This week marks the eighth week of a saga that began on June 17 when I first noticed a telltale shadow beginning to creep into the periphery of my right eye. Because I'd experienced something similar several years ago while living on Whidbey, I knew I needed to act immediately and scored an appointment with my local ophthalmologist for the next day.
Dr. McC took one look and then another and another and confirmed my fears. Yep, the retina in this eye was beginning to detach. Luckily, we had caught it early. Her nurse called the Casey Eye Institute in Portland and I began to make arrangements for transportation. Luckily, my friend John could provide that service and we headed for Portland immediately.
Once we were there, my problem was diagnosed as a retinal tear, something that could wait until the next day, so we went home again, I reserved a room for us at the Portland Holiday Inn Express, where we'd stayed last February when John needed eye surgery and I did the driving.
June 19, the surgery was performed, skillfully, compassionately, and quickly, and after an early followup appointment at Casey the next morning, we headed home. Things seemed to be healing nicely and I felt little pain during the whole process. But on the morning of the third-week followup appointment, I noticed a slight shadow at the edge of my vision. I asked the doc about it when I got into her office and she diagnosed yet another tear, in the same area. I would need a second surgery the next day.
Luckily, my sister and her husband were enroute to spend a few days with me, at that very moment! Cell phones are a marvelous thing! I called her and told her what was going on, told her I'd need them to provide transportation for me the next two days, back and forth to Portland for a second surgery.
My sister Jean and her husband Pat are wonderful people. They have been helpful to me in a myriad of ways over the years and this was no exception, but it sure put the kibosh on the plans we'd made for our time together. We made two round trips to Portland (160 miles apiece) in two days, leaving early in the morning to avoid inbound traffic.
We managed to find quiet things to do during their stay and had a good time together, but I was in pain much of the time, popping ibuprofen and napping. And I was beginning to find my normal good humor sadly lacking. I was worried about whether my retina would go kablooey again, just when we are on our September Scandinavian cruise. How would I manage then? At least Jean would be with me, but it might mean leaving the cruise, having the surgery in another country, and having to delay flying home until the retina was fully healed.
But I was healing up, feeling better and less worried, and then, and then, at the third-week post-op followup visit for my second surgery, the doc noticed that another section of retina was starting to flop. I had noticed an anomaly myself but didn't want to acknowledge it. We scheduled the third surgery for the next day and dear John had the lovely opportunity to provide the transportation, which he did, willingly, making him (in my book) a candidate for sainthood.
A third surgery on the same site is not a piece of cake for the patient. I don't know what it's like for the surgeon (whom I like and trust), but when you are cutting and sewing previously treated tissue for the third time, I am inclined to believe the tissue is going to complain more loudly than it did the first two times. And that has been my experience.
At least this surgery should be the final word on the topic. They have installed and stitched in a scleral buckle, a silicon strap which stabilizes the retina, keeps it from flopping around (and thereby tearing again). They assure me that this is The Fix that will fix it permanently. I can only hope.
My optimism gland is about drained of that particular hormone. This morning (as I prepare for my one-week post-op followup) I am imagining what else could possibly go wrong. I don't think I could stand to do this again.
And yet, there came a point yesterday when I realized that I am almost through this period of optical misery, that there is an end in sight, that I have managed it so far, have managed to carry on something of an enjoyable life despite these difficulties, and have even been able to reach out to others in our tiny congregation. I've received a lot of support from friends and family, the pain has not been unendurable, and that if I had to do it again, I would, for the gift of sight is priceless.
Even if it hurts.