Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eyesight is something you don’t think much about until threatened with its loss. I don’t mean the fading into nearsightedness that happens with age, I mean blindness.

I’ve known I have glaucoma for many months. I’ve used my eyedrops and gone to have my pressure measured at regular intervals, but while my eye doctor fussed about not getting the pressure down to low normal – at high normal there were still signs of the disease progressing – I wasn’t too worried. It didn’t hurt, and I couldn’t see any difference in my vision.

But he could see a difference in the back of my eyes and at last he sent me to an eye surgeon for an opinion. And the opinion was, I needed surgery. The operation, I was told, was simple: a tiny slit would be cut in the eyeball, and treated so it wouldn’t close with scar tissue. Fluid would slowly seep from the permanent wound, bringing the pressure down. Piece of cake.
Well, not exactly.

I was expecting it to be an office procedure, since it was same-day surgery and didn’t call for cutting into my skull or my torso. But no, I went to a clinic with that, in the back rooms, resembled a regular hospital. I wasn’t undressed, but was invited to lie down on a gurney, covered with a blanket, and hooked to an IV, a blood pressure cuff, a heart monitor, and given oxygen through two little prongs in my nose. What is it about a heart monitor that makes some people nervous? I spent several minutes trying to calm myself and knock off the ten extra beats per minute it roused in me. No luck.

A good-looking young man in surgical scrubs introduced himself as my anesthesiologist. I couldn’t invent him for a book, unless it was a broad comedy. He spoke in a slow, soft, gentle voice, as if he’d been using the tools of his trade on himself. I almost laughed out loud at him. I was thinking Valium – and indeed that was used for this procedure. But first he needed to knock me out briefly while he did something unpleasant involving a needle and my eye. Sure enough, I was gone briefly, and when I came back I couldn’t see out of my right eye. I was assured in a gentle voice that this was all right, and wheeled off to an operating theater. A white translucent cloth was put over my face. Normally I cannot abide a cover on my face, it makes me feel as if I’m suffocating, but between the Valium and the oxygen, I felt just fine.

The surgeon and his nurse talked about very mundane things that I can’t quite remember – I think one of them was a vacation one of them was planning – while he worked. I felt nothing at all, not even pressure, until the end, when a cool liquid was poured over the eye and a bandage was applied. The eye is tender, and I have to wear a guard over it at night to prevent myself from accidentally rubbing it – it goes on these little spasms of intense itching and I am under no circumstances to poke at it. It is intensely red but not bruised and I hope it heals without incident. I have eyedrops to use four times a day and I’m to pay attention to any sharp pains that may develop.

After all this, I am now taking my vision seriously. If this is required to save my vision, then something important and scary is going on inside my eye. My paternal grandmother lost her eyesight as a child, and I have a very dear friend who is blind. But I don’t think I ever seriously considered what it might be like to be blind myself. Not until now anyway. Now I’m grateful I live in a time and place where glaucoma is not a sentence to a life lived in darkness. Because, you see, I have glaucoma in both eyes. On April 2, the other one goes under the knife.

12 comments:

Colleen said...

Glad to hear you are doing okay...

Julie said...

Oh, boy, scary. And we're all glad, if we stop and think about it. I had a detached retina a couple of years ago. It was fixed with laser surgery and a few days of not lifting anything. (Anything. At all. Harder than it sounds.) However, I still have vision in that eye. I'm glad, and I'm glad for you that it's being treated.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother lost her eyesight in the 60's when I was a teen. We're alot alike and I'm almost a freak on eye health. She had your surgery done at a teaching hospital in our area, spent weeks in the hospital, just so she didn't have horrible headaches. She originally thought she had a sinus infection. She was a reader, taught me to stitch and cook, enjoy the best stuff. Was married to the best Grandpa a kid could want, I picked one just like him for my second husband. Good luck, don't scratch that eye!!! We need more Betsy books.

Terri Thayer said...

Oh Monica, take care of yourself. Glad things went okay.

Glaucoma is a possibility in my future. I'm just glad the technology is there to correct these things. Otherwise our lives would be miserable.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks for the reminder, Monica. I haven't had an eye exam in years. You've scared me into action.

BeadKnitter said...

I appreciate my eyes. I understand blindness. When I was 17 I had an allergic reaction to a grass that blooms in Texas (never want to go back to that state) which caused me to go completely blind for 24 hours. It was terrifying.

I'm so glad there is a treatment for Glaucoma now. Here's wishing you a speedy easy recovery, and much success on the second surgery.

Betty Hechtman said...

I'm glad you're okay. Thanks for the reassuing description of the procedure.

Camille Minichino said...

I was a wreck when my HUSBAND underwent eye surgery; I don't know how I'd be if I had to do it.

Thinking of you, Monica, and impressed by your good spirit.

LadyDoc said...

HI! Just found this blog and I am SOOOO happy I did.

You won't remember me, but I sure remember you! We met when you were on your first book tour and spoke at King of Prussia mall. Being (then) an active member of RCTN, I had followed your activities and inquiries as you prepared your first needlework book. Several of us from RCTN were there and we loved meeting you. I have all your books on my top shelf and really enjoy them.

As a retired Optometrist I can tell you that the procedure you had done is highly successful in maintaining low pressure and preserving vision. I hope your recovery goes quickly and easily for you and that you are back to work soon- we always need another Betsy book.

Thanks for all the pleasant hours you have given me.

Linda O. Johnston said...

There are few things as important to a writer as her eyes. All the best, Monica!
--Linda

Anonymous said...

I am legally blind and had to have emergency surgery for glaucoma in 1989. It is a scary thing. There's not much you can do about it except take the eye drops and see your doctor for regular pressure checks.
Good luck to you Monica.
Annette

Disney Mummy said...

Sending healing thoughts your way!