Well life happens. Things happen. And in my case, my retina detached from my eye in2016, at the young, tender age of thirty-something. After getting assessed at Kaiser Ophthalmology in August, I was immediately referred to the ER at UC Davis Hospital Medical Center for further assessment. That is when I realized that I had lost 50% of my vision in my left eye, my dominant eye. I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know how, but once they had me take an eye test and actually focus with one eye on something, I didn’t even see the eye chart. It was all black, my vision was gone on the upper half of my left eye. So retinal detachment surgery was scheduled 5 days later, and the aftermath of the surgery was almost as traumatic as learning I had a detached retina.
After a horrible reaction to the general anesthesia from the surgery that took several hours to wear off, I developed a reaction to the adhesive tape that kept my eye patch on after surgery. I got a nasty, bubbly, crusty, painful rash all around my eye where the patch was tapped… a nice consolation prize from the retinal surgery. I was on bed rest for a week and had to lay in a specific position the entire time due to the gas bubble that was inserted in the back of my eye (to assist with the endoscopy laser reattaching my retina, a scleral buckle stitched on my eye to secure the retina too). After getting off bed rest I had to keep my head down for weeks (looking down to keep the gas bubble in the perfect position so my eye can heal), and let me tell you how traumatic that was for me…. walking around with my head down felt so shameful. No eye contact when talking to people. There’s something so psychological about having to keep your head down, all the time. I would have never thought about that, but I surely experienced it. I felt bad, sad, shameful looking at the ground all day long.
So while all that is going on, I learned at a follow-up appointment I had developed a bad cataract, over my entire eye… consolation prize #2. Looking out of my left eye, I could only see some colors, otherwise it as all so so cloudy. I had to wait 4 months for my eye to heal from the retinal surgery before we could schedule a cataract surgery. So, I had to adapt, adjust and suffer through it. Well, what happened? I developed social anxiety. It was horrible. I couldn’t see well, the left side of my vision was so cloudy and distorted, I essentially saw like 1.5 of everything, “beer goggles” all the time? SUCKS! It’s incredible how our minds compute and compensate for stuff like this. My depth perception was gone. I’ve spilled hot water making tea due to my lack of depth perception. I’ve knocked over my kids, bumped into them and stuff, I even smacked my toddler in the head when I pointed over to the left, not seeing her there with full arm swing right to her dome. I felt so vulnerable, not able to keep a good “eye” on my kids. I’ve been close to meltdowns in public places because it was all so overwhelming to me, not being able to see well, navigate, watch the kids, find places. I’ve cried in my husband’s arms trying to hold it together but feeling so incredibly vulnerable, handicapped and just struggling to see. I couldn’t drive at night, the rain terrified me, actually driving terrified me, it was very difficult, especially my lack of depth perception part. All these scared, anxious, helpless feelings were taking over my life and I had to learn how to cope. Life goes on and as a Mom, and an adult, I had to figure this out quick!
Then there was the job search…I was in the middle of a job search when this all happened to add to the trauma. I was interviewing for months, driving to and fro and taking my daughter to Grammie’s house 20 miles away, each way, having to drive so much, having to wear a patch at interviews, feeling embarrassed and not up to par looking for a job through all this. That as so incredibly difficult. Well I did get a new job, after 3 interviews I started in October. Then there’s starting a new job. Luckily my new job is more fabulous than I could have imagined, I was still really struggling. My eyes were so fatigued with reading lots of new material, meeting many many new people, trying to focus through my impaired vision. Wanting to make good impressions and do well, but literally “seeing” my deficit every waking moment was draining and discouraging, but I worked really hard at keeping my head up and leaning into my faith that it’ll get better.
Cataract surgery was finally scheduled for January 19th. It went well but the post-op appointment the next day was a difficult one. What really was the effect from my retinal detachment? I hadn’t been able to see because of the massive cataract that developed after the 1st surgery. Well, when the surgeon removed my patch, i wanted to cry and throw up, then got an immediate headache and felt dizzy. It was clear. What I was most scared of seemed to be my reality… 50% of my vision loss from my retinal detachment was still there. My pherifial vision was better than the midline of my field of vision. When I look straight, It’s really really blurry, but my pherifrial vision in the lower left is clearer. It was confusing to see what I was seeing. It really tripped me out for a couple hours. Well, surgeon said there is some residual cataract left and i’ll need one more, minor laser procedure to remove it in 3-4 months. Oh, and I couldn’t bend at the waist for a week, lift anything more than #10 for 3 weeks as well as need eye drops in my eye every 2 hours! OH AND I CAN’T WEAR EYE MAKE UP FOR A MONTH! Sigh
So… I threw myself a pity party. I can be the queen of pity parties and partied hardy all weekend long; I allowed myself to grieve my loss, feel the sadness of having such messed up vision now. I was thinking about it all, all I’ve been through, and what my future will be. If I’m blessed enough to live twice my age, then I’d be living HALF MY LIFE with really messed up vision. I moped, cried and felt really bad about it all. My support system has been so wonderful and obviously wanted to know how the surgery went. How can I keep retelling my devastating reality? Updates over and over again of what I’m experiencing? So I didn’t really talk about it. I talked to some family, friends and co-workers but it made me feel so sad every time I talked about it. But after several sad days I decided I didn’t want to feel sad and so upset about it any longer. I decided my pity party was over and it was time to accept my reality and focus on all the other wonderful things going on. Luckily it worked and I have actually had a few minutes of relief this past week, not “seeing” how bad my vision is.
Well the past 6 months I’ve had 15 ophthalmology appointments, 2 eye surgeries (with one procedure pending) and after 5 months of not knowing what my vision would be… lost? repaired? compromised? I found out my vision is really messed up from my retinal detachment. Half the vision from my left eye is lost and it could take up to 1 year for my eye to heal and (hopefully) regain more vision. Follow up appointment today lifted my 10# weight restriction (so i can actually pick up my daughter now), and I only need eye drops 4x/day for the next 3 weeks, until my next appointment! geesh!
As I continue to adjust to my new vision and all that has happened to me, I am working hard to keep positive and a hopeful outlook. It can be difficult as every waking moment is a reminder of what I am literally seeing is impaired. But I’m done with my pity party and am focusing on the good. My husband and been more considerate, understanding, patient and loving than I could have ever dreamed of. I’m focusing on the power of our minds and pray that someday I won’t even “see” how messed up my vision is. I pray for comfort and gratitude through these trials. I’m thankful for incredible loved ones in my life who have expressed concern, prayed, supported, brought meals, babysat, offered to drive, called, texted and checked in through all of this. Your love really has helped me through this.
Here’s a retinal scan of my good eye and my “bad eye”, can you tell which is which?
And life’s adventures continue…