Eye Surgery: Episode 1
So yeah, you read that right: eye surgery. Not “iSurgery” as in the latest Apple product that can help you learn how to perform surgical procedures on yourself. That’s probably coming in 2025. I’m talking surgery – of the eye. Of which most of us have 2 of, if we are lucky. That is what I had to have. The nearsighted, glasses-wearing-since-she-was-8 girl who would never dream of doing Lasik or any other voluntary procedure that involved messing with the eye had to have eye surgery. Crap. In true Lisa form I decided that I must document the experience. This not only helps me to process what I’m feeling, but also it is a cathartic release for me to share it. Plus I just love telling stories. So now, that it is Day 6 post surgery and I’m on the other side of the procedure part of the journey, I thought I would start sharing my experience. Some of this I wrote last week leading up to surgery so I’ll leave it in the past tense. You might not want to eat you lunch while reading!
In order to begin Episode 1 I must put it into context about what else was going on at the time.
Sun, May 15 – Some of you may remember I ran the Cleveland Half Marathon on this day, my birthday. It was a crazy race with weather and had me worried only about rain and thundersnow! I had no worries or concerns about my vision that day.
Mon, May 16 – The following day I was off of work so I renewed my driver’s license that morning with no worries about vision and passed the eye test fine! (*Note: the eye test uses both eyes at the same time).
The following days my eyes bugged me a bit, but I just thought it was my contacts. I had had an eye exam the end of February which resulted in new contact lenses, multifocals, which would take some getting used to. So I figured my eyes were tired or still getting used to the new contacts. I didn’t really notice lack of vision, just that something was off, but I didn’t try the “cover one eye” trick at that point.
Thurs, May 19 – I noticed I had a little trouble doing the check-in table for an event at work. It took me longer to find the names than normal.
Fri, May 20 – I ran 40 minutes at lunch like normal and had a pretty normal day.
Sat, May 21 – I think this was the turning point day. I started noticing my left eye had compromised vision. I did the comparison test and noticed that my left eye was definitely changed from my right, Zach was at Cedar Point all day with Jazz Band and Mike and I went out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. I tried to enjoy it, still hoping it was just my contacts, but getting worried that it was something more serious.
Sun, May 22 – We went to Canton all day for a LAX tournament. The eye seemed to be getting worse, but I managed to still walk a couple miles around the fields to get some activity. I think I was in denial and I didn’t want to bring it up around Zach. He was getting ready to go to Washington D.C. the next day for his 8th grade trip and I didn’t want to ruin anything for him. That night after going some googleing about potential eye problems, I decided I could no longer ignore this situation and that I would make an appointment with my eye doc the next day.
Mon, May 23 – We took Z to school at 5am for his trip. I called my eye doc (optometrist) on the way to work and made an appointment for the next day. Driving was very scary! Working at the computer was difficult. I had to keep taking breaks. I looked up the difference between an optometrist and ophthalmologist and realized that the first is not a medical doctor. I decided it made more sense to skip the optometrist and go directly to the MD. I got 3 good recommendations from my insurance (medical this time) and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist for the next day at 1pm. I did manage to run at lunch that day for 40 minutes! When running I actually felt normal and I could navigate the streets just fine. Now driving was another issue. I hoped and prayed I got home okay. That night I came home and went directly to my bed to cry.
Tues, May 24 – (Happy 18th Anniversary!!) – Mike took me to see Dr. Millstein at 1pm at his Clinic-affiliated office right in Twinsburg. He was so nice and we were most impressed with all the people there. Gotta love the Cleveland Clinic. I knew it was going to be bad when they asked me read the chart with just my left eye and I just said “no, I don’t see anything.” I was diagnosed with a detached retina. Yikes! But before he even told me that he started with “well, the good news is that this is a fixable problem.” I really think that helped put me in a positive frame of mind about the whole thing. He explained that he was a cataract surgeon and that he would refer me to a retina specialist downtown. He also explained that I would need surgery and briefly described what the surgery would entail. Not only did he refer me, but he told the nurses to schedule it right then for the next day. I left there thinking the surgery could be the next day. Later that day they called to tell me that the consultation and assessment would be the next day, but not the surgery. It seems silly now, but I was most upset about the news that I would not be able to run (or do any exercise besides walking) for at least a month. That felt like the worst news to get at that point.
Wed, May 25 – I saw the retina specialist, Dr. Rachitskaya (pronounced: rachet-sky-a) (a woman!!!) at the Cole Eye Institute (one of the best in the country) at the Cleveland Clinic at 9am and had more tests to see various pictures of my eye. I liked the doctor immediately. She was professional, thorough and matter-of-fact, but very warm too. She reassured me when I got teary when she was explaining things like surgery itself, possible long term effects, restrictions and that it could be a long journey for recovery. We were there until like 11:30am. Surgery was set for Friday. Here is what we learned about the whole situation: this is not a situation that was trauma or injury induced, but what we learned is that people who have severe nearsightedness (lucky me!) and are middle-aged (wait a minute) are more susceptible to this happening. Plan A (2 hour operation) was to put a “buckle” on the eye to get the retina to reattach and she would determine during the operation if she needs to put plan B (add another hour) into place (a gas bubble) also. Whichever option she chose would determine the recovery instructions and time of recovery. She explained that the recovery for the buckle option is simpler – wear a patch and after about a week usually people feel better. However, the gas bubble option is a little more complicated. Patients who have that usually have to lay face down all day and night for like up to 2 weeks! She gave us paperwork about a massage chair that you can order in order to stay face down. I started to get really anxious then. She was optimistic that I would only need the buckle, but we had to wait and see. The good news was that this was a fixable problem – not sure to what extent my vision would come back, but surgery would help. It is a long recovery process in terms of healing, tweaking new prescriptions – usually a month or more. I’ll be off of work for at least a week. I can’t run or do exercise for at least a month which is what upsets me the most. Mike has been super great about all of this, going with me to all the appointments and being so supportive.
Thurs, May 26 – I was off of work today again in order to get prepared. I was hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst – just in case! So Mike took me to get a few button up shirts at the thrift store so I don’t have to put things on over my head. Would you believe before this I had absolutely none? We also got some dry shampoo just in case. We went to the grocery store to get stocked up on stuff Mike can prepare. If I have to lay face down I won’t be able to do that stuff. I got caught up on laundry today too since I won’t be able to lift anything above 5 pounds for at least 3 weeks. I notified work about the situation as well as family and close friends. I told everyone that I was scared, but hopeful. I was just trying to tie up any details that I could before going into surgery. One of the best blessings of the week was being able to talk on the phone with Darlene, one of my running friends on Facebook. Darlene had experienced a detached retina a couple of years ago and had endured the gas bubble treatment. She calmed my fears and gave me some good tips. Basically it felt good to talk with someone who had been through it before and come out of it even stronger. She still did at least 2 big races that same year following surgery! As it turns out, she is just a rock-star and super sweet person and I’m glad I could get to know her a little bit better in spite of the circumstances.
We went to Chick-fil-a for dinner tonight for “the last supper” as I could not eat after midnight. Beside not being able to run, being dependent on someone (driving, washing myself, anything) is what I hate the most. One thing at a time…
Picture of me sitting outside at Chick-fil-a the night before surgery