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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Eye Operation

Detached Retina
I haven't posted in nearly 6 months. Part of the problem has been the fact that, for a while, I was facing the prospect of going blind due to a detached retina. Back in August, I had an operation to deal with cataracts in my left eye. Some days after the operation, I noticed that I was having trouble seeing out of the that eye. I called the surgeon who performed the operation, and he said that it likely was some "floaters" caused by the operation which would settle down eventually.

However, what I was seeing never "settled" and in fact, grew to block about half the vision in that eye. Then I noticed that my right eye was getting worse. It looked as though I was looking out of a dirty window pane. Then I couldn't see out of it altogether. I called the doctor again, and he told me to get in to see him right away. He took one look and my eye and exclaimed, "Wow!" This is not the sort of thing you want to hear from your doctor during an exam. Then he told me that I had detached retinas in both eyes. He sent me on to a retina specialist.

The specialist, Dr. Lawrence, confirmed the diagnosis. He told me that my right eye's retina was completely detached and the left eye was partially detached. "That's something fairly rare," he explained. "Sometimes patients will come in with one detachment and the other getting ready to detach, but seldom do I see both retinas affecting vision in both eyes at the same time."

He scheduled me for surgery the next day to reattach the left eye first using a scleral buckle procedure. This operation involves the placement of a silicone rubber band around the eye together with wider pieces of material positioned to close the hole in the retina which is caused when the retina detaches. That night after the operation, I spent throwing up into a bucket my wife kept by my side. I was completely blind since I didn't any vision in my right eye. The next day when the bandages came off I could seek, very blurry shapes, but I could see. I was reminded of the blind man in the Gospels who said he saw "men looking like tree walking."

The next operation was on the right eye. In addition to the buckle, the doctor used a procedure called pneumatic retinopexy which involves the injection of air or gas into the eye to help seal the hole in the back of my eye. Once again, I spent a night throwing up, but I also had to spend several nights sitting up in a chair. Cat and I arranged to have a chair wedged in a corner with pillows around me so I could at least lean to one side and get some rest.

The doctor thought I would have to spend 3 months at home, but I only had to be there 3 weeks. Thank the Lord for a good union contract that gave me the sick leave time to do this without loss of salary. During that time I couldn't read anything. I could, however, watch all the television I wanted to watch. Thank God for The History Channel and recorded books.

Since then, I have had to go through a time of wearing a patch on my right eye (just in time for "Talk Like a Pirate Day"!). And a time of sleeping on my stomach to let the air bubble press on the back of my eye. I had my last check up on Dec. 11th. Dr. Lawrence was very happy with my progress. He told me that 20 years ago, I would have had to accept blindness as my fate. He believes that my condition was caused by the fact that I was extremely near sighted for a long period of time. (I know that at one time, my vision was 20-200.) Myopia is caused by an elongated eye ball, and this acts like an balloon overfilled with water. At some point, the balloon begins to tear and this causes the retina to tear.

I am thankful for Dr. Lawrence and his excellent staff at Retinal Associates of Oklahoma. Vision is a precious gift, and they have given me a great Christmas present.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Welcome back to the world of vision and blogging.