Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Sad Tale of My Detached Retina


After learning that the local anesthetic to be used would be the same as used to earlier remove a cataract from my other eye—a procedure I was put under general anesthetic to accomplish when I was conveniently at the hospital—I prepared myself mentally to face exceptional pain. Not an easy task for a self-admitted coward.

But my life was centered around writing and around reading, and good vision was essential to preserve my quality of life as I now knew it. I was willing to endure any type of torture in order to be able to see. Still I was scared. I longed to be someone else for the next couple of hours—to transport myself into a character drawn from my imagination whose circumstances I could control by changing the plot.

I took a deep breath then I called a close friend to ask for prayer.

After the surgery was completed the doctor asked me how I was doing. I was so relieved to have everything over I generously said, “I’ve been through worse.”

He laughed. “I love having women for patients, after childbirth nothing seems overwhelmingly painful to them.”

“I’d have gone through much more pain in order to save my sight,” I said.

During surgery my youngest daughter, Jennifer had arrived. Her facial expression warned me that she was wrestling with both worry and annoyance. I prepared myself for being scolded, but worry must have won out because she spoke in a carefully controlled tone of voice.

“I know you like to be independent, but I want you to promise that the next time you have an emergency, you’ll call me.”

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” I said. “But I know how busy you are. I just thought I could manage on my own.”

Dr. Garrett gave me a preliminary shot, much like that the dentist gives before drilling a tooth. He even made the same shaking motion, saying he’d learned that technique from his own dentist. Next came a needle I thought looked long enough to reach my belt buckle. I closed my eyes and reminded myself that nothing lasted forever.

This shot, which would numb the entire half of my face, taking until the next day to completely wear off, was unpleasant and uncomfortable. But I’ve endured worse—even in the dentist’s chair. The eye was prepared with more drops as time was allowed for the numbing to set in.

The doctor used a freezing technique to repair my retina, and then he inserted an air bubble to hold everything in place. But in order for the bubble to be in the correct spot, I was instructed that for the next two weeks I had to “position” myself for most of the time. At night I had to sleep on my side, my face turned downward. My neck hurt just thinking about that.

He pulled a chair next to me, bent at the waist, rested his chin in the palm of his hand with his elbow in the palm of his hand.

“Like this,” he said.

I mimicked his position until he was satisfied that I understood. I was told to go home and do this for an hour, and then to position myself in sleep mode and stay there the rest of the evening. I was so exhausted I wasn’t sure I could walk to the car, and any kind of a prone position sounded good to me.

The next morning daughter Jennifer took me to the doctor bright and early. The nurse removed my eye patch. I was excited but apprehensive, because I knew there was a chance this procedure wouldn’t work. Also, I’d been told that this easier approach was instantly successful. So I expected to be able to see pretty much as usual when the bandage came off.

Fear washed through me when I opened my eye. Instead of a black nothingness, I now had a blurry gray nothingness. I assumed the surgery had been unsuccessful and I steeled myself to hear the results.

To Be Continued…

See you tomorrow,


Shirley Lowry said...

If you are talking about the eye specialist Dr. Garrett that is in the area about 67th and S Yale I would tell you he worked a miracle on my friend Bob's detached retina about 20 years ago.
Bob had just gotten new glasses and blamed his lack of vision on the glasses. He and his wife had a cruise planned and he waited two weeks before getting to a doctor.

Jackie King said...

That is exactly the doctor I'm talking about, and he's wonderful! I would recommend him to anyone with retina problems, and I think he also does other type of eye doctoring. (I'm sure you're wowed with my technical terms. :-)

Thanks for your comment.