The dreaded removal of the patch

I’m not sure whether it’s a consequence of being plagued once again by pre-appointment paranoia (see if you’re wondering about this) due to the fact that my next appointment at Moorfields is rapidly approaching, but the other day I found myself remembering the various dreaded occasions of eye pad removal following surgery.  I suspect that removal of another kind of iPad is likely to cause similar fear in some people; but anyway I digress…

The first time it was like a cross between a horror movie playing in slow motion and a miracle of literal enlightenment.  I was still in a state of shock following the emergency flight back to the UK from Berlin following my macula-off detachment and I could barely stand up upon waking from the general anaesthetic at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.  For this reason, I wasn’t quite as horrified as I’d normally be by the fact that I was taken down from the ward to the eye clinic in a wheelchair the morning after surgery.  However I was somewhat embarrassed to be seen wearing the dressing-gown I’d had since I was about 15 years old (which still fitted me at the age of 38, as I was then).  It had always seemed like a sensible idea to keep my comfortable old dressing gown at my mum’s house for emergencies, but clearly I hadn’t forseen this particular emergency.  Gone was the no-nonsense surgeon with the comforting Irish lilt, and I was seen by a Greek surgeon, who removed the eye pad and did a fair amount of peering into my peeper (I now know that he was checking my pressures, although at the time I hadn’t a clue) before he proceeded to put the fear of God into me by instructing me firmly, “You must be very careful not to get any infection – your eye is an open wound.”  Not being one to shy away from gore, I managed to shuffle to the toilet once I was back on the ward, and there held onto the hand basin for stability and peered gingerly into the mirror.  An angry red slit with yellowish crusty gunk smeared around it was visible where my right eye should have been.  Yet… and here comes the miraculous part… whereas a few hours previously I had seen mainly black through that eye, at that point I could actually see light.  I couldn’t make anything out, and I felt as if I was about to topple over at any moment, but at least the light was better than the terrifying black abyss of the detachment.

Eye pad removal following surgery number two was more a case of “I-can’t-believe-that-this-is-happening-again-someone-please-wake-me-up-from-this-nightmare-pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaassssssseeeeeee!”  However, on the plus side, I’d been able to actually get dressed first thing in the morning so that I wasn’t seen in my childhood dressing-gown for a second time; and on the even more positive side it was the Irish surgon who came to remove the patch, and check out my buffeted and sleep-deprived eye.  This time I’d had silicone oil inserted, which was better than the gas in that I could actually see, but everything was incredibly blurry and I couldn’t read anything out of that eye.  Of course, there was also the return of the stabbing stiches pain, the constant aching, and the redness and disgusting eye gunk.

Weirdly, I can’t remember anything at all about eye pad removal number three, but the third surgery was performed at Moorfields and I do remember feeling a heck of a lot better upon waking up from the general anaesthetic.  Amazingly, there was also considerably less eye gunk, which was a massive plus and more than made up for the fact that I could have easily been mistaken for Frankenstein’s Creature a couple of days later when the bruising started to appear.

Eye pad removal following surgery number four still makes me shudder.  That was the surgery under local anaesthetic to remove the silicone oil, but as small detachment was found in the operating theatre, I ended up with gas again.  As the surgery was very early in the morning and done under local, I was packed off home the same day.  The following morning, my sister came to help me take the eye pad off.  I rapidly spiralled into nervous wreck status, quivering like an idiot in front of the bathroom mirror as I attempted to peel a bit of surgical tape off with shaking fingers.  “Do you want me to do it?”, asked my sister helpfully.  I just stared at her, nervously.  “Sit yourself down”, she instructed capably, indicating the toilet seat.  I obeyed, and sat in trepidation as she gently peeled away each piece of tape and removed the pad.  Foolishly, I took this from her and inspected it.  “Euuuuww!”, I exclaimed in disgust, before she retrieved it and placed it firmly in the bin.  I then busied myself with the task of examining my eye.  “Where’s my bottom eyelid gone?!”, I wailed, peering into the mirror in horror.  Weirdly, it had kind of turned in on itself, but fortunately a few wipes with cooled boiled water seemed to retrieve it.  Initial panic over, I was back to the by now familiar drill of redness, stabbing stitches, deep aching, and my old friend the gas bubble.  Oh, and posturing, of course.

Exactly two weeks later, I found myself sitting in Moorfields for yet another dreaded removal of the eye pad after further emergency surgery and another lot of silicone oil following the particularly devastating detachment number five.  This time, it was the nice Irish nurse who removed the pad.  I cautiously opened my eye to discover that the bizarre visual effects of the last detachment had thankfully disappeared, along with the remains of the tiny gas bubble.  However, I had developed horrendous double vision.  “This has never happened before!”, I cried in alarm, whilst pointing into the air and explaining, “I can see one of you here, and I know that’s the real you, but I can see another one of you there as well!”   “Don’t you worry – the doctor will check it in a minute”, she said calmly.  “How does it look?”, I asked her, hopefully.  “It looks a bit dirty, but I’m going to clean it up for you.”, she said cheerfully.  True to her word, she cleaned it up to the extent that by the time I managed to stagger to a mirror, although Frankenstein’s Creature stared back at me once again, he had at least had a good wash.  Fortunately, a few hours later I only had one sister again rather than two, and I was back to oily blurriness with considerably reduced peripheral vision, yet very thankful to be able to see out of that eye at all.      


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