Stepping Away…

Thank you for stopping by my blog. Monday Musings is currently on hiatus while I tend to other projects. I’ve left links below to some of my more popular topics in case you’d like to browse. I promise most of them include gorgeous photos.

Or you can pop over to my bookshelf or excerpts if you want more information on my books.

I’ll see you all in a few months. Happy reading!

Link to:  My experience with torn and detached retinas

Link to:  Cruising around historic Cuba

Sunday Funday Adventures – Exploring the Okanagan

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Link to:  Beautiful beaches and hiking trails on Vancouver Island

Link to:  Monkeys and more at Sandos Caracol and Riviera Maya

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Link to:  Fun in Palm Desert and San Diego, California

Steamboats on the Old Man River, trolley cars and beignets…Adventures in New Orleans

Icebergs and rowhouses…Exploring Nova Scotia and Newfoundland

Favourite Furry Pets – And a few not so furry ones, too

 

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In A Literal Blink Of An Eye, Everything Can Change—What I’ve Learned About Torn And Detached Retinas

This is the final post in my series on torn and detached retinas. (Start from beginning here) In December 2016, I experienced a retinal tear in my left eye, which has left me with unstable vision. In April 2017, I had a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, and still don’t know the full outcome from that episode.

At the end of August I’ll have another eye surgery, a vitrectomy, to remove the silicon oil that was injected into my eye cavity last April, during surgery to repair a complicated retinal detachment. It feels as if my life’s been on hold ever since that surgery, first waiting for my eye to heal and now waiting to have the oil removed, then I’ll wait to see how much my vision improves.

Many activities I once enjoyed and took for granted are now challenging. The simple act of pouring a liquid accurately requires extra concentration. I sometimes hang clothes inside out and use a knife upside down (those are actually kind of funny). Shopping, using my camera, watching TV, using a computer, looking in my bathroom mirror, sitting near a window, being outside in the sun or at night with lights on—these have all become struggles.

My new normal:

I get intense flashes of light in my right eye, and occasionally my vision momentarily goes black.

When I close my eyes at night, a lightshow starts up behind my right eyelid. Like a kaleidoscope or an erupting volcano, except in black and white. Sometimes it’s rather cool, like flickering northern lights, but mostly it’s just annoyingly bright.

I continue having double vision. The blurry image is always canted to the upper left. Tilting my head can make the two images merge, then by focusing intently, the images will stay together when I straighten my head. This trick doesn’t always work.

Because there’s no functional vision in my right eye, I can’t see details. Faces have no discernible features. And, weirdly, people’s heads are really narrow. Actually, everything looks narrower. When looking through both eyes, there’s right-side fogginess.

Getting out a few times a month to enjoy physical activities have been kiboshed. For about six weeks I had to take it very easy while my eye healed. Even after that, my eye socket pain skyrocketed whenever I exerted myself, so it scared me into slowing down. And I question the safety of biking and hiking with my level of vision impairment. A tarnished silver lining is that with spring flooding, extreme fire ratings and smoke haze causing poor air quality, many trails have been closed and we’d have had to curtail most outdoor activities anyway. A terribly tarnished silver lining, indeed, and not one I take solace in.

I haven’t driven since early April. It’s legal to drive with vision in only one eye, but both of my eyes are compromised. If my left eye blurred while I was driving, I’d be in trouble. As well, lights (including car lights, traffic lights, street lights) make me see double. So, basically, I’m unsafe on the roads, at least right now. Not driving is a frustrating inconvenience, but it’s not a hardship. My seven-year-old car had 41,000 kilometres on it, so I obviously didn’t drive much. My hubby is home midafternoon and we usually do our going-out chores together. And, luckily, I live in a community where I can walk to most places.

Unless there’s dramatic changes with my vision, I’ll probably never work again. I might not need to work, but I’d like to. I miss being around people; I miss feeling useful. Being home all day is very isolating, and once this next surgery is behind me, I’ll have to find a solution.

My current vision might never improve, and I have to accept this. Occasionally when I get overwhelmed, the if only engine starts up, but negative thinking won’t change my reality. It just makes me frustrated and sad. I tell myself, it is what it is, so deal with it, and it could be a hell of a lot worse. I’m determined to adapt, to reclaim my life—maybe not the one I had before, but one that’s fulfilling nonetheless.

I didn’t share all this so people will feel sorry for me. Quite the opposite. Please learn from what I’m going through, and take steps to protect your own eye health. Don’t put off that optometrist appointment. Don’t ignore changes in your vision. Read and remember the following information, especially if you have risk factors such as diabetes, if a family member has experienced torn or detached retinas, if you’re middle-aged, or if you’re very nearsighted.

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, the retina will tear or detach when the gel separates. A vitreous hemorrhage can occur when blood vessels are damaged during the separation, filling the eye cavity with blood and risking damage to the retina. An acute retinal detachment is an ophthalmologic emergency. The longer the wait for surgery, the lower the chances of a positive outcome. This not only can lead to irreversible vision loss, the health of the entire eye is endangered.

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. 

My road to recovery continues to be long and uncertain. Although it’s too soon to know where it all ends, I remain hopeful the destination will be a good one.

An Acute Retinal Detachment Is An Ophthalmologic Emergency – Learn The Dangers

In an effort to bring awareness to the symptoms and dangers of torn or detached retinas, I’ve been chronicling my own experiences with this serious issue. (Catch up here) In December 2016, I experienced a retinal tear in my left eye, which has left me with unstable vision. In April 2017, I had a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, and still don’t know the full outcome from that episode.

Important signs to be mindful of:

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.

Last week, I described the surgery to repair my detached retina. Following surgery, I needed to keep my head facing downward for 24 hours. I was so nervous about accidentally rolling onto my back, I didn’t sleep a wink that entire night. Early the next morning, I became incredibly nauseous and from that point on, I threw up nonstop.

Prior to my follow-up appointment, I was allowed to raise my head and remove the eye patch. My eye looked horrendous, but the pain was tolerable. I could see lightness and unrecognizable blurry shapes. Hubby helped me apply three different eye drops: Zymar, an antibiotic, used four times a day for one week. Combigan, to treat high eye pressure, used twice a day for two weeks. And Prednisolone, to treat symptoms of inflammation, used four times a day for four weeks.

In the crowded hotel elevator, I concentrated on protecting my eye from wayward elbows and not upchucking. Thankfully everyone got off before us because the moment I stepped off the elevator, I got sick. With my eye swollen shut and badly bruised, and vomiting into a plastic bag, I must’ve looked like I’d been on a bender that ended in a brawl.

The assistant surgeon at the clinic said vomiting was actually quite common after eye surgery. Something about how the brain interpreted high eye pressure. I wish I’d been forewarned, so I could’ve been prepared.

I asked if the retina had been detached and he said, “Oh yeah, a complete detachment. It was really bad.” He felt confident surgery had stabilized the eye and I should have a good outcome. There’s a difference between repairing the retina and restoring vision, however.

An acute retinal detachment is an ophthalmologic emergency. The longer the wait for surgery, the lower the chances of a positive outcome, because the retina becomes starved of oxygen without proper blood flow. This not only can lead to irreversible vision loss, the health of the entire eye is endangered. Stabilizing the eye and preventing redetachments are higher priorities than restoring functional vision. That doesn’t mean they don’t care whether I ever see again, it’s just not their main objective.

At my prior appointment, the ophthalmologist explained that after surgery either air, gas or silicon oil would be injected into my eye cavity. Air and gas both dissipate on their own over a matter of weeks. Oil, usually chosen as a last resort for complicated detachments, must be surgically removed. Because of the severity of my detachment, the surgeon opted for oil over air or gas. So yay, I’ll need another surgery requiring more needles in my eye.

Four procedures were used during surgery. A vitrectomy, which involves making small incisions in the eyeball so the surgeon, using a microscope and special lens, can insert micro-surgical instruments to clean the vitreous and blood from the middle eye cavity.

A silicone scleral buckle was sutured around the outer wall of the eyeball to create an indentation inside the eye. This pushes on the retina and effectively closes the break. Scleral buckles usually remain in place indefinitely.

A laser beam were directed at the retina to make tiny burns. These burns form scars which seals the retina.

And the last procedure involved injecting silicon oil into the eye cavity. The oil pushing against the retina improves the likelihood of it staying attached. While the oil’s in place, my vision will be poor, but using the oil may increase the overall visual prognosis.

The doctor stressed that I must take it very easy until told otherwise. He looked over at Hubby and told him he felt as though these instructions needed to be emphasized. I obviously have a tattoo across my forehead that says, This lady doesn’t know how to relax.

I’d need to wear an eye shield at bedtime for several weeks, and either the shield or sunglasses when going out, to protect the eye. Then I got some good news. As long as we took the longer, low elevation route, we could go home that day. It’s ironic that I’ve been bugging Hubby for years to take that slower, more scenic highway between the Okanagan and Vancouver, and when we finally did, I couldn’t enjoy it. I threw up all the way home and mostly kept my eyes closed.

I owe my hubby and son such a debt of gratitude. I don’t know how I would’ve managed without them. My son navigated us around to my various appointments, which saved us all kinds of time and stress, and he babysat Roxy so we didn’t have to leave her alone at the hotel. And poor Hubby! He taxied both my son and myself back and forth to all our appointments, while coping with big-city traffic, pedestrians and cyclists. He doted on me constantly, taking care of my every need. And he did it all with surprising patience and good humour.

My next post will give an update on my progress so far. I might include some photos. They won’t be as pretty as the ones I usually post, just to warn you. (Next post here)

A Belt, A Buckle and Suspenders – Surgery To Repair A Detached Retina

To repeat my introduction from last week: In December 2016, I experienced a retinal tear in my left eye, which has left me with unstable vision. In April 2017, I had a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, and still don’t know the full outcome from that episode. I want to reiterate the importance of recognizing and understanding the symptoms and dangers of torn or detached retinas.

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.

Catch up on my previous posts here.

After another restless night, on the morning of my surgery I woke up with a splitting headache. Lack of sleep and nervous tension, I imagine. Hubby had me at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital half an hour ahead of my appointment. At eight o’clock, I was taken to a curtained cubicle to change into a hospital gown. Eye drops were administered and I answered all the same medical questions I’d answered the previous day.

An anesthesiologist put an IV in my hand and explained he’d be injecting a local anesthetic into my eye in two places. He told me it wouldn’t hurt as much as getting the IV, which had actually stung quite a bit. The first injection into my eye was really unpleasant, but thankfully the pain was brief. My eye was frozen enough when he did the second injection that I didn’t feel anything.

Around 10:00, I was brought into surgery. The anesthesiologist touched my upper cheek and apologized for bruising me while freezing my eye. I assured him I bruise easily. A sheet was placed over my face, leaving only my eye exposed. I heard someone ask the retinal surgeon which procedures he’d be using. The doctor joked he’d be doing the belt, the buckle and suspenders, meaning he needed to do several procedures besides the scleral buckle.

During the procedure, I occasionally felt sensations in my eye, but no real pain. At one point the surgeon said, “Oh my God!” in a rather strained voice, then he asked for PFO. Seconds later, he repeated more urgently his request for PFO. Definitely not what I wanted to hear from the person operating on my eye, and I made a point to remember those words so I could ask what this meant.

After surgery, the surgeon told me I needed to get on my tummy right away, then he left. Because I didn’t get a chance to ask him about PFO, I’ll explain what my local ophthalmologist told me. PFO’s full name is Perfluoro-N-octane, and it’s a heavy liquid used to flatten the retina during complex detachment surgery. Although he couldn’t say for certain because he wasn’t there, he believes the surgeon must’ve been having difficulties getting my retina to stay flat.

I got back to the cubicle at 11:00, so surgery took approximately one hour. I had a shield covering my eye, and the nurse instructed me on the importance of keeping my head postured down for the next 24 hours. Silicon oil had been inserted into my eye cavity during surgery—more on that in my next post—and facing downward, even while sleeping, ensures the oil bubble floats to the back of the eye to keep the retina flattened.

Hubby arrived soon after to take me back to the hotel. He picked up some straws, so I could still drink with my head down, and he also bought a selection of tempting foods. Despite missing breakfast and lunch, I felt too queasy to eat much. I had surprisingly little eye pain, but between the pounding headache I’d woken up with and my arthritic neck complaining about the position I had to keep it in, I was extremely uncomfortable. I alternated between lying on my stomach with my forehead resting on a pillow, which gave my neck a break but tensed up my shoulders and back, and sitting with my face supported in my hands and my elbows braced on my knees.

Next week, I’ll go over all the procedures used during surgery, and explain what I was told in my follow-up appointment the next morning. (Next week’s post)