If the old saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” is true, then I’m drowning in the stuff. I had my eye surgery early Tuesday morning. I wasn’t nervous, just mildly anxious to get it over and done with so I could get on with my life and do the things I like to do without visual impairment. I chose my surgeon not so much for his charming bedside manner (absent) but for his reputation for being the doc with the resume to do this type of procedure with great success. Not one, but two different doctors told me that if I was their wife (daughter, etc.) that’s who they’d have them use. The doctor himself basically said the same thing. (Yup, just a mite bit cocky)
The interesting thing about eye surgery is that you’re awake during the procedure. Not mildly sedated, but totally, fully, 100% awake. They sedate you to anesthetize your eye (which is actually one entire side of your head and face), then they bring you out of anesthesia for the remainder of the surgery. Your nose and mouth are covered with a plastic oxygen mask and your face is double draped with a clear plastic sterile barrier. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to having your head sealed in a plastic bag and live to tell about it. Meanwhile, the rest of your body is pretty much mummy-wrapped in warm blankets. You couldn’t scratch an itch if your life depended upon it. If there was ever a recipe for claustrophobia it’s eye surgery.
Given all this, the other fascinating thing about eye surgery is that you can “see” what’s happening inside your eye. Yeah. Very odd, that. Good thing I’m not squeamish because you can see the microscopic instruments going after the bad stuff. You can also see the membrane being lifted off the macula piece by piece. It looks like a very fine mesh. You can follow the surgeon’s progress in your head as though you were sitting right there assisting him. That is of course when you’re trying your damnedest not to suffocate or think too much about the itch you want to scratch on the end of your nose. The anesthesiologist sits on your left through the whole procedure. Since I wasn’t sedated after the local was administered, I’m guessing she had the least amount of pressure on her. She kept a nice running banter going between the surgeon and his two assistants so that overall, the atmosphere was oddly chipper as I lay there struggling to breathe and trying not freak out at my total inability to move a single muscle.
In my former life I was (among other things) a dental assistant. I worked for an Endodontist (root canal specialist) for five years and we did a good amount of surgery. Having been an assistant, you know firsthand how the atmosphere in an OR changes when something goes wrong. Voice timbre changes, the banter vanishes and suddenly things go from routine to, “We’ve got a problem, Houston!” So imagine my alarm when I suddenly “felt” a subtle shift in the vibe of the room. The surgeon’s voice changed as he started asking for things that obviously were in the OR, but not out and at the “ready” position. That’s never a good sign, I thought as I lay there listening to the two assistants quickly shuffling about the room. When he called for something again his voice had an agitated edge to it, and when one of the assistants asked for clarification I could feel her energy had changed too. This is not a man I’d want to keep waiting while trying to anticipate his needs.
The remainder of the surgery was unremarkable except for the fact that the light, almost airy energy that was in the room at the beginning was gone. I had to ask for some sedation toward the end of the procedure as the pain had suddenly become too pronounced to ignore. The anesthesiologist pushed a bit of sedative through the IV in the back of my hand (they couldn’t tap into an arm vein for some odd reason) and the subsequent pain and burning was enough to take my mind off the pain in my eye. (Note: I don’t think that’s how anesthesia’s supposed to work, but there you have it!)
I sat in recovery for about fifteen minutes before the surgeon came in to talk to me. The fact that I was not allowed to lay back should have been a big red flag, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the moment. The surgeon looked a lot less chipper than previously and I wondered if he was already thinking about his next case. He wasn’t. He was thinking about what to tell me about my procedure. Turns out, I’m a statistic … again.
I know any time you have surgery there’s always a risk of complications, but for some strange reason my ticket keeps getting punched. Fifteen years ago I had spinal fusion surgery that went horribly awry and now, once again I’m on the “Oops!” list. Apparently everything was going just fine until my retina tore … in multiple places. I don’t know what it is about me, but I can never screw up in moderation. For example, years ago when I broke my wrist I didn’t break one bone I broke five. Twice. When my back developed problems and required surgery it wasn’t one disc that herniated needing fusion, it was three. And now I was faced with the complication of multiple retinal tears.
As my surgeon would say, retinal tears can usually be fixed. That’s the good thing. Unfortunately, there’s lots of bad things about it too, the least of which is having to spend the next 10-14 (or more) days face down. That’s face down 24/7. Sound like fun yet? This is what that looks like.
So that’s where I’m at for now; face down 50 minutes out of every hour 24/7 for the next week or two. Hopefully, things will heal properly because I don’t want to think about what will happen if it doesn’t. My back is taking a beating, which kind of takes my mind off the misery of my aching eye. How ironic is that?