Monday, January 25, 2010

In Which My Retinas Rebel and I Require Emergency Surgery... Twice.

You've all had the conversation with your friends -- if you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind? I chose deaf, hands down. Sure, I'd miss music, and it might slow down conversations til I got used to lip reading and signing, but I could still read and write without braille.

Did you know that one millimeter of your retina is basically responsible for vision? I do now.

On Thursday, I went to an opthamologist to get my left eye checked out. I'd been seeing a weird flash of light a couple times a day since Christmas, and I thought it might be a sign of a retinal tear.

My doctor decided to check out both eyes, just to be safe.

After numbing drops, dilation drops, one large suction cup-like contact that allowed a microscopic view of my retina, and a whole lot of blinding light, I had my diagnosis.

My right eye, which had no symptoms, had two horseshoe tears. Which are super prone to detachment.

Retinal detachment = blindness.

The bad news: The right eye was my good eye.

My left eye had a 25% detachment.

That's very very not good.

So right then and there, I had to have laser surgery in both eyes to prevent a full detachment and the two tears from joining forces to make a detachment of their own.

Laser surgery = me wide awake, holding both eyes open and remaining completely still as a green laser tattoos around the damaged areas. (Moderately painful.) The laser causes scarring, which acts as glue, keeping the tear/detachment contained. Not the most comfortable surgery, but the recovery time is incredible.

And I'm still allowed to read, watch TV, and type on the computer. (Yay!) Hence, this post.

I went back on Friday so he could check everything out again. More numbing and dilation drops, gigantic contact microscope, and bright lights. One of the tears in my right eye was still iffy. More lasering! (Owww. I'd woken up that morning with my eyes swollen like I'd come out of the wrong end of a fight. This didn't help.)

After a long, miserable night of recovery, I actually (miraculously) was able to attend Janet Reid's query workshop with Frankie on Saturday. (We'll be posting about that soon!)

I have another followup appointment today, and I'm hoping my scarring (which will develop for a month) is progressing nicely. Cross your fingers and pray to your god of choice for me!

Moment of honesty: This whole process has been kinda terrifying. The idea that my retinas could've fully detached at any moment -- which would've required an intense surgery and a monthlong recovery -- scared me silly. That surgery may still be in my future.

I wrote this post as a reminder for you guys not to ignore weird things your body tells you. I put off making an opthamologist appointment for two weeks, and thank God I didn't wait longer. Life is hectic, but you can't take risks with your health.

And just so I don't avoid the question that you're all wondering: What causes retinal tears/detachment? For me, it was probably my nearsightedness. And a family history of retinal problems. Many times it's from head injuries in sports or accidents -- which totally wasn't the reason in my case, since I'm the opposite of athletic. But overall, 7% of people have a retinal tear in their lifetime.

Anyway, I consider myself very lucky. I hope you'll never have to deal with any retinal problems in your lifetime, but please check out the signs of a retinal detachment just in case. My awareness of these symptoms saved my vision!

Any questions I didn't answer? Anyone else out there with rebellious retinas? Let me know!


  1. um, agh! Ohman, that really must have been the scariest thing EVER!!!! I hope your retinas scar nicely and the tears are gone and that everything will be okay - you poor thing!

  2. Donna,
    I'll be praying for you! My dad was an ophthalmologist, so when I started reading your post and saw "light flashes", I cringed.

    Hope you heal up quickly and completely!

  3. Great that you caught it in time, good lady, and that the words will still be there for you.

  4. In most cases (cases not being traumatism, I mean), it's because the eye overworks, and it strains to see, spraining the retina (hell, I can't explain it in english ¬¬). Which is what happened to you :(

    Good luck!!

  5. I am SO relieved you caught it! And now you shall be on the road to recovery! Let me know how it goes today!

  6. a severely nearsighted gal myself (uh...20/700 vision), I can totally sympathize with this...Feel better soon...Glad you caught it early!

  7. Brizmus - Thanks! I'm hoping to hear good news today.

    Jon - Thank you!

    Karen - Yep, that's insta-cringe.

    Simon - Yes! I was distraught at the thought of permanent vision damage. What would I do without my words?

    Barnsdale - You did a fabulous job explaining in English!

    Frankie - Thanks for being my chauffeur!

  8. Goodness. Well, I hope everything clears up fast and you're back to 100% healthy! I don't know what I'd do w/o sight. :( Something we take for granted, huh?

  9. So glad you're okay! Thanks for the Mayo Clinic link; it's always good to have these facts floating around in the back of the brain.

  10. I'm so glad it was caught in time! I've been dealing with chronic bilateral iritis (inflammation in the iris; I have it in both eyes, lucky me), or "Broken Eyeball Syndrome", for over two years now, and remember all too well how frightening it was to wake up one morning with swollen eyeballs and extremely blurry vision. I've been undergoing treatment for it, and while my vision isn't as good as it used to be, I can still work and drive and most importantly, read books! I hope your eyeballs recover quickly and and your vision stays strong!

  11. That is terrifying! Glad you caught it in time. Hope all goes well in recovery!

    (And on a completely unrelated note, I chose this, one of my favorite blogs, to pass along my first blog award to. Check it out!:

  12. Oh my gosh! I'm so glad you're ok. Those pictures totally cracked me up, by the way. I'm so glad you caught this in time. Sounds like you'll have a full recovery. Can't imagine anything more difficult than a writer losing their sight!

  13. Holly - Yikes! Your world is even more blurry than mine!

    Jessica - Yes, it took awhile for it to hit me that my sight will be permanently affected, though hopefully not too badly.

    AB - You're welcome! This is one situation where knowledge = fabulous.

    Lisa-Marie - That sounds very unpleasant -- I've never even heard of it! Here's to a long life of reading and driving!

    LiLa - Glad you liked my latest foray into the Paint program. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else thinks they're funny, because I totally have a ball drawing them. So far, the news is good, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

  14. Wow, Donna. I am so sorry you had to go through that. Hope you're all better soon.

    As someone who's survived a ruptured brain aneurysm, accompanied by Terson's Syndrome (a hemorrhage in my retina), I can certainly sympathize. After two and a half months of being essentially blind in one eye, I had three operations on that eye. That was more than 4 years ago, and I can see fine (with a certain amount of permanent blurring; I've learned to live with it). It's really amazing what they can do with eye surgery now.

    But I know EXACTLY what you mean when you say "What would I do without my words?" I spent my recuperation period listening to audio books, but did very little else.

    I heartily agree that ANY unusual symptoms (in my case, severe headaches) should never be ignored. If something just isn't right, get it checked out.


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