For the past two weeks I’ve been blogging about my eye issues. (Catch up here) In December 2016, I experienced a torn retina in my left eye, and in April 2017, I had a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye. The purpose of these posts is to bring awareness to the symptoms and dangers of torn or detached retinas. Because they’re so important to recognize and understand, I’ll repeat the warning signs.
As our eyes age, the clear vitreous gel that fills the central eye cavity liquefies and separates from the retina. This is a natural occurring event that happens in most people between the age of forty and seventy. When the gel separates, a person will often see floaters—dots, spots or curly lines, which move with the eye. Usually this quickly settles down and everything returns to normal. Sometimes, most often with people who are extremely nearsighted, the retina will tear or detach when the gel separates. A vitreous hemorrhage can occur when blood vessels are damaged during the above process, filling the eye cavity with blood.
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
After having an ultrasound that indicated the vitreous hemorrhage hadn’t injured my retina, I thought I’d gotten away lucky. That attitude changed with a sombre phone call from the ophthalmologist early the next morning. He said even though the ultrasound showed no damage, this was an extremely serious situation. With the amount of blood in my eye, the retina was in imminent danger of severe injury and I needed surgery to remove the blood.
He referred me to a retinal surgeon, but because this was the Wednesday before the Easter long weekend, the soonest I could get an appointment was the following Tuesday. That was quite the nerve-wracking week for me. I functioned best with my right eye covered, essentially blocking out the horrible churning mess that had stolen my vision. The eye patch I bought was really uncomfortable, so while at home I used a sleep mask set at an angle across my forehead to cover my right eye. Goofy looking, but effective.
The retinal surgeon was very concerned about my eye’s condition and confirmed I’d need surgery as soon as possible. He advised me to use care with my activities, and to avoid leaning forward. Holding my head upright meant carefully crouching multiple times a day when tending to my little blind dog.
The doctor also said the retina tear in my left eye, from last December, hadn’t healed, and I had another smaller break, as well. He did laser surgery, right there and then. It was a much different experience from my first one. Instead of sitting up with my eye held stationary, I reclined in the chair and tried to hold my eye still. I hope to never go through that again. It was horrific. Not only were the flashing lights almost unbearably bright, the pain was brutal, and the process lasted far longer than the other one had.
I had a killer headache the rest of the day, which I attributed to the intense laser procedure. My right eye’s vision also changed that evening, going from a swirling opaque mass with black lines running through it to solid black with small slices of sight. Quite frightening, but everything about this situation was frightening.
The next morning, the surgeon’s office called to ask if I was willing to go to Vancouver for surgery. For some reason, there are no retinal surgeons operating out of our hospital, yet there are two (including the one I just saw) in a smaller city about two hours away. Unfortunately both of these surgeons were fully booked, so Vancouver was my only option—provided they could find an available surgeon there.
I got the call at three o’clock that afternoon telling me I had an appointment in Vancouver early the next morning, with surgery booked the day after that. It was a bit of a mad panic, throwing clothes into a suitcase, gathering necessities for my little dog, figuring out where to stay. My youngest son, who lives in Vancouver, found us a hotel that accepts pets. Two hours later, we began the five-hour drive to the coast.
These gorgeous flowers greeted us in our hotel room, a very thoughtful and fragrant gift from my boy. The entire suite smelled glorious.
Roxy settled in her little bed and went right to sleep.
I wish I’d also had a sound night’s sleep, but despite the comfy king-bed, I hardly closed my eyes. Too much worrying and wondering.
Next Monday, I’ll share both the serious and lighter side of our jam-packed Thursday in Vancouver. (Click for next post)