I find myself flat on my back at the eye doctor. My eyes are frantically flitting from side to side as the doctor and his assistant prepare for the procedure. I try not to think about what is about to happen to me. But then he reaches across my face and grabs a needle. I see the needle come closer to my eye. I hear him tell me it may sting a little. You think? You’re about to stick a needle in my eye and it may sting?
With some loosening of restrictions, my wife and I went on a ride with our convertible on a warm, sunny Saturday. When we got home that evening I noticed a shadow pop up in my eye every time I blinked. I had a sinking feeling as I realized that I was probably dealing with a detached retina.
12 years ago I experienced a detached retina. As I have done with other challenges in life, including my mental health issues, I kind of jump in to accept the challenge being totally unaware of the consequences. And soon find out that the journey can be quite difficult.
Back then I had surgery on my left eye. Quite frankly, the surgery isn’t that bad. But, then again, I am asleep so don’t really notice. It’s the week or two after that may well have me needing therapy, both physical and mental, for years to come.
After the initial needle, which I found out was “a touch of freezing”, the doctor leaves the room only to come back in a few minutes with a much larger needle. He then asks me to train my eye on his shoulder and try to lie very still as he pushes the larger needle into my eye. He reassures me that it might be a little uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? You think? As the needle enters my eye, the eye moves each time his hand moves, throwing it out of sync with the other eye. Quite literally one eye was looking at him and the other eye was looking for him.
The last step of a retinal detachment surgery is to fill the eye ball with a gas bubble. You then spend the next week or two lying flat on your stomach which, supposedly, keeps the bubble pushing up against the retina as it heals.
If you are still with me I challenge you to go lay on your stomach, facing downward, to see how long you can hold out. It has to be the most uncomfortable position to hold for a few minutes, never mind a week.
I have read enough books and watched enough shows where people get tortured for whatever reason. I think pulling finger nails, waterboarding, electric shock treatments and sundry other methods could be done away with. Strap me to a board, on my stomach, facing downward and I would snap like a dry twig, give up more information than needed within an hour, maximum two.
Numerous decades ago we put a man on the moon, last week we saw the lift off of a rocket headed to the space station, hurtling through space at 25,000 kms/hr. and hooking up with the space station traveling at the same speed, with nary an issue. We have technology like autonomous vehicles, GPS, and computers that can perform tasks no human ever could. But for some strange reason we can’t seem to find a humane way to recover from retinal detachment surgery.
He tells me that the sound will be worse than the pain. I can’t even describe it using proper English without the use of numerous four letter words. The worst is that I can see all of this happening inside of my eye. I see the liquid in my eye start disappearing and being replaced by a blue gas. The sound I hear is similar to the sound of someone trying to slurp the last milkshake out of a glass with a straw. I may never be the same.
The retinal detachment I had 12 years ago came with some complications. It ended up being three surgeries and when all was said and done I had reduced vision in that eye. Through the years I have had cataract surgery, laser surgery, retinal detachment surgery and now have to use eye drops on a daily basis for glaucoma. So I am kind of used to having my eyes poked and prodded. But lying on my stomach? I cannot get used to that.
After he has sucked out the liquid and successfully filled my eye with gas he tells me to come back and see him in three days. With any luck, and he tells me there is a 50/50 chance of this working, the retina will have flattened and then he can spot weld, his words, the rupture with a laser and all will be good. If not we will need to do surgery.
Three days later I find myself in a small room. The sign on the door warns people that there is a laser in use. He plants my face up against a harness and tells me to hold still. He then fixes a magnifying glass between my eyelids, shines a bright light into my eye and calmly says I probably won’t like him much after he is done. He lines up a laser and the fun begins. I see a yellow light flashing and then a noise as he pulls the trigger and pain hits. He asks me if I am okay but all I can do is moan. I guess that tells him I am doing just fine because another jolt hits. Somewhere around the fifth one I lose count.
When he finishes he tells me to go home and keep my head down for another four days. What scares me most is his final words. He may have to do surgery after all. I stare at him in a dumbfounded way. But he is busy, he needs to move on to the next patient. He tells me there is an epidemic of detachments happening. So I am left to wait and wonder. Not sure I am physically or mentally ready for another round of torture. But what do I know.
I do wonder why this couldn’t have happened a few months ago. After all I was isolating at home because of Covid 19. But no, just as restrictions were being lifted, just as I was getting into the swing of things (pun intended) with my golf game, my life changes direction. I know things could be worse but let me, just for a fleeting moment, wallow in a touch of self-pity. I will survive. I will be back on the course soon. As best possible, I am making it a good one.
“It’s okay if you don’t feel grateful in this moment, even if you know you have a lot to be grateful for. Let yourself feel whatever you feel. It will be a lot easier to focus on your blessings after you let the pain run through you.” Lori Deschene