I've Been Feeling Detached Lately
Before I get back to gadgets, feeds, and Google, I have had a personal harrowing experience the past couple of weeks that I will share as a cautionary tale.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was visiting the mother ship, I noticed that something was "off" with my left eye. It seemed like the inside part of my left eye was looking through water or something, and it was messing with my perspective vision. Nothing hurt, and it wasn't hard to compensate for, but it was still kind of annoying. When I got back to Chicago on Wednesday (8/15), I called for an appointment with my ophthalmologist; I had LASIK done back in 1999 and I hadn't had a check-up in a couple of years, so I was overdue anyway. I just said that I needed check-up and that my left eye was a little funky. The doctor was on vacation that week, but I had an appointment for the following Tuesday.
The rest of the week was fine ... the eye was a little annoying, but not that big of a deal. I was a little anxious about the appointment, because that watery spot on my eye was not going away. At 2:00pm on Tuesday (8/21) I drove to the eye doctor's office. I went through a bunch of tests that all seemed kind of normal, plus a "side vision" test which is like a video game from 1974: when you see a little spot of light anywhere in your vision, press a little button which goes beep. The right eye was a steady series of beeps, but the left eye had long periods of time with no beeps. Hmmm.
The fun started after the doctor dilated my eyes and he began to examine my eyes with a bright light and some kind of lens that formed a very bright green vertical line. Right eye ... fine. When he got to my left eye and went looking around, he actually GASPED. He pushed back in his stool and all of the sudden he started treating me like I was radioactive. "Don't bend over. Don't shake your head. When was the last time you ate something today?" I knew things were probably not good after he asked that question.
He said that my left retina had become detached. Fortunately, it was only partially detached because it had not reached my macula, but I needed to have it taken care of right away or I risked permanent vision loss. So they made an appointment with a retina specialist in the area and I drove directly to the new office (which fortunately was in Arlington Heights where I live). This was at like 4:30pm. I figured I was probably going to ruin someone's evening.
More stinging eye drops, more bright lights, more tests ... yep, a serious detached retina. "When was the last time you ate something today?" I was going to have to go into surgery that night. A quick stop at home to coordinate babysitters and then I was off to the hospital. I haven't driven since then. Checking into the hospital was a piece of cake, and soon enough I was just lying around waiting for the 10pm surgery. Christine made it to the hospital right before I was rolled into the operating room.
They were going to perform a couple of procedures to re-attach the retina. The first is called a scleral buckle, which involves putting a flexible band around the eye to try to squeeze the wall back to the retina so it will go back into place. The second procedure is called a vitrectomy, where they essentially suck the fluid out of your eye and replace it with a gas bubble -- the idea that the gas bubble will exert pressure on the retina wall to keep it in place. It was this gas bubble that would become my nemesis.
The procedure started and I was under "twilight sedation", which is really pretty freaky. I remember the whole procedure (well, at least I think I do). I remember talking to the doctor while he was doing God knows what with needles and scalpels to my eye. They covered my right eye so I couldn't see anything, but still it was wild not being freaked out by all of that. That twilight sedation is good stuff. All in all, the procedure took a little over two hours.
Christine then drove me home. My eye was all patched up and I had a shield over my eye as well. In order to put the gas bubble in the right position, I had to sleep all night on my left side, which was tough because that was the bad eye side. Let's just say it was a very long, uncomfortable night. When I woke up, I had to continue lie on my left side as much as I could -- either that or I had to stare at the floor. At least on the left side I could watch some television.
I had a post-op appointment at 2pm in Chicago, which my dad drove me to (thanks Dad!). The bandages came off and everything was a blurry mess. Apparently this is okay, though, because the doctor said that everything looked good. My instructions for the next seven days were: use four different eye drops four times a day, no washing my hair, no lifting anything more than 5 lbs., no flying, try not to read very much, and maintain my head in a certain position -- either laying down on my right side or staring at the floor -- for at least 22 hours out of the day.
So, for the next few days my hair got grungier, my right hip and shoulder got sore, and my eye looked nasty. It wasn't too painful ... mostly just headaches that were the worst at night. I couldn't do much but lay around and either sleep or watch tv. That was actually a silver lining ... I haven't felt that rested in quite some time. I could do some work on the laptop by hunching over and staring down at the laptop below me, but really only for short bursts of activity. The FeedBurner team was very supportive and covered for me nicely.
This past Tuesday (8/28) I went in for another check-up and got the good news: the gas bubble had done the job and the retina had successfully re-attached. I could pretty much get on with my life, except I still couldn't see out of my left eye and I still couldn't get on a plane or drive. Oh, and I still had to sleep only on my right side, but during the day I could go about my normal business -- just take it easy staring at a computer screen. This was fantastic. I celebrated by taking a shower and washing my hair.
I actually went back to the office on Thursday. I couldn't stare at the computer screen for too long, but it was great to get out of the house. My depth perception and peripheral vision is horrible, so there's a lot of my gliding around with my hands out to guide me. And of course I've got the crazy eye to scare the children and co-workers: the pupil is always dilated and is a little, well, bug-eyed. And red. Not the prettiest thing you've seen, but a whole lot better than it was a couple of days after the surgery!
So, what's next? Well, I had planned my brother's bachelor party in Las Vegas for next weekend, but I wouldn't be able to get on a plane because the gas bubble will still most likely be in my eye. So we're doing a trip up to Wisconsin instead. It will supposedly take a few weeks before I'll have reasonable vision in my left eye. Right now, when I look straight ahead, I "see" the gas bubble in the bottom half of my vision (it looks like I'm looking through a drop of water) and the top half of my vision is like looking through a thick yellow plastic sheet. That will supposedly get better, although I might have wear glasses or a contact lens. Bummer.
As soon as my left eye recovers, I actually have to go in and have preventative laser surgery on my right eye. Apparently there are thin spots and small holes in the right eye retina wall, so it is susceptible to detachment. As long as there's no gas bubble, I'm in!
What should you take away from this? Well, if you ever see flashing lights, new floaters, a shadow in the periphery of your field of vision, or a gray curtain moving across your field of vision, see your eye doctor right away. Say it's an emergency. That's where I went wrong. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, and I guess I was actually really lucky that it didn't detach more in that week before I saw the eye doctor. I should have insisted that I see SOME ophthalmologist, even if my regular eye doctor was not available.
I'm ready to get back to work and resume life. It's a really strange feeling when your life unexpectedly gets put on hold for a while. I'm thankful that medical technology exists to fix this -- it's just so amazing when you really think about what doctors do for things like this. Inject a gas bubble into your eye and wrap your eyeball with a belt? Wild.
So, that's that. I'll be writing about more pleasant topics Real Soon, I promise.