Monday, June 10, 2024

Floaters - Round Two

With the success of my first surgery for eye floaters (aka a “vitrectomy”) two months ago, I was eager to get the other eye done. And this time, there would be no need for an air bubble to be injected and then dissipate over the next 10 days. (They had to do that the first time, to protect an area of the retina I’d already had repaired.) I expected I’d be able to see clearly again, right away. When I went back for my 1-month follow-up, I practically did cartwheels when they told me they could get me in to do the other eye the next week.

I should have known better.

The surgery went even more smoothly this time than it did the last. There was no long wait beforehand so I was in and out in 90 minutes, again with a plastic guard taped over my eye.

When I went back the next day to get the bandages and shield removed, I had fairly decent rudimentary sight. It was hard to tell because they had to dilate me again. But I could at least get several lines on the eye chart.

That night, as I was watching TV, I experimented a bit. With my right eye, it looked like I was watching HDTV, with everything crisp and clear. With the newly repaired left, it was like watching an old, non-HD TV. Not perfect, but serviceable. Considering this was the day after surgery, I was thrilled.

Then Friday happened.

Overnight, I noticed that whenever I moved my eye around, I was getting light flashes, like lightning. It wasn’t something uncommon; that happened a lot following my three prior eye surgeries. So I wasn’t panicking yet. But in the morning, when I took off the sleep guard, my previously serviceable-but-a-bit-blurry world was replaced by a mass of indistinct color. I could not recognize anything I looked at with that eye, other than maybe an outline.

OK, now it was time to panic.

I tried to contact my doctor’s office but all I could get was an impenetrable voicemail tree. Once I remembered to try to “jimmy the system” by pressing “0”, I got a live person and was able to make an appointment for later that morning. Sweetpea was at school and unreachable, so luckily my brother was gracious enough to give me a ride. I sure as hell couldn’t drive.

The doctors gave me the once-over and determined that I’d lost pressure in that eye overnight and the eye had “deflated” a bit. (Picture a football with about a third of the air let out.) They prescribed some more eye drops and set up another appointment for the next Wednesday.

I’d already been using some of the drops but now the regimen was changed: 6 daily drops of the anti-swelling agent, 4 daily drops of a steroid, and 2 daily drops of a dilating fluid. I had to create a spreadsheet just to sort out all the dosing times.

That was the Friday before Memorial Day. Over the long weekend, I started to see some changes. By Monday, I could see that there was a face on the front of a head, not just a pink blob. But there was more. There were also some vertical lines that looked like green tally marks blocking my focus point, so I was unable to read anything. If I stared long enough, the green would disappear but there was still an obstruction, like reading through blurred glass.

The biggest problem seemed to be that all the straight lines I could see… wall corners, doorways, tabletops… were all wavy like they were designed by a kid with an old grade-school compass. Or maybe Picasso.

Looking out at our slatted backyard fence, the slats were bending every which way, like they were guarding a haunted house.

By the following Wednesday's appointment, that was my primary problem. The pressure was back to normal and I could make out some lines on the eye chart (when I looked through the thing with the holes in it, like a colander), but otherwise, it looked like I was stuck living in the movie Beetlejuice.

The doctor was able to show me a good visual of what was wrong. He said that the lining of the eye contracted and wrinkled at the loss of pressure. But it would take time for the wrinkles to “iron out” now with the pressure back to normal. Showing me this helped:

This is a scan of the affected eye. The top image is from after the surgery, the bottom is before it.

See the wavy lines running through the “after” picture? That’s what’s causing the problem. When the lining is smooth, you get an accurate reflection of the world around you. But wavy lining functions like a funhouse mirror and bends the image every which way.

Doc said that this after-affect usually only happens after glaucoma surgery, not what I had. In fact, he said he’d never seen it before following a vitrectomy. Said the odds of this happening were like 100-1.

Lucky me.

When I went back the next week, I could do a little better on the eye chart, but still had the full-on funhouse mirror effect. He said he expected the waves to dissipate over the next several weeks to a couple of months.

There looked like some progress on the scans though:

The top is the newest scan, the bottom is from the previous week

You can see that the lines have smoothed out a bit so there’s some improvement physically, but not much practically.

At this point, all I can do is be patient, because it has to heal itself. He said there are no surgeries to correct it, nor eyeglasses that will compensate. So I just have to sit here and wait to get better while contemplating a possible lifetime of being one-eyed.

Around the house, I can get by. It’s frustrating, but I can function. What I can’t do is DRIVE, and that’s what frustrates me the most. I hate having to depend on others to get around. When I look out at the road, from the front seat of a car, it looks like what I used to see back when I was a college student, driving home from a late night at the bars. I was lucky I found my way home in one piece during those nights. I don’t think that will make a good “new normal.”

I do know that it’s not illegal to drive with one eye, as long as you pass a test. I have to figure out whether it’s better to have wavy but wider vision, or wear a patch and have 20/20, but no peripheral vision to my left.

So I’ll just have to be patient and see what comes next, while I contemplate the nagging question, “Why the hell didn’t I just learn to live with the goddamned floaters?


Infidel753 said...

What a nightmare. I hope it continues to improve, but I hope you're also considering talking to a malpractice lawyer and finding out what your options are. Effective loss of vision in one eye is a huge issue and if it isn't fully restored you deserve compensation.

Odds of 100-1 aren't all that low. If one out of every hundred people who has this surgery suffers such effects, then they should have informed you of it, explicitly and in detail, beforehand. In fact, at those odds, this operation seems more dangerous than can be justified to get rid of a mere floater problem.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Oh boy this sucks and I'm sorry.
Went to Duke Eye Center yesterday. 'Betty' is far smaller.
But I have a fuzziness in my right eye. In other words, I thought my glasses were dirty but I cleaned them and still see a cloud-type 'thingy' over on the right. It's a cataract. Great.
So now I have to have that removed and after reading this, it scares me. Damn it. Nothing good happens after 50. Nothing.
I will not tell them if I have floaters. I am not going through the hell you just went through. Yes and not driving is the pits!! I do not like the loss of independence or bothering others.
BTW, your O's are killing me!!

bluzdude said...

All options are on the table, but I have to keep in mind that I was the one pushing this procedure. And I think I dropped a "0" in there... I was going back and forth between 100-1 and 1000-1, because there was a lot of information coming at me all at once and I wasn't positive, but hitting on a 1000-1 odds sounded far-fetched. But it was probably accurate. But yeah, if this doesn't clear up, I'll look into it further.

I'm glad Betty is smaller, that's a good step.
I had cataract surgery in both eyes and came through it easily, and with 20/20 vision (aside from the floaters obstructing things.) And I had the floaters before going in, so it wasn't like they were a byproduct of the cataract surgery.

For me, I started falling apart at 40. I was bulletproof up until then, and ever since it's been one malady after another. As my mom always says, "You have to be tough to get old."

MRMacrum said...

Damn. I am in the early stages of being an old fart, and my mother was right. Getting old is not for the faint of heart. Using the term "looking forward to..." is used less frequently than before. Now I aim for "cautiously optimistic". Hope things turn around for you.

bluzdude said...

At least I will still dare to buy unripe bananas...

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your torment...very scary.
Best wishes for a full recovery!