Knowing The Facts Can Be Scary, But Not Knowing Is Worse

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)

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Two of the Longest, Most Stressful Days of My Life

As I explained last week (link), in December 2016, I experienced a torn retina in my left eye. Because it’s so important to recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of a torn or detached retina, I’ll repeat them.

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. If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Since my retinal tear, there’s permanent residual debris in my eye that comes and goes without warning. When the opaque floaters are not there, my sight from that eye is very good. When the floaters appear, my vision gets blurry. For the first several weeks, the floaters were filled with a multitude of bright black dots, and I didn’t feel safe to drive. I resumed driving in mid-February, once the floaters had shrunk and the dots had mostly disappeared.

One Saturday at the beginning of April, quite a few bright black dots appeared in my vision. I still occasionally get small black dots in my left eye, so I wasn’t concerned. As the dots grew in number and size, I closed my right eye to have a good look at them. To my surprise, there weren’t any. I closed my left eye, and there they were, floating around in my right eye.

These were just black dots, not the shooting, flashing episode I had with my left eye. And when I saw the ophthalmologist last December, he told me the gel in my right eye likely had already separated, causing the grey floater I’ve had for years. So I was more mystified than alarmed by this event.

But on Sunday, I developed the telltale opaque blurriness filled with tiny bright dots, as well as larger shooting black spots, indicating the same issue as I’d had with my left eye. Because of my experience last time with the hospital ER not having the equipment to examine my eye, I decided to wait and call the ophthalmologist in the morning.

I woke up Monday morning with no vision in my right eye, just a massive opaque mass with swirling black lines throughout it. The ophthalmologist’s office told me this was a different issue, so I needed a new referral. I couldn’t see well enough to drive to my optometrist’s office, so I called my doctor’s office, which is walking distance. I explained in detail what had happened to the receptionist, and how I needed a referral to an ophthalmologist. She agreed this needed to be checked, but said they couldn’t see me until the next afternoon. I hung up feeling stunned and close to tears.

Knowing what I do now, I had several options I could’ve and should’ve taken. I should’ve called my hubby and asked him to come home. I should’ve called the optometrist’s office; they would’ve understood the gravity of the situation. Or at the very least, I should’ve insisted I see my doctor right away. Instead, I did nothing, but worry.

Coincidently one of my books happened to be released that same day. Release days are usually full of joy and excitement. And they’re busy, with tweets and facebook posts, visiting several hosting websites and answering any comments. Somehow I managed to do all that, but it wasn’t fun or exciting. It was stressful and challenging. My vision was so impaired, I struggled to see the computer monitor and figuring out the websites’ security procedures was beyond frustrating.

Later that afternoon, I tried using a sleep mask to block the enormous mass, which swirled sickeningly every time my eye moved. I positioned it across my forehead so only my right eye was covered, and I’m sure I looked silly, but it enabled me to function.

I’m not a dramatic person, and I don’t waste time or energy feeling sorry for myself. But that day, I uncharacteristically struggled with my feelings. I was terrified, stressed, and frustrated. In desperation, I went online seeking information to explain my condition. Big mistake. Every medical website emphasized the importance of immediate medical attention for detached retinas. This was an emergency, and every hour that went by without treatment increased the chances of permanent vision loss. I was practically hyperventilating with panic by the time I forced myself off the computer.

At my doctor’s appointment the next day, I sat for forty-five minutes while other people got called in before me. Finally, I told the receptionist I really needed to see the doctor, before it got too late to see a specialist that day. She seemed surprised about my situation, even though I’d clearly spelled it out to her over the phone the previous day. Within minutes, my doctor had arranged an immediate appointment with the on-call ophthalmologist—not the same one I’d seen in December.

As I waited for the drops to dilate my pupils, I slowly began to relax because I was finally getting the medical attention I needed. The ophthalmologist said he could see the retinal break I’d had in my left eye and another smaller one, as well. He explained that I had what’s called a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye.

There are several reasons for getting a vitreous hemorrhage. Most likely, in my case, the vitreous gel had liquefied as it did in my left eye, but when it separated from the retina, blood vessels were damaged, causing the hemorrhage. I bleed easily, sometimes serious enough to require blood transfusions, so I wasn’t surprised to hear I had a major bleed in my eye.

There was so much blood in my eye cavity, he couldn’t see the retina, so I needed an ultrasound done. That evening, I had a simple procedure at the hospital, where an ultrasound wand was passed over my closed lids while I was lying down. Within minutes, the radiologist told me there was no sign of a torn or detached retina. I still didn’t know how the blood would be removed from my eye or when I’d get my vision back, but I left the hospital with a smile on my face, feeling as if the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.

Next week, I’ll pick up with the phone call from the ophthalmologist the following morning, explaining my options to me. (Link to next post)

Important To Know The Symptoms And Dangers Surrounding Retinal Breaks And Detachments

I’ve been on quite a journey in the past six months. Although it did involve some travel, the journey has certainly not been a fun one. In fact, it’s been rather scary. I don’t yet know the outcome of this journey, but I’m hoping if I share its details others might avoid going down the same path.

It started last December, a few days before Christmas. I kept thinking a stray hair was hanging in my eyes and I’d try to brush it away. But it kept returning. I was busy that morning, so I didn’t think too much about it beyond how annoying it was. As the day progressed, the ‘stray hair’ grew into many rapidly flashing black lines, shooting and darting in and out of my left eye’s vision. Still thinking it more irritating than worrisome, I hoped it’d settle down before it drove me crazy.

But it didn’t settle down. It got worse. The black lines began exploding into zillions of bright little black dots, and my vision became blurry, as though Vaseline had been smeared over my eye. It was after medical facilities’ work hours, and although I try to avoid the hospital ER whenever possible, I didn’t know what else to do. After waiting about three hours, I saw a medical doctor, who looked into my eye and couldn’t see anything wrong, but she didn’t have the equipment needed to do a more thorough examination. She said she’d refer me to an ophthalmologist. By this time, the flashing lines had completely subsided, but I still had the opaque blurriness, filled with those teeny-tiny bright black dots.

I awoke with a massive opaque floater, still filled with all those black dots, constantly moving and swirling around, impeding most of my vision. An ophthalmologist’s office called with an appointment for two days later, which was the Friday before Christmas. At that appointment, both of my pupils were dilated, and the ophthalmologist confirmed that I had a retinal tear on the upper left side. I’ve supplemented the doctor’s explanation to give a clearer description.

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.

It’s really important to pay attention if this happens to you. I can’t stress that enough—if you experience these symptoms, get it checked out immediately. Go to or call your optometrist, there’s usually one on-call after hours. They’ll be able to check for a break (tear) or detachment and get you the help you need without delay. Some hospital ERs will call in an ophthalmologist, so check that option, as well. A detached retina is a medical emergency, and the longer you wait to have it repaired, the greater the chance of permanent vision loss.

The ophthalmologist had me meet him at the hospital that same day, where he repaired the retinal tear with laser surgery. I sat upright in a chair and leaned into an apparatus vaguely similar to what’s used to test eye pressure. My eye was held in place, somehow, preventing it from moving. The laser procedure wasn’t pleasant; there were lots of bright, flashing lights, but the pain was tolerable and it only took a few minutes to complete.

I was instructed to take it very easy for the next two weeks. No lifting anything, no exercise, no quick movements or turning my head abruptly. I walk fast, I wave my arms fast while I talk (fast), and I’m not big on lying around relaxing. Nor do I readily ask for help, so doing nothing for two weeks was a challenge, but I did the best I could to remember the doctor’s orders.

Two weeks later, at my follow-up visit, the ophthalmologist said the laser repair looked really good. I expressed my concerns about the opaque floater continuing to impair my vision. The black dots in the floater were less bright and there weren’t as many of them, but when combined with the large grey floater in my other eye, my sight was too unstable to chance driving. He felt the condition would improve somewhat over time, but I’d likely always have that new floater. Not what I wanted to hear, but I left his office thinking the worst was over. Little did I know I was only starting this frightening journey with my vision.

In the coming weeks, I’ll explain more about what I’m going through. I really hope by sharing my experience, I can help others learn the symptoms and dangers surrounding retinal breaks and detachments. Please stay tuned. (Next week’s link)

 

Monday Musings Welcomes Canadian Author, Susanne Matthews

Please help me welcome fellow author, Susanne Matthews, to Monday Musings. Today, Susanne is introducing us to her latest novel, a suspense romance, Sworn to Protect.

Book Blurb:

Four years ago, a car accident robbed Nancy Frost of her child and her mother, taking what was left of her marriage with it in the process. A forensic accountant, she agrees to look at a company’s books in a divorce case, trying to find hidden assets, but her meeting with the lawyer goes terribly wrong when the restaurant is attacked.

The moment US Marshal Neil Copeland discovers his wife has been shot in a Baltimore restaurant, he rushes to her side, determined not to let her down again. As the police investigate, evidence suggests the attack was a ploy to hide a specific hit. When a professional assassin tries to kill Nancy a second time, it’s clear that she was the target and whatever’s going on is a lot more complicated than they think.

When Nancy awakes after a month in an induced coma, not only does she not remember the attack on the restaurant, she doesn’t remember marrying Neil.

Faced with the challenge of protecting his wife from a powerful, faceless enemy, Neil must bring her up to date, dredging up all the sorrow that tore them apart in the first place, hoping something will jar her memory.

As he races against time, can he save her from an unknown assassin and convince her to give the love they once had a second chance?

Purchase link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072MHFQJF

Excerpt:

Unable to squelch her curiosity, Nancy put down the tear-soaked quilt, stood, and walked over to the extension on the bedside table. The number wasn’t a familiar one. She took a deep breath before picking up the receiver.

“Hello?” she answered, her voice husky.

“Nancy Frost?”

“Yes.” She didn’t recognized the man’s voice and hoped she hadn’t picked up on a telemarketer. It wasn’t a 1-800 number, but … Normally, she hated being rude to anyone, even annoying strangers at the end of a phone line; however, in her current mood, this guy might be in for a tongue lashing.

“This is Larry Jackson. I was speaking with Meredith Stone earlier, and she said you’d agreed to look at some financial records for me.”

The man’s voice was pleasant, but he sounded tired, and his words carried an undercurrent of frustration and anxiety.

“I’ll do what I can, Mr. Jackson,” she answered, trying to sound like the confident professional she needed to be.

Meredith might think she was the best in her field, but every time Nancy looked at a new set of books, doubt assailed her. What if she missed something critical?

“If there’s anything there, I’ll do my best to find it, but, as I’m sure Meredith told you, sometimes everything’s on the level. Unless there’s a second set of records hiding somewhere—”

“I wouldn’t put it past this sleaze ball,” Larry interrupted. “I just got off the phone with his lawyer. B. J. Pratt informed me they’re moving the meeting date up to Tuesday. I’d hoped to be able to give you more time, but he’s backing us into a corner. I’m sorry about this. I’ve emailed you the records we were given. Let me know if there’s anything missing.”

“Not a problem. I’ve come up against B. J. Pratt before. He won’t be happy you’re bringing me in on this.”

“That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.” Larry paused. “When can you have a look at them?”

“Later today. I’ll call you tomorrow if there’s anything suspicious.”

He chuckled, but she could sense his concern. “That’s all I’ll need, and don’t worry about the time and cost. The husband’s footing the bill.”

Nancy started. “Her husband’s paying to have me go through his company books and personal finances, and Pratt agreed to this?”

“They agreed to an independent audit and recommended a few local forensic auditors,” Larry answered, “but if they suggested them, I didn’t want to use them. Meredith tells me you’re the best there is, and that’s all I need to know. Pratt doesn’t know it’s you yet. I’ll let him know in the morning—maybe it’ll throw off his golf game.”

“It probably will,” she answered and chuckled, imagining the sour look on Pratt’s face. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Goodbye.”

Nancy hung up the phone, went into the bathroom, and washed her face. Staring at the haunted woman in the mirror forced her to admit the truth. She had to stop grieving before it killed her.

“This pity party is over.”

She wasn’t Cinderella, and there wasn’t a fairy godmother waiting to make all the terrible things in her life go away. Prince Charming had left the ball, taking his glass loafers with him. It was time for her to pick up her rags and get on with it. She reached for her purse and car keys. The first step was always the most difficult. Go big or go home.

About the author:

Amazon bestselling author Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She is of French-Canadian descent. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but with a penchant for happily ever after romances. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.

Her first novel, Fire Angel, set the tone for an exciting new career.  While most of her books are romantic suspense, Susanne writes stories that range from contemporary to sci-fi and everything in between. She is a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America.

When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, or traveling to interesting places she can use as settings in her future books or as interesting entries for her blog, Living the Dream. During the summer she enjoys camping with her grandchildren and attending various outdoor concerts and fairs. In winter, she likes to cuddle by the fire and watch television.

Follow Susanne on her:  Website   Facebook page   Twitter @jandsmatt   Amazon author page  and  Goodreads author page

 

An Ode to My Hubby on His Birthday

Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I wish we could celebrate this milestone birthday the way you deserve. Please accept a rain check to do something as special as you are, as soon as I’m able.

I’m not a poet, so none of this rhymes, but I mean every word.

Thank you for rushing me to Vancouver on such short notice after putting in a full day at work.

Thank you for battling Vancouver’s crazy traffic to take me to all my appointments without losing your cool…too much. 🙂

Thank you for taking such good care of Roxy and me. You might get a tad bossy at times (just a little bit), but I know you always have my best interests at heart.

Thank you for blowing a week of vacation to stay home and nursemaid me. It couldn’t have been very exciting, but I really appreciate it. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.

Thank you for doing all the laundry (and other housework). Just because I tend to refold things and reorganize where you’ve put the towels doesn’t mean you’re not doing a great job.

While I’m not sure what the future holds for me, I do know you’ll be there by my side, bolstering me and encouraging me, no matter what happens. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your unwavering support. It means the world to me—and so do you.

I love you!

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway for Show No Weakness

I’m so pleased and excited that my first book baby is back on the market. Roane Publishing released Show No Weakness today and as part of the celebrations, we’re doing a giveaway.

You can visit any or all of the following blogs to enter the contest.

http://thereadingaddict-elf.blogspot.com/2017/04/show-no-weakness-by-joyce-m-holmes.html

http://terrirochenski.blogspot.ca/2017/04/new-release-show-no-weakness-guestpost.html

http://sylv.net/release-blitz-for-show-no-weakness-by-joyce-m-holmes/

http://reviewsbycacb.blogspot.ca/2017/04/giveaway-show-no-weakness-by-joyce-m.html

https://lizjosette.blogspot.ca/2017/04/release-blitz-show-no-weakness-by-joyce.html

http://thepenmuse.net/blitz-show-no-weakness-joyce-m-holmes/

https://carolcassada.com/2017/04/10/show-no-weakness-by-joyce-m-holmes/

http://londonsj.blogspot.ca/2017/04/show-no-weakness-by-joyce-m-holmes.html

https://redpennreviews.com/blog-tours/released-today-show-no-weakness/

I’ve updated my bookshelf with my lovely new cover and blurb, and have included some buy links. I’ll add Amazon as soon as it becomes available. You can check it out here.

I’ve also posted a fresh excerpt. To read it, click here.

Old Beauties of Cuba

I hope you like old cars, because the following is a tribute to all the beauties we saw while in Cuba. Cubans call them rustic, the rest of the world call them legendary. Classic, vintage, antique…Whatever moniker you give them, they’re must-see wonders, especially in Havana where they’re renown, but all over the island, as well.

I’ll start in Havana, because that’s where our Cuban journey started. Within minutes of stepping off the cruise ship, everywhere we looked, our gaze feasted on the impeccably restored relics of 1950s North America.

In and around old Havana.

Plaza de la Revolucion Square is a treasure trove of old beauties. It’s quite amazing to see the number of antique cars still running. Because of the US embargo in 1960, repair parts haven’t been available for quite some time. Cubans have had to manufacture their own replacements to keep these old gems operating.

Most are used as taxis or rentals for sightseeing tourists, and they do a brisk business.

Havana’s El Morro Fortress is another excellent place to view them.

And you’ll always find them cruising along the Malecon.

Some have more character than style.

I chuckled over this oldie. Despite having a body containing more bondo than metal, it still sported some impressive decorative chrome.

Not all the cars in Cuba are old classics. As is evident by the parked cars in the photo below, many are newer model vehicles, most notably Toyotas and Hyundais, as well as assorted SUVs.

And there are plenty of modest old Russian Ladas and equally battered Peugeots.

Cienfuegos has fewer old beauties, but the ones we saw were top-notch.

There are an abundance of boxy little cars, mostly Ladas and Peugeots, in Cienfuegos, too.

Santiago de Cuba also boasts some classic oldsters.

And some relatively modest ones.

This poor character certainly falls into the more bondo than metal category, but check out the chrome!

There’s many other means of transportation, besides the profusion of vintage vehicles, including modern, full-sized buses.

We noticed a number of Russian-era lorries, smaller trucks and modified SUVs jam-packed with locals. Perhaps transporting workers to and from job sites.

Motorcycles of all shapes and sizes are a common means of transportation on the island, although most popular in Santiago.

The majority of police officers we saw rode bikes as well.

Wherever you go on foot, you’ll be asked if you want a taxi. Most are of the 50s vintage, but many are typical newer model vehicles.

Then there’s the cute little yellow bugs, known as Coco-Taxis.

Touristy horse-drawn carriages are in abundance.

Horse and buggy are also used as a personal form of transportation by some locals, particularly in rural areas.

And that wraps up my Cuban trip. For those of you who followed me through to the end, I hope you enjoyed viewing my travels. For anyone interested in reading my previous Cuban posts, they start here and each post has a link at the end to the next one.

I’ll leave you with a few more old beauties of Cuba.