Saturday, August 11, 2007

Detached retina

I had a cataract in my left eye repaired at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute about 8 weeks ago. The results were good. Then I had the right one done about three weeks ago. At my two-week post operative visit, the results were poor -- things were a bit dim and out of focus. The surgeon examined me and sent me home with a prescription for different eye-drops. The next day, the lower-left quadrant of my vision clouded over. I went back to UCLA, and a few minutes into the examination, the retinal specialist asked me when I had last eaten. My response was "shit" -- I knew she was thinking emergency surgery and I new my retina was detached.

I was frightened in the pre-operation area. My usually 130 mmHg systolic blood pressure went to 178. I was trembling inside my body. My veins receded, making insertion of an IV needle difficult. It was fright, not flight.

The surgery went well. They installed a scleral buckle -- a flexible band placed around the equator of the eye behind the tear, but did not drain the fluid under it or insert a gas bubble. The cloudy area became opaque. A few days later -- hours after a retinal exam -- it began to grow. I went back for a second emergency surgery -- a vitrectomy, replacing the vitreous with a gas bubble. That is where I am now. I can only see shapes. One is the bubble, floating at the top of my field of vision. The detached area has faded from opaque to fairly transparent. If nothing goes wrong, I will see the doctor again in five days.

I am still frightened. The prognosis is good, but far from certain. I now know I am prone to retinal detachment -- they keep checking my good eye. My right eye will be even more prone to re-detachment. I could end up blind in one or both eyes. Not many blind athletes around.
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