Thursday, March 27, 2014

Got to love a "Stick in the Eye"

March has been quite the exciting month for me!  Some of you have noticed there have been periods where I said I couldn't read and couldn't respond to Facebook or e-mails.  Here is the skinny.

From a background point of view I have one "good" eye and one "bad" eye.  The bad eye had an undetected retina detachment that "healed" on its own and developed some significant complications.  One day I developed a significant number of "floaters" for no apparent reason.  I went to my optometrist who assured me the floaters were "no big deal" and happen naturally as you age.

But he was wrong.  I had a torn retina.  He missed it.  And it developed into a detached retina.  No good.

As a result I had some fairly significant eye surgery several years later to attempt to save my vision.  Surgery went well.  I later developed a cataract due to the surgery I had that surgically fixed the cataract . . . easy surgery.  But bottom-line my right eye isn't all that great!!  LOL!

So when all of a sudden on Friday night, February 28th I developed a sharp increase in floaters in my left (good) eye combined with light flashes I knew immediately what was happening.  I called my opthamologist (note . . . not an optometrist!) and he told me to meet him at his office early the next morning.

After a quick but thorough exam, the Dr told me I had a tear in my retina and we needed to immediately secure it.  They call it eye surgery but it wasn't nearly as intrusive as my right eye surgery.  This was done with a laser and the eye was not opened in any way.

Essentially, the doctor used the laser to "spot-weld" a number of rings around the tear so that the edges were secured and no fluid would leak through the tear . . . thus causing a detachment.  After about 120 laser welds, the job was done and I drove home.  But the eye was quite painful the rest of the day..  Post-surgery instructions were to be a chair slug . . . no reading, limit walking, nothing that would jar me in any way.  All I could do was watch TV.

My doctor wanted a retina specialist to check me the next Tuesday.  So the next Tuesday I went to UNC Eye Center for a check.  The retina specialists said my doctor had done a good job and that everything looked good.  And surprisingly they said I could start reading again!  And they wanted to see me in two weeks. I had planned to take pictures at the Graveyard 100 the coming weekend and they thought that would be fine!!

One aside . . . a retina exam is no fun at all.  The first three phases aren't too bad, but the last phase I call "Stick in the Eye" where they honestly use a stick in the eye to add pressure so they can see the far side.  They do this around the full 360° in about 30° steps.  Believe me . . . this suck every bit as much as ir sounds!!  VERY PAINFUL!

Saturday morning as I was starting to take pictures . . . a HUGE number of floaters appeared!  I immediately call my doctor . . . for some reason I didn't have the phone number of the UNC retina specialist.  My doctor was concerned but since I wasn't having flashes he thought I was okay.  The number of floaters was huge . . . like a ZILLION little floaters!  I described it as though I was looking through a really, really dirty windshield!  Still . . . my doctor didn't suggest I come in.

So I just dealt with all the floaters.  And there were a ton of them!  But no flashes at all.

So I waited until my follow-up appointment at UNC on March 18th.  After what I thought would be a simple "check-up"  I was told I had three more tears, one of which was very significant and needed immediate surgery . . . which we did.  250 spot-welds.  This involved two separate "Stick in the Eye"rounds . . . yea . . . that sucked!  Plus, the laser hurts!!

The drive home (1 hour and 30 minutes) was honestly hell!!  Pain was intense.  Finally made it home and downed some serious pain meds!  And by bedtime the pain was manageable!  Tough time.

Next morning was fine but at about noon I had a new influx of floaters!!  I immediately call my doctors.  Due to some unusual circumstances I didn't actually talk with them until 5 pm and they asked me to immediately come to the UNC ER.

Long story short . . . I finally left the ER at about 3 am after two additional "Stick in the Eye" reviews.  After two separate exams by two different retina specialists they decided I had a minor detachment without a tear.  And I was told no reading, no NOTHING for at least a week!  UGH!

So after a week . . . another re-examination indicates healing from both surgeries are healing well and I am reading again!  They say I can walk but have to wait another week to resume running.  Doctors say they have never seen 4 retina tears in the same eye within a 3 week period . . . so I guess I'm special.  But they have no promises for me.  More tears could happen.  Or I may never have another tear.  They just don't know.

Lessons for Everyone
  • Most folks never have to deal with a retina tear or detachment.
  • The cause is simply getting older.  Not running, not diet . . . nothing except aging!
  • If you see an increase in floaters OR light flashes in the periphery of you eye . . . you need to IMMEDIATELY contact you eye doctor.  Don't delay.  At all!  Call immediately!  Your future vision may well depend on it!

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.