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.

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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)

Whirlwind Day of Appointments in Vancouver

A quick recap on my series of eye health posts. (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. 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.

I ended my last post with our rushed trip to Vancouver to see a retinal surgeon. We had a nice view from our hotel suite, and I wished we were there under better circumstances.

The eye clinic was huge and crowded, but operated like a well-organized production line. I filled out some paperwork, then had drops put in my eyes and various tests done. After a thorough examination, the retinal surgeon explained he could see enough of my retina to confirm it was severely detached, so I told him the ultrasound had shown the retina was okay. He said that might’ve been true at the time, but it had since detached, with potentially dire consequences. He didn’t offer false hope, but promised he’d do everything he could to restore as much of my vision as possible.

I asked if now that both eyes had experienced the vitreous gel separation, there’d be no danger of this happening to me again. He replied that some retinas keep falling off even after being reattached several times. This worried me because my left retina has had to be repaired twice since tearing.

He told me it could take a full year to know the quality of vision I’d end up with. I asked if that meant the sight in my left eye might still improve and he said no, but I’d probably adjust to the blurry vision. Damn, eh? Got my hopes up for a moment.

I filled out reams of paperwork and received pamphlets explaining what a vitreous hemorrhage and a detached retina were, and which procedures would be used during surgery. One procedure is called a Vitrectomy. This 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.

The other procedure entails sewing a silicone scleral buckle 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 on the eye indefinitely.

After all that cheery news, I had to have my blood pressure checked (Surprise, surprise, it was way higher than normal). After lunch, Hubby dropped me at another clinic to have an electrocardiogram. I’m not sure if this is standard procedure for all the eye clinic’s surgery patients or if it’s because I have an aortic valve insufficiency. Regardless, the test was performed quickly, with no problems detected.

We picked Roxy up from our son’s place and headed to Kit’s Beach for some relaxation.

About 25,000 pot smokers, who’d gathered at Sunset Beach for the 420 cannabis rally, began disbanding about the same time we were returning to our hotel. Extra police presence with road blocks to monitor those partiers, combined with the usual rush hour traffic and few left-hand turn lights, meant it took us two hours to travel what should’ve taken thirty minutes. It was certainly frustrating, but rather than getting all worked up, it became almost a game to us – let’s see if this street will take us where we want to go.

After dinner, we did a dry run to Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, where I’d have my surgery the next morning. Hubby likes to be prepared, and he didn’t want anything unexpected making me late for my appointment. Thankfully, the crazy traffic had dissipated and the trip there and back took no time.

Our hectic day ended with this lovely sunset.

Next week, I’ll share my eye surgery experience. (next post here)

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)

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)