I’m minding my own business, rowing in the double with Geoff on Sunday 11June 2017 when suddenly it looks like somebody has started dripping swirls of ink in front of my vision. Of course this happens on a Sunday, right?
So after some consideration of the lovely designs being painted on my retina I decided to seek professional advice and took myself to the ER and Casey Eye Institute. The people there were very nice, and over the course of the next few hours I got to see quite a few different people who wanted to take my blood pressure, medical history, heart rate, height, weight, and pretty much every other piece of information that I could cough up while gunshot victims were brought through to other treatment rooms. Fun place.
Finally a resident took a look in my eye and said “I think you’ve got a Posterior Vitreous Detatchment” and was thrilled that this was the first time she’d ever actually seen one through the scope. They then pulled out an ultrasound machine and used it to get another view of my eye. For a moment they thought I might have been pregnant when the image of a small child flashed across the screen, but then they realized they were actually watching a YouTube video and switched the display to show what the transducer was measuring. Sure enough they said, looks like a PVD.
Finally the on-call ophthamologist shows up and carefully examines my eyes. He decides that yes, the vitreous has pulled away from the retina but the retina is intact. He tells me that I should “get used to it” in a couple of months and will be able to just ignore the floaters that have appeared. Good news I thought, could be worse!
Unfortunately then it got worse. By Thursday I was starting to have serious issues trying to see through my right eye, seemed like I was looking through a hazy window. Friday morning it got to be too much and I headed back to to Casey Eye Institute. This time they said “unfortunately you now have a retinal tear and you need to go into surgery right now, when did you last eat?”. “Breakfast” says I, to which they respond “OK, you’re going into surgery 8 hours from when you ate breakfast.
Of course I had to choose to do this when Katharine was out of town over in Bend.
So it’s kind of a sucky thing to find out you have a retinal tear and are at serious risk of losing part or all of your vision. However:
- Fortunately I had been wise enough to take public transit to the institute since I expected them to dilate my eyes and therefore leave me unable to drive.
- Fortunately we have incredible neighbors who not only offered to handle the transportation end of things, but also started heating up their phone lines to get further advice from a relative who works in the field.
- Fortunately I was smart enough to go to the eye institute when the vision degraded instead of waiting for it to improve (which it wouldn’t have, it would have gotten worse).
- Fortunately we have a world class eye institute right here in Portland.
- Fortunately I took the initiative to go straight there instead of anywhere else.
The surgery went well, however there is a 10 to 20% chance that I will need further surgery if this one doesn’t work. This first surgery involved removing a portion of the vitreous to gain access to the retina, re-attaching the retina, and then putting a gas bubble into my eye (still don’t quite have that one figured out). The gas is SF6 (Sulfer Hexaflouride) and it is apparently used to tamponade the repair. It also totally messes up the index of refraction in my eye, so vision is essentially non-existent in my right eye.
But I gained one amazing super-power! At least on the second day after the surgery I discovered that my right eye has essentially become a microscope. If hold something so close to my eye that it’s nearly touching, I can see amazing detail that is exactly like what I would see under a microscope. Unfortunately the depth of field is essentially zero…if i move the object even a mm it goes out of focus. Wierd!