Category Archives: Posturing

Pondering Posturing: survival tips

A couple of people on the RD support group site recently asked for face-down posturing tips, so I thought I’d make a note of what I’ve found to be helpful whilst enduring the seemingly endless hours of maintaining one position with my face stuffed into the mattress.  (If you’re wondering what this ‘posturing’ lark is all about, please read Pondering Posturing, which explains it.)  So, here goes:

  1. Do EXACTLY as instructed by the surgeon.  As a mild control freak, it’s always been a source of huge frustration to me that there’s not an awful lot I can actually do in order to make the ruddy retina stick.  However… posturing is something which is within my control and it’s incredibly important to posture correctly (as instructed by the surgeon) to give the retina the best chance.  Therefore, I’ve always been fanatical in doing exactly as I’ve been told, regardless of the discomfort.  When it all gets too much, repeat the mantra: “Posturing is helping my retina, posturing is helping my retina… STICK, ruddy retina, STICK!”
  2. Distraction.  Audio books, iPlayer programmes, soothing music (a bit of Glenn Gould hits the spot), learning a language via audio CD, ‘phone calls (when the posturing includes time lying on one side), visitors (providing they don’t mind talking to the back of your head)… all these things help to keep the brain active and slightly distracted from the unutterable grimness of posturing.
  3. Don’t think too far ahead.  Take it an hour at a time, and plan what to cram into your next 10-minute break.  Okay, so once you’ve accomplished the necessities of hobbling to the loo, putting eye drops in, eating, drinking, stretching, etc., there won’t actually be many seconds of your precious 10-minute break remaining, but still – it helps to plan for the excitement of being vertical for a few minutes.
  4. Count down the posturing days.  With the previous tip in mind, I find that it’s usually best not to think about counting down until you’ve passed the half-way mark in terms of days.  Otherwise it’s just depressing.
  5. A memory foam mattress helps with the aching and pressure at various points caused by keeping your body in the same position.
  6. A very hot shower on the shoulders (in your 10-minute break!) helps with the pain and aching, as does gentle massage if you can find someone to massage your shoulders and the back of your neck.  The bonus of the latter is that it can be done whilst posturing!
  7. Eat ‘good eye food’.  (Read: Good Eye Food for further info.)  Okay, so it doesn’t help with the posturing itself, but at least it makes me feel as if I’m doing something positive to help myself.
  8. Indulge in the odd explosion of expletives.  It releases tension, and if you’re lying face-down with your head stuffed in the mattress, people won’t be able to figure out what you’re saying anyway.
  9. Growl at your retina when you feel particularly frustrated.  As above, this can help to release tension, although it may alarm the dog, or other posturing buddy you’ve acquired for company.
  10. Persuade someone to read aloud to you.  Depending on their skill in dramatisation, this can result in hours of entertainment.  I particularly recommend ‘The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year’ (yes, really!) by Sue Townsend, which my aunt read to me during my second (and longest) period of posturing.  Thankfully, the title didn’t turn out to be prophetic.
  11. Eat chocolate.  Good quality chocolate, obviously.

If anyone has any further posturing tips, please feel free to add them by commenting below…  🙂



Pondering Posturing Part Two (or: “Meine Augen schmerzen!”)

As promised in my first post about posturing, I’ve finally got around to writing about exactly what I *did* during those long hours, days, weeks, and the entire MONTH of July 2014 of lying face-down or on one side with 10 minute breaks every hour.  (Please see for an explanation of exactly what posturing is in relation to retinal detachment).  Now being a fairly active person, the necessity of spending all this time lying down in one position was pretty grim, and that’s putting it mildly when you take into account all the side-effects of such momentous inactivity, as detailed in my previous post.  The most relentlessly horrendous period of posturing was during July 2014, following surgery number two.  It was at this point that my cousin, who had taught himself fluent Welsh whilst studying an unrelated subject at Aberystwyth University some years ago, sagely advised me, “You need to keep your mind active and think about something other than your eyes.  Why don’t you learn a language?”  Now, my language learning has always been a bit hit and miss.  Apart from the usual smattering of French and German at school, I’ve learnt odd bits of wherever I’ve visited, including Spanish, Greek, Czech, Polish, and Russian (a long-held ambition of a visit to St Petersburg unfortunately had to be cancelled following surgery number two).  After much thought, I decided to concentrate on German: a decision possibly influenced by the very kind German doctor who originally diagnosed my retinal detachment in Berlin whilst I was there for a few days holiday.  My sister was dispatched to the library to scour the shelves for audio language CDs and  returned with a small pile which I gradually worked my way through until I figured out which seemed to be the most useful.

Now, audio CDs are great for language learning, but there are a few problems in using them whilst posturing.  Firstly, most of them seem to come with a book too.  There’s something particularly frustrating about lying face-down concentrating on the vocabulary to be told cheerfully, “and to learn exactly how this works, just turn to page 8 in the book”.  “Grrrrr – well I can’t flippin’ well turn to *any* page in the blinkin’ book when I’m flamin’ well posturing, can I?!”, I’d growl unintelligibly into the mattress in annoyance.  Another difficulty was that in order to reach the plug socket, the CD player was placed on the windowsill, which was out of reach whilst I was in my posturing position.  This meant that I’d press ‘play’ and then assume my face-down position on the bed, which had to be held for half an hour before I was permitted to turn on my side for the next half hour.  So if I missed a bit, or wanted to pause the CD, I couldn’t reach it.  Maybe this was a good thing in a way, because it meant that I had to remember things and learn quickly in order to keep up, but the frequent times of having to listen to almost a whole hour of German whilst barely understanding a word of it became somewhat irritating.  I liked to tell myself that some of it must be seeping into my consciousness even if I didn’t understand it all at the time.

After a few days of this, I started putting my efforts into practice.  “Meine Augen schmerzen” (my eyes ache) became a constant complaint whenever anyone asked how I was, with the additional lament, “Ich habe Kopfschmerzen” (I have a headache) on frequent occasions.  BBC Deutche Plus didn’t teach me how to say that I ached all over, but “Ich habe Grippe” (I have ‘flu) seemed to sum up the general feeling pretty well so I’d sometimes resort to that for a change.  My sister joined in my language challenge with enthusiasm, although it was somewhat confused enthusiasm at times when she clomped up the stairs and cheerfully announced her arrival with, “Bon jour!”.  “Guten Tag”, I’d correct sternly, from my prone position with my head in the mattress.  “Wie geht’s?”, I’d go on to enquire, receiving a confused, “Do what?” in response.  “How are you?“, I’d translate.  “Ooooooh”, she’d reply, “sehr gut, danke.  Tu voudrais a cuppa?”  “Ein Tasse Tee, and it’s German, not French!”, I’d remind her despairingly.  “Oui, oui, Deutsche”, she’d nod in agreement.  “So, would you like a cuppa then?”, she’d ask, abandoning any attempt at anything other than her native tongue.  “Ja, bitte”, I’d attempt to nod before quickly realising that this was an impossible movement as the top of my head had nowhere to go other than further into the mattress.  “Die Küche ist die Treppe herunter, dann rechts, durch das Wohnzimmer, dann wieder rechts”, I instructed helpfully, incase she’d forgotten her way to the kitchen.  After a few seconds of confused silence, I explained, “The kitchen is down the stairs, then right, through the living room, then right again.”  “Aaaaah!”, she said, in relief, as if she really had forgotten where the kitchen was.  “I don’t know the German for kettle, though”, I confessed.  “That’s alright, I’m sure I’ll manage”, she replied, before heading of down the stairs.  A few minutes later she’d return bearing ein Tasse Tee, followed by the dog, Dizzy, who seemed a little bemused when we started calling him Schwindlig.  A direct translation of Gillespie, the other dog, was a little more tricky but we settled on referring to him as ‘die Orange ein’ (the orange one), which was what my Grandad used to call him in later years when he couldn’t remember their names.

Unfortunately, my German has lapsed somewhat since my last bout of posturing in May this year.  For the past few months, my only efforts have been via text exchanges with a friend who seems even more enthusiastic than my sister in helping me to improve my language skills.  A typical text message from him will start, “Guten Abend!  Wie geht’s?”  (Good evening!  How are you?), and go on to make a comment such as, “Das Wetter ist schlecht!”  (The weather is pants.  Okay, perhaps that isn’t an entirely literal translation, but you get the gist.)  Things will then start to get a little precarious, with sentences such as, “How are your Augen?” and “I hope you’re not feeling too müde?” (tired), and occasionally, “When’s your next appointment at the Krankenhaus?” (hospital).  I keep meaning to make an effort to get back into the German because after all, it could potentially be so much easier to learn how that I’m vertical for most of the time again…

Note to anyone reading this who knows more German than I do (and clearly this isn’t difficult): Please accept my apologies for any errors, which I blame entirely on the difficulties caused by my posturing position.  If you have any good tips for German learning, I’d be delighted if you would share them by commenting on this blog post.  🙂

Pondering Posturing

Hmmm… posturing.  Before my retinal detachment I only really came across the word in terms of several people telling me, ‘Don’t slouch, you’ll develop a bad posture!’  I have that typical bad habit of tall people in trying to make myself look more inconspicuous at times by hunching over slightly.  These days, the word ‘posturing’ conjures up an entirely different meaning.  For anyone reading this who hasn’t had the misfortune to experience the RD meaning of posturing, let me explain.  Retinal re-attachment surgery involves removal of the vitreous fluid from the eye, flattening of the retina, and insertion of a gas bubble or silicone oil to keep the retina in place.  It acts like an internal splint, to hold the retina as it heals.  The gas then gradually disperses over time (the time depends on whether a short or long acting gas bubble has been used) and is replaced by the patient’s own natural fluid.  The oil has to be surgically removed at a later date.  The gas or oil bubble floats in the eye (think of the bubble in a spirit level), so the patient will usually be told to sit or lie with their head in a certain position, to make it float and push against the part of the retina which needs flattening.  It’s this act of lying or sitting in a certain position which is referred to as ‘posturing’ in the world of retinal detachment.  The posturing position will depend on the location of the detachment.

My most challenging period of posturing was July 2014 (did I mention that it was the WHOLE of July?  I mean, the ENTIRE MONTH?!).  During this time, my posturing routine was as follows for the first two weeks: half an hour lying on my stomach, clutching a couple of pillows to my chest, with my head tipped forwards, chin tucked into my chest and forehead touching the mattress.  Then half an hour lying on my left-hand side, after which time I was permitted 10 minutes break before starting again on my stomach.  Oh, and then i had to sleep all night on my left-hand side.  Now you’d think this would be a bit of a doddle, right?  When my consultant described what I had to do I nodded as enthusiastically as I could manage in my post-op brain-fogged state and remember thinking, ‘Yep, I can do that!’  Back at my mum’s house a few hours later, I wasn’t feeling quite so confident.  In fact, I was feeling decidedly sorry for myself.  In addition to the eye ache and occasional stabbing pain of the stitches, I had back ache, neck ache, shoulder ache, headache… and when I say ‘ache’, I mean ‘ooooooouuuuuuuccccchhhhhhh!’. A good three of my precious ten minutes of break time were spent groaning loudly and cautiously moving my aching limbs in a massive effort to haul myself upright very slowly in an attempt to minimise the pain and avoid the inevitable dizziness which washed over me like a sickening cloud whenever I sat up.  A few days later I started to develop sore patches on the skin of my shoulder and hip from the pressure of spending so much time lying on my side and was prescribed barrier cream.  ‘Indications for Use: Protection of at-risk skin from damage associated with incontinence and related symptoms’, stated the instruction leaflet.  I had the sneaking suspicion that it was sniggering at my dismay.  ‘I’ve been prescribed cream that’s usually used for INCONTINENCE!’, I wailed to my sister in disgust.  When the GP later explained that the sore patches were occurring because I was thin and a bit bony, I decided to attempt the alternative solution of consuming extra supplies of chocolate, which was far more satisfactory if disappointingly ineffective.  I still don’t understand why I haven’t managed to put any weight on during my long periods of enforced inactivity due to posturing.

After a few more days of groaning and occasional short bouts of grizzling face-down into the pillows, I followed the advice of a friend and packed my sister off to purchase a memory foam mattress topper.  It wasn’t the magic route to glorious pain-free comfort I’d been hoping for, but it certainly helped.  Another thing which helped was the change in posturing routine for the remainder of July to fifteen minutes face-down, fifteen minutes on my left-hand side, followed by a positively luxurious thirty minutes break.  Suddenly, I was in heaven… okay, maybe not heaven, but it was certainly an improvement from the hell of the previous two weeks.  I could eat all my dinner in one sitting instead of having to break off when my ten-minute break finished; I was able to have a long shower, allowing the hot water to soothe my aching shoulders; and I had time to shuffle around and reacquaint myself with the rest of the house instead of being confined to one room.

All this posturing hasn’t been much fun for my family either, but I definitely couldn’t have got through it all without them.  My mum, who cast aside her watch when she retired from teaching a few years back, declaring triumphantly that she would no longer be governed by time, was suddenly setting the oven timer and supplying me with cups of tea and meals in my ten-minute breaks, as well as putting two lots of eye drops in for me four times a day.  (I couldn’t see to do it myself at first, but have since mastered the technique.)  ‘What do you want in your next break?’ became a constant refrain, as did the familiar sound of my mum plodding up the stairs talking to someone on the ‘phone and entering the room of posturing doom with the words, ‘Oh, she’s face-down now, she won’t be able to talk to you at the moment, you’ll have to wait until she’s on her side.’  My sister would call in during her breaks from work, bearing plates of ‘good eye food’ and relating stories to attempt to take my mind off things.  She also encouraged the dogs to venture into forbidden territory upstairs with the excuse that they cheered me up, despite my mum’s increasingly half-hearted attempts to maintain control of her usual house rules.  My aunt came to stay for a week and decided she’d keep me amused by reading me a novel.  I was somewhat concerned that her choice of ‘The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year’ by Sue Townsend might turn out to be prophetic, but she carried on regardless and my amusement at the main protagonist’s antics was matched only by my aunt’s entertaining but rather strict sensoring of certain excerpts she deemed inappropriate for reading aloud.

A few people have commented that I must have got incredibly bored, or asked me what I did to pass the time, but perhaps I’ll tell you about that in another post… it’s bedtime now, so I’m off to lie down on my left-hand side…