vitrectomy-chair
Picture of a woman recovering from Vitrectomy surgery with her head down in a message chair. (source: personal ad in Kijiji.ca  Feb 13, 2017)

 Wouldn’t you know it? Things never turn out the way you think it will. My eye surgery seemed like such a success and helped to put a smile on my own and my hard-working surgeon’s faces – for a little while.

My eye was fine for several months after the retinal surgery, and it gradually became easier to see in bright sunlight. But as time went on it became obvious my vision was not really improving. At the surgeon’s “final checkup”, the retinal scan revealed that I now had a “macular hole”.

This was not good news. A macular hole affects the central portion of the retina and is caused when the vitreous gel inside the eye becomes firmly attached to the macula. This vitreous material pulls away from the retina causing a hole to form. Partial holes may cause wavy, distorted, blurred vision, but full-thickness macular holes can cause a complete loss of central vision.

Surgery was again necessary.

While the second operation was a lot like the first, the advent of the hole meant that a larger gas bubble was injected into my eye. The bubble was created to place gentle pressure on the macula and to help to seal the hole.

My post-surgical routine was considerably more rigorous than after the first. It was necessary to keep my head down for a week to ensure that the bubble would continue to press against the macula while slowly being reabsorbed into the eye, thereby sealing the hole and allowing the vitreous cavity to fill with natural eye fluids. Believe me, this post-operative process was not a very comfortable one (see picture above). I kept my head down for 45 minutes every hour, and in the remaining time I had quick eating, bathroom and alternative exercise breaks.

Fortunately for me, the saving grace in my one week ordeal was that I had to do this during golf’s U.S. Open. There I sat with my head down in the massage chair, peering down at my iPad as I followed the play by play . Since I could not wear my glasses, and cannot see things close-up very well, I used a magnifying glass to see the iPad screen. It was awkward and tiring, but the coverage was exciting. 21 year old Jordan Spieth edged out Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen for the title, thereby securing Spieth’s second major golf title in the year.

One positive outcome from this experience is that it has added dramatically to my surgical bragsheet among seniors with eye problems. It has vaulted me well ahead of those requiring run-of-the-mill cataract surgery. But it has also a signalled to me that I had really taken my eyes and good sight for granted for many years. Now as I cope with still-distorted vision, I complain about my inability to read a computer screen, the newspaper, a book, and so many other things that have been an important part of my daily life.

What will my life be like if my vision gets worse? Will I be able to drive? How will I get to the drug store, or to the grocery store. Should we be looking at moving to another house more closely situated to these amenities, or live on a bus route? The outlook is not one I like to consider, but it is a sure sign that in aging the things we so routinely use are starting to slow down, some might even say falling part. This getting older stuff is really not so great.

Apparently 20 years ago a vitrectomy operation could not be done. Lasers and microscopic surgery have dramatically changed the profession and the positive results obtained. Kudos to my surgeon. He has reformed my eye so the retina’s shape is normal again.

Despite the success of this operation, I can’t really go back to the relatively good eye sight I have taken for granted all my life. After getting an all-clear on the latest retina scan – the retina has taken on a normal horseshoe shape again – I callously said to my surgeon that while I was very impressed with the new shape of the retina (for which he was rightfully quite proud), but I still couldn’t see the way I had hoped to. He put his hand up to me, showing all five fingers. “Can you see my fingers?”, he said. “Yes” I replied, hoping for some optimistic news about the near future. “Then you should be thankful you can see better than 60% of the people in my office today”.

Not the answer I was hoping for. But I am learning how to look at the future these days. Get on with it now, Rob, while you still can see some beautiful and inspiring things.