This is far from my usual topic, but I’m hoping I might help one of my wonderful readers.
I’m a very lucky person. Today, 15 months after I had emergency surgery for a detached retina, I got a clean bill of health from the surgeon. My vision is stable, no vision was lost. Many people are not so lucky.
Retinal detachment has symptoms, but I didn’t put two and two together and say to myself “oh my, I am going blind.” Most people don’t, until it’s too late. A tear often can can be repaired with a laser. A detachment requires immediate emergency surgery to prevent irreversible blindness.
Symptoms began with intermittent light flashes while I was in London in August 2006. I assumed it was an aberration, or that someone nearby was taking photos. (Yes, that is ridiculous, I know.)
I had a persistent black spot in my field of vision in my left eye for a week or so, but kept thinking it was something wrong with my contact lens, and kept throwing them away. (Yes, I know. pretty stupid.)
Then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and could only see half my face. I remember calling my sister, who said I probably had a migraine. But I called the eye doctor. His secretary said “Take a cab over here and be prepared to have surgery.” Right! I thought, what an alarmist.
A few tests confirmed that I had a detached retina and two hours later, I had surgery. “If you don’t have this surgery now,” Dr. John Woo, the most wonderful retinal specialist on the planet told me “you will lose sight in this eye.” I said “Let’s operate.”
An elegant procedure
The procedure, Pneumatic retinopexy, which is relatively new, and which he described as “elegant” involved injecting a gas bubble into the eye. Then I had to lay on my side for a week while it pushed the retina back in place. I watched Honeymoomer videos and every Fred Astaire movie ever made. Trust me, if he told me I had to wear a clown nose and stand on one foot to save my sight, I would have done it. Many, in fact, most people aren’t so lucky.
A retinal tear can happen to anyone. And since I had mine, I have learned that many people I know have had them too, including an artist, a writer, and a couple of other people whose livelihood depends on their eyesight.
So please, please, dear readers, if you have not had your eyes checked in the past year, or if you’ve noticed floaters, get your eyes checked.