fact in advance.  The hardest part is getting over the insanely strong urge to close your eye due to the bright flashes of light.

The upper back part of of my eye now looks like this. 
My eye has a 'fro'd-out happy face because it can still see.

The new floater is omnipresent, and make take a few months to go away.  I've also got a small blind spot from the tear where the laser and tear were: like I've been looking at a bright light (which I guess I did) and/or have something on my cheek.  I also have lots of little black specks in my field of vision, which cause me to wave off nonexistent fruit flies, imagine phantom rats and cockroaches scurrying by, and turn my head to see birds that aren't really there.  My vision is hazy in that eye and I've got a follow-up appointment scheduled in another week.

I'm glad that I'd listened to doctors all those times I'd been told of the warning signs of retinal detachment.  I'm fortunate to have decent health care.

But most of all, I'm thankful I can still see with both eyes.

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