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3 months … and …

The official 3 month post-op day came and went without any fanfare. The gas bubble had finally disappeared and normal vision seemed to be within my grasp. Dr A had initially said that I would have a good idea of what my vision would be about that time.

But there was nothing. Well, maybe a little, but not much to get excited about. I could see the big E on the chart and the next line down seemed to be getting clearer. I’d been holding my breath, metaphorically speaking, for a long time, and the expected, hoped for return to normal just wasn’t happening.

The appointment with Dr A at that time revealed that my eye was healing fabulously. No scar tissue. No complications. No re-detachment of the retina. Everything looked perfect … except for the fact that I couldn’t see.

“Well, ” he says, “it can take up to 2 years to fully recover from such a surgery. And you are getting a cataract. We’ll have to watch that, but that may be why your vision is compromised.”

What?! Two years? Cataract?

Crap. This is taking way longer than the couple of months I’d imagined when I had surgery.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Day by day

 

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4 Weeks – Almost

Just got home from the latest post-op appointment – 26 days after surgery.

I feel fine. My eye feels fine. So, when someone asks ‘how are you?’, my automatic response is ‘fine’.

But that’s not really true. I’m working as hard as I can to function well with vision in only one eye. I’m working to adapt to the new normal. I’m working to be as positive as I can about the unknown end result of the surgery. I’m working to accept the things I cannot change.

I’m exhausted. I still have no vision in the bad eye and I’m exhausted.

So, I’ve felt a little anxious about the follow up appointment scheduled for this morning. Each time I have an appointment I see several people for a series of tests on my eyes before I see the dr. One of the tests involves taking some kind of measurement or picture of my retinas. The woman operating the machine tests my good eye and then proceeds to begin the test on the bad eye. I can’t see the ‘snowflake’ in the machine and she repeatedly adjusts settings in an attempt to perform the test. Finally, in frustration, she calls over another person for help. He sits at the machine momentarily and makes the comment ‘well, she can’t see anything’ and ends the test. The woman sighs and says something about protecting my good eye because ‘it’s my life’.

What does this mean? Should I have all my vision back at this point? Why perform some stupid test that can’t be done on the bad eye? Why do they not have people working there who are at least semi-aware that thoughtless comments can have a huge impact on how I feel?

When I finally see the dr he looks in the bad eye, makes comments for the nurse in the room to transcribe into the computer and sits back. I take this as my cue to ask the questions crowding my mind. When I explain that I still cannot see anything he briefly talks about the gas bubble still present in my eye and being patient as the recovery process continues.

Then he stops. He tells me to hold my head completely parallel to the floor and hold my glasses (which I’m holding in my hand) a couple of inches from my face.

I can see them. And the tears fall.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Day by day

 

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The Eye Patch aka Functioning w/ One Eye

As I was preparing for my first day back at work I stumbled upon a blog (Precious Sight) written by a woman in a similar situation. She mentioned wearing an eye patch and how it helped.

An eye patch – really? How many people do you see wearing them out in the real world? Well, other than my friend who was dealing with double vision for a short time I’d never seen ANYONE wearing one.

Where to buy one? Took a look at my local Target. Nada. Then I noticed the Halloween decorations. Maybe a costume eye patch? Found a package of 10 felt-ish eye patches with a skull and crossbones graphic. Could work. They’d probably fit well under my glasses. And maybe the obvious costume-y look would be less noticeable when worn beneath my glasses.

Got home with my purchase anxious to try them. I felt silly … like some Halloween junky. But the whole idea was to make working easier, so I stuffed them in my purse.

The evening before going back to work I talked my husband into taking me to a local drug store for a ‘real’ eye patch. Score. Found a rigid, satin-y black number that didn’t touch my eye when I put it on. It felt relatively comfortable – ‘relatively’ being the operative word. Putting a cone shaped patch on my face wasn’t comfortable in any real way, but slightly better than the flat costume patches I’d invested in earlier.

So now it’s been two weeks of work. With an eye patch. Here’s what I now know -

  • I don’t like the patch touching my eye. It feels better to let my bad eye function as normally as possible – blinking, crying, squinting – without being held shut.
  • I have MUCH better vision without the distraction of the bad eye. Truly.
  • Driving is a lot easier, too. Still have a blind spot (haha), but without the mess of looking through the bad eye it’s easier to focus and concentrate while driving.
  • Putting the patch on is an acquired skill. The goal is to wear it comfortably first and foremost. Style comes a distant second (it is an eye patch after all).
  • After a long day at work it’s a relief to take the patch off when I get home.
  • When I put the patch on in the morning it’s a relief to finally see better.
  • My co-workers enjoy pirate jokes. =)
 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Info

 

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Day 14 – Driving to Work

Day 14 was my first full day back at work.

Some of the thoughts running through my brain: ‘Will I be able to work?’ … ‘Can I see well enough to do the job?’ … ‘What if I make awful mistakes?’ … ‘Am I confident enough to drive to and from work?’ … ‘What will my working relationships be like with only one eye?’ … ‘Can I even do my job?’ … and on and on.

I couldn’t sleep the night before. All night I worried about a myriad of things (some were definitely unfounded fears, some more substantial) and one of my top fears was the actual getting to work – driving.

I’d done a little driving since being released from positional confinement, but driving all the way to work (7 miles – no freeways, thankfully) was still a task I wasn’t sure I could do – especially in morning rush hour traffic.

Okay, here’s what you need to know … I love driving! I have a cute New Beetle, 5 speed manual transmission, turbo diesel, flowers in the vase, glittery antenna ball (I love my car). I really enjoy morning driving – maneuvering through the achingly slow drivers (how do those people function at half speed??), shifting through the gears of my peppy little car, listening to the purr/growl of my engine (it is a diesel), playing music a little more loudly than I do at home – all in the 15 to 20 minutes it takes to get to work. It’s a great way to start my day! I love it.

And now I was dreading it. My left eye doesn’t work – in fact, makes my overall vision worse. Can I change lanes into a lane left of me? (nope, too afraid – I have a real blind spot now) Can I turn left out of my neighborhood without going to a light? (nope, don’t trust my judgement yet) Can I even go the speed limit? (umm, no – too afraid – 5 under is better – gives me more time to judge and be aware of my surroundings)

Oh. My. Goodness.

What have I become?! (answer – one of those ‘achingly slow drivers’ I mentioned above)

This is definitely humbling.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Day by day

 

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Gas Bubble in the Eye – pics

So this is what the gas bubble in my eye looks like on day 9.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Day by day, Info

 

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Day 9 – Paroled!

Did you hear choirs of angels singing today? I did!

I had my 2nd post op appointment with Dr A and it went swimmingly. My eye is fabulous (minus the part that I can’t see a blasted thing – oh well). I was given the okay to go back to work, sit up straight, even drive (hmmm, I’m feeling a little unsure about that one). Oh, to be back among the normal people who can sit up and look around! Such joy!

And I’m really serious about the ‘joy’ part – really. I will forever try to remember to be grateful for not having to lay on one side or face down all the time. It sucks looking at the floor constantly.

And the part about not being able to see anything in my left eye … well, that’s true. I can see light and some shadows. Turns out it will take approximately 3 months for me to know what kind of vision I will have in my eye when all’s said and done. And I may end up getting a cataract from the whole thing – another bump along the road – some time in the future (anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of years). That’s all manageable.

I’ve done what I needed to do to prevent almost certainly losing all my vision permanently in my left eye. Not fun. But I’m infinitely grateful for modern medicine that has come so far in the prevention of said blindness.

I do wonder, though, who came up with the whole gas-bubble-in-the-eye bit. Gotta be some brainiac dr somewhere who couldn’t sleep one night. To whomever it was – Thank You! I’m hoping that amazing idea leads to better vision in my left eye.

And if you happen to see me out driving – yeah, I’m going a little slow and I’m trying to not run into things. But take heart – the dr repeated several times that it’s legal for me to drive with vision in only one eye! Hurrah!

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Day by day

 

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Informed Consent

It’s the law – in every state – that has its beginnings in the 1950s.

From the AMA (American Medical Association) website:   It is a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention.

Not exactly what I would say I had – not at all. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s all the dr’s fault. I know some of it is mine. How?

Well, I didn’t take the time to read thoroughly all the papers I signed. Shocking, I know. I’m sure there were some in there that I should’ve slowed down to read. Maybe all of them.

I relied on the dr to give me the straight scoop on the whole mess. I listened patiently as he went through his rehearsed monologue on all of the important info. When it came time to ask questions, I did, but I didn’t know enough to ask the probing questions, the ones that might have gotten me the knowledge I wanted.

Or maybe I didn’t want to know. It’s hard to look back now, revisit those moments and think about how I really felt. I know I was scared (we’re talking about my eyesight and all I can think is ‘I don’t want to go blind’). Maybe all I wanted was some god-like dr to fix it all for me, to wave his magic wand (in the OR of course) and make everything all better.

I’m not putting all the responsibility on him – not by a long shot – but there has to be a better way.

My med school student son called me when I got home after surgery. I was mad – angry at my situation and how unprepared I was for being here. I listed off all the things I’d had no idea about and how I felt I’d not been given all the pertinent information to make the decision to go forward with surgery.

He laughed – not a hearty chuckle, but a knowing laugh. ‘Oh, Mom, you didn’t really expect him to tell you all of that!’

‘I certainly did! I wanted to know!’ Well, if not completely true for the moment with the dr, it was true now.

I guess I screwed up. Maybe I gave mixed signals to the dr during the initial visit. Maybe there’s a paper – on top of all the other papers – that we should sign before all the others: ‘PLEASE GIVE ME THE TRUTH, COMPLETE AND UNVARNISHED.’

I’m pretty sure I would’ve signed it.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Rants

 

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Days 3, 4, 5 & 6 – Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet?

That phrase uttered countless times by my sweet kids comes to mind now.  How appropriate. Are we there yet? Am I done yet? Can I be done now, please?

I’ve been feeling done today. (On the happy side, I’m just about finished with day 6 – more than half way, hopefully.) I’m tired of laying around, napping when I don’t want to (gosh, did I just say that?), feeling dependent in ways I haven’t in a long time, and hoping others do my jobs the way I like (ha! what a silly thing to want – I should be happy they’re just doing my job & getting it done).

My body hurts from not moving, from laying in one position as long as I can stand it and from forever and always hanging my head if I decide to sit up. How did I never appreciate being able to roll over at night? Or sit up straight and look around?

Okay, okay, enough ‘kicking against the pricks’ (as a friend once said to me). Time to work on changing my attitude. Time to be grateful for what I do have right now.

Hmmm….

I’m grateful my fabulous husband saw where today was going and is on his way (at this very moment!) to pick up dinner at Cafe Rio. (I’m grateful we have a Cafe Rio relatively close by.)

I’m grateful to have a vacation from the hurried pace of normal life. No need to worry about bad-hair days – they’re all bad-hair days! AND there’s no one to see the bad hair (except for the fabulous husband mentioned above).

I’m grateful to be able to take a shower. There’s something wonderful about being in clean clothes after laying around for a whole day.

I’m grateful for family and friends who’ve called and stopped by to give their love and support. It’s nice to feel remembered when I’m so obviously not part of normal life.

So much to be thankful for … I am blessed.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Day by day

 

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Day 2 – Post Op Appt

On Monday (when this whole journey began) I met with the woman in the office who scheduled my surgery and post op appointments.

‘Are you an early riser? What time would you like to schedule the surgery/appointment?’

Several years ago I would have automatically said something like ‘midmorning’ or ‘early afternoon’. Not any longer. Since taking my second job I’ve gradually become a morning person. My husband likes this. It means we go to bed and get up closer to the same time.

I come from a family of people who hold night jobs. My mother worked as an RN on the night shift for years (she says it was the slower pace and higher pay that was so attractive – I know it’s because she liked staying up late and sleeping in). My brother worked many years at a bank clearing the checks deposited that day (his shift started at 10pm). I’ve always had an easier time working late than getting up early to finish a project.

Not any longer. Give me the earliest surgical appointment. Lets get this done and move on. I want nothing to do with waiting half a day for surgery or an appointment. If there’s going to be a challenge that day, give it to me now.

I had the earliest appointment for my first post-op checkup. One upside is avoiding crowds of people who may think I have a serious depression problem – my head down, I shuffle slightly – I’m a little off balance and have no depth of field.

I eventually saw Dr M. When the shield was removed from my eye I was surprised by my lack of vision. I knew not to expect much, but still…only light and shadows. Prior to surgery I had an area of no vision – completely blank – but now it’s different, now I have nothing. She doesn’t seem concerned, so I take my cue from her. Patience, I need to practice patience.

She tells me that reading is okay in moderation (I’ve since figured out when I’ve gone past ‘moderation’). I ask about laying flat vs focusing on my head position. It’s all about head position, she says, but I realize I don’t have the neck and shoulder muscles to hold my head correctly sitting up for long – I have to rest my forehead on a table to eat. It’s much easier to lay flat.

I feel much better after my visit with her. I have a better idea what the next 10 days will be like – good and bad – and that is comforting in a strange way.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Day by day

 

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Day 1 – Post Op

So here’s the gist of what rules my life right now: I have a gas bubble in my eye that floats to the top and applies needed pressure to the retina. This pressure helps the retina re-attach to the back of the eye, restoring vision. This is why the position of my head is so crucial – that bubble has to hit the correct spot to make the whole thing work or all of this is for nothing. So my one goal right now is to keep the bubble pressed against the back and left of my left eye.

The concept couldn’t be easier – just stay in a position to keep the bubble where it needs to be. Sounds simple. Doing it is another matter altogether.

So as I’m getting ready to leave the surgery center the nurse does what she’s supposed to do – gives me the discharge orders from the dr. It’s only at this moment when I realize how mistaken I was as I’d listened to him in my first appointment.

I’d heard him say that I’d have to lay down for a week, yes, but it did not register as ’24 – 7′. It sounded more like good advice. And he certainly did not say 10 days – I heard ‘a week’.

I’d read briefly about the gas bubble in my eye before surgery. In my mind I saw a bubble filling the inside of my eye exerting pressure evenly across the retina. This isn’t so. The bubble is relatively small and must be manipulated by positioning – a very different animal.

So, the nurse begins reading the discharge orders and ends with something like ‘and you must keep your head down in the car on the way home’. I’m still digesting the whole ’10 days laying down’ bit when she said this and I stop her.

‘You’re serious?’ I ask.

‘Absolutely,’ she says and she bends over to show me (in case I’m not able to understand her words, I assume). She goes into further detail how little my head is allowed in an upright position – 5 minutes an hour to go to the bathroom. I should be laying on my right side with my head facing down or in some completely face down way for the next 10 days…except for those 5 minutes each hour.

‘Also, no reading, tv, or computer for the next 10 days,’ she continues.

‘What??’ my brain is screaming. I’m so completely taken back by this information I can’t think straight. I’d imagined a difficult 7 days kind of laying around, reading, watching tv, maybe a little time on the computer. Very boring. Very very boring, but manageable.

I tell my husband, as we get in his huge pickup, to drive the 30 miles home carefully or he’ll end up with a decapitated wife if the airbag goes off.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Day by day

 

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