Tag Archives: Silicone oil

Strong and stable?

I was feeling about as strong and stable as a certain indecisive woman’s preposterous policies when my sister and I set off in the grey drizzle for my appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital on Monday morning.  My last appointment hadn’t gone as I’d hoped, and I was convinced that they’d be booking me in for my much-feared sixth lot of surgery this time.  With an eye full of oil and rising intraocular pressure, it seemed that the only way was up (baby!) in terms of the latter.*  I’d spent the previous week or so in a state of mounting anxiety, and things weren’t helped by a run of stonking headaches, increasing queasiness and belly ache as the dreaded day loomed closer.  Just in case I was in any doubt about my state of inner turmoil, my subconscious saw fit to remind me of it in the form of nightmares on the rare occasions that I managed a bit of decent shut-eye.  I dreamed of being trapped in my house as the sea roared and raged ever closer, flooding my garden in giant waves and seeping into my place of sanctuary.  I should add at this point that the sea is about a mile away from my house, so this was a most unlikely scenario.  However, it felt so real that once I’d woken and calmed my thudding heart, I peered through the bedroom curtains to check the windows for salty spray.  Drumming home the point, the following night I had a terrifying dream in which I couldn’t see properly out of my good eye.  Each time I tried to blink the floaters away and focus on something, it appeared as a blurry mess of confusion – just the same as the vision in my bad eye.

Things weren’t improved on appointment morning, when we missed the train we were aiming for and, upon arrival at Moorfields, discovered that the grumpy receptionist was on duty in the clinic.  (Well, it was a Monday morning to be fair, so she had every right to be grumpy.)  Lucy somewhat gleefully pointed out that it was All My Fault that we’d missed the first train, as I hadn’t been as punctual as her in getting myself ready.  I protested that the reason for this was that I’d been trying to force my breakfast of peanut butter on toast into my churning stomach (much to the dog’s benefit and subsequent surprised delight).  My taught nerves required me to pay an urgent visit to the facilities before we descended to the clinic, so Lucy went ahead to book me in.  The grumpy receptionist lived up to her name when she stared at Lucy in disdain and demanded, “But where is she?”.  Fortunately, I appeared shortly after this and she waved me through without further interrogation.

We settled down for the usual long wait but were taken by surprise when the nurse called me through within the space of a few minutes.  Visual acuity was as expected, and then came the pressure check, which I’d pretty much been worrying about ever since my last appointment back in January.  I held my breath.  Then I reminded myself to breathe, in case holding it affected the pressure.  I opened my eyes wide and stared straight ahead as the nurse advanced with the pressure monitor and I waited for it to flick against the surface of my eye.  As always, she took a few readings in each eye and then stood back and declared, “21 in the right and 20 in the left.”.  “Ooooh, it’s gone down again!  That’s good, isn’t it?!”, I exclaimed.  She agreed, and proceeded with the dilation drops.  I smiled through the stinging and watering as I felt myself relax ever so slightly.

We headed out to waiting area number 2 and settled in again – it’s always best to expect a long wait and this time we weren’t disappointed.  I dampened my sandpaper mouth and we ate bananas, discussed politics, and played ‘I Spy’ as my pupils dilated and my vision blurred.  Each time a doctor appeared carrying a particularly bulky file, I braced myself in expectation, as we waited… and waited… and then waited some more.  After a while I gave up on watching out for thick files and eventually I was called through by a doctor I’d never seen before.  I already knew that my consultant – ‘the Prof’ – was away that day, as we’d spotted it noted on the whiteboard as we’d entered the clinic.  This did nothing to calm my screaming nerves.  We later discovered that he was away at a conference, so I like to think that he was sharing ground-breaking research about a cure for PVR.

The doctor I saw was extremely patient, giving both eyes a thorough examination before checking my right eye over a second time.  Much to my delight, he was very receptive to questions, which we naturally took full advantage of and obtained answers to even more than the nine on my pre-prepared list.  My shoulders slackened slightly as he told me that everything looked the same: the area of detachment beyond the laser line hadn’t progressed any further, the abnormal blood vessels were the same, and the oil wasn’t causing any problems at that point.  He emphasised that I must return to A&E if anything changed, adding that I would know in my gut if I experienced anything which needed to be checked out.  He then went on to pronounce that word which is far more meaningful when coming from the lips of a retinal surgeon: ‘STABLE’.  As my eye was stable (aaaah… bliss!), he didn’t see the need to rush into further surgery and therefore asked me to return for another check in six months.  Resisting the urge to kiss him, as I suspected this would be frowned upon, I thanked him warmly instead and headed out to make my next appointment with the grumpy receptionist.

The grumpy receptionist took the full force of my delight and relief, as I gleefully told her that I didn’t have to return for six whole months and added that I felt as if I’d been given a wonderful present.  She smiled, and I observed in a most uncharacteristically chatty manner that we usually saw her in my previous clinic rather than ‘the Prof’s’ clinic.  We were treated to another smile as she explained that someone was off sick, and then she ominously remarked that she’d seen my name on the list that morning.  Considering the huge numbers of patients she must see, and knowing that in my own job I only tend to remember the names of people who are either very nice or incredibly annoying, I briefly wondered which category I fell into.  However, after further chatting as she made my next appointment, she smiled again before bidding us goodbye.  We skipped out into the London streets, where we discovered that the grey drizzle had given way to weak sunshine.

Word that I was in celebratory mood had clearly spread, for as we piled onto the tube and sat down, two men clutching saxophones (soprano and alto) climbed aboard along with another guy who turned out to be the singer as they broke into a jazzy version of ‘Hit the road, Jack’.  Ignoring the stony-faced feigned oblivion of most of our fellow passengers, Lucy and I grinned at each other and bopped along in delight, receiving a nod and thumbs-up from the singer in return.  We continued to celebrate my good news by treating ourselves to posh sarnies from M&S (good eye food ones, obviously).  I demolished my share with gusto as we journeyed back on the train; my appetite having made a welcome return.

*You may like to check this out if you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOMvs_1UFCk

Rats and opera glasses

It was on a sunny Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago that I spotted the little blighter myself.  His huge hairy brown backside swayed gently from side to side as he sauntered brazenly down my garden path in the broad daylight; his tail trailing casually along behind him.  He didn’t even bother to take cover in the shrubbery.  “Great”, I muttered to myself as I sighed in resignation and proceeded to fire up the laptop and google ‘pest control, Canterbury City Council’.  My irritation increased as the web page informed me that the council no longer offered a pest control service, and advised me to search under several accredited bodies for a reputable private service instead.

I should probably explain at this point that rats have been recurrent unwelcome visitors to my garden throughout the ten years that I’ve lived in my little house.  When I say ‘recurrent’, it could be worse – the last time my neighbours and I had to call out pest control was about 2012.  However, about a year before that we had a most unpleasant episode when they burrowed down (the rats that is, not pest control) and got into my neighbour’s cavity walls and up into his loft.  That frantic sound of scrabbling in the walls is not one which is easily forgotten, and my skin still crawls at the memory.  So clearly we don’t want that to happen again.

After spotting The Intruder (it seems appropriate to use capitalisation here), I became ever so slightly obsessed with staring out of the window whilst clutching a hefty baseball bat, ready to rush out and whack it over the head the second it had the audacity to appear.  Okay, so maybe the bit about the baseball bat isn’t strictly true, but the first part certainly is.  I’d already undertaken a meticulous examination of my garden and spotted the exact place where I suspected it was making its unwelcome and illegal entrance.  (Maybe I should build a wall there, and get the other rats to pay for it…)  In the absence of Rat Cam, I had to rely on my own dodgy vision to track the blighter’s movements.

A couple of days later, early in the morning, I spotted a suspicious looking brown shape loitering in the middle of my lawn.  As it was so early, I wasn’t wearing my specs.  I therefore grabbed the closest instrument of magnification I could lay my hands on, which just happened to be a pair of antique opera glasses.  I raised them to my eyes with trembling hands and baited breath and spotted… the blurry shape of a blackbird, pecking about in the lawn.  I exhaled, and then set about trying to sharpen up the image seen through the opera glasses.

I figured that the glasses must have been at the optimum setting for my eyes pre-retinal detachment.  I closed my good eye and looked through them using just my bad eye.  The image was very blurry, but surprisingly I managed to improve it by turning the little dial to the right as far as it would go.  Obviously it was still blurred as I was looking through my waffy RD eye which has silicone oil in it; but it was better than I expected and certainly better than when I just have my specs on.  I then closed my bad eye and tried looking through my good eye without adjusting the settings.  It was horrendous!  In order to get it back into focus, I had to turn the dial almost all the way to the left.  I then closed my good eye and opened my bad eye again, but was back to a blurry mess once more.  I tried to adjust the opera glasses so that I could get a decent overall image whilst looking with both eyes, but it was impossible.

At this point, I had to stop as the experiment was beginning to make me feel a little dizzy and queasy.  However, it gave me a greater understanding of why the optometrist had said that my vision in each eye is so unbalanced that it’s impossible to fully correct it with glasses.  It also made me wonder whether this unbalanced vision, coupled with the fact that I’m still apparently right-eye dominant despite the vision in my right eye being extremely poor, is the reason for my frequent headaches, which are sometimes accompanied by a slight feeling of nausea.

Anyway, I’m hoping that Rat Man (aka pest control) will be able to do his stuff and dispatch The Intruder swiftly, in the same manner that Hamlet disposed of Polonius.  At the cost of two full-price return train tickets to Moorfields, the service certainly isn’t cheap, but I guess that’s to be expected when hiring a hit man…

Looking out on the garden through a pair of opera glasses.

Rat-hunting through the opera glasses

Oh silicone oil, I thought you were my friend… :-(

After my previous appointment at Moorfields back in July, when I was granted a six month reprieve from further surgery as my consultant believed it would be best to simply monitor my pesky peepers for a while, I practically skipped out of the hospital in delight and relief.  The six months whooshed by all too quickly and before I knew it, my next appointment was looming ominously on the horizon.  As the days passed, my nervousness grew and niggling headaches became a regular feature of my days; not helped by my job, which involves sitting at a computer screen for much of the day.  However, I told myself that hopefully all would be well and that with any luck they would simply grant me another six month reprieve.  So off I set for Moorfields on Monday morning along with my sister, both of us feeling fairly hopeful.

We descended to the clinic in the basement of the hospital, clutching cardboard cups of comforting tea, by now well accustomed to the forthcoming hours of waiting and people-watching through blurred, dilated eyes.  Strangely, most of the chairs were vacant, so we selected a prime spot which afforded us a look-out point to observe which consultants were on duty as well as being able to keep an eye on the whiteboard behind the reception desk, which at that time was predicting a two-hour wait.  I’d just got settled and started to blow on my tea when my name was called, causing me to almost drop the cup in surprise.  My sister and I looked at each other with startled faces and off I went for the first check with the nurse.  I was encouraged by the fact that I was able to slowly read the second two letters on the eye chart with my right eye, but my proud grin fell when the pressure check revealed a pressure of 24 in my right eye and 20 in the left.  Normal eye pressure is between 11 and 21.  During the stable period of the past year or so, the pressure in my right eye has varied between 17 and 19, so 24 was somewhat unusual.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t too much time to fret about it, as we only had to wait a few more minutes once the dilating drops had taken effect before I was called through to the consultant in record time.

Once again, I was asked the dreaded question, “How do you feel about having more surgery?”  Once again, I suppressed the urge to scream and hide under the nearest desk and instead admitted that I’m utterly terrified at the prospect of further surgery, but will do whatever they advise is clinically best.  Of course, unfortunately things are rarely that clear-cut.  As things stand at the moment, if they were to remove the oil, the retina would certainly re-detach.  So the plan is to remove the oil and carry out further work in the form of another retinectomy (i.e. cutting away part of the retina which won’t lie flat), more laser, sorting out abnormal blood vessels, and then either more oil or long-acting gas back in.  With the oil in, there’s less chance of a full re-detachment as the oil holds the retina in place and doesn’t disperse as the gas does.  For this reason, I love the oil.  It’s like my little security blanket.  But silicone oil in the eye also brings the risk of certain side-effects, such as high pressure which could then lead to glaucoma, emulsification of the oil, and scarring of the cornea.  These potential side-effects frighten me as much as the possibility of re-detachments, as it’s my understanding that ultimately they would also lead to further sight loss.

After examination, extensive discussion, and a further consultation with ‘The Prof’, it was decided that I should return in three months.  Although not immediately worried about the rise in pressure, both surgeons noted that it will need to be monitored and that they will need to take the oil out if it starts to creep up.  Of course, I’ve known about the potential complications of the oil for some time, so it wasn’t as if this was a surprise.  However, it was certainly a pretty major blow.  No longer is it myself and my silicone oil against the world.  Instead, it appears that my friend may be turning traitor.  So it seems that I’m once again occupying that most uncomfortable of areas, between a rock and a hard place, which I wrote about some time ago.  The only difference is that this time it seems likely that the issue will be decided by my pressure readings.  😦

To bed, perchance to sleep..? (Aye, there’s the rub!)

It was 5:32am and I felt exhausted by the doze / weird dream / wake / repeat cycle of the previous few hours.  I sighed the sort of sigh capable of extinguishing all the candles on a centenarian’s birthday cake in one go, before throwing off the covers and stomping downstairs in my pjs to put the kettle on.  Remembering that someone had suggested writing things down when unable to sleep, I headed back to bed with notepad, pen, and comforting mug of tea.  I propped myself up against the pillows and considered what to write.  A blog post about the frustrations of insomnia seemed pretty apt.

My sleeping patterns have always been somewhat erratic, with a few weeks of decent sleep being followed by a period of restlessness.  I went through a long phase of sleepwalking in my younger days  (my sister has several colourful tales to tell, but naturally I can neither confirm nor deny their truth), so disturbed sleep is nothing new to me.  However, sound sleep has been considerably more elusive since my eye issues began.  I think this is partly because of physical discomfort after so much posturing (see Pondering Posturing, if you’re wondering what ‘posturing’ is in relation to retinal detachment), as well as the continuing necessity to sleep only on my side or stomach.  I also wonder how much of it is caused by the odd visual effects which I can still see at night even with my eyes closed – the flickering and the ‘lava lamp effect’ and the line of the oil as I move around.  It seems fairly obvious that the main cause of my insomnia is stress, worry, and fear.  Fear of further sight loss, fear of further surgery and all that it entails, stress and worry of what may happen in the future.  This tends to be worse in the lead-up to appointments, and it just so happens that my next Moorfields appointment is imminent.

I usually manage to nod off initially without too many problems, but am frequently jolted awake by nightmares in the middle of the night.  I know I’m not alone in this, as other eye buddies have mentioned having nightmares of redetachments.  The other day, I awoke to the realisation that part of the vision in my good eye was obscured as I peered blearily across the bedroom in the early morning light.  My heart started to thump in horror before I realised that I was lying on my left hand side with my good eye pushed into the pillow, which was obscuring my view.  I can no longer sleep in the pitch darkness as when I wake in the night, I need to be able to open my eyes and focus on something, just to make sure I can still see.  In the six detachments I’ve had, it’s only been three of them during which, at some point, I had to go to bed either knowing that something was wrong or being afraid that something wasn’t quite right.  So that’s three occasions of going to bed with the very real fear that I might be getting up in the morning (obviously I don’t say ‘waking up’, as that would indicate that I actually managed to sleep) with less sight than I went to bed with.  On each of those three occasions, this was exactly what happened.  That fear has never quite been dispelled, and I’m not sure that it ever will.

I’ve tried all kinds of different methods to find something which eases my disturbed nights and gives me a more restful sleep.  Drinking a mug of hot milk, hot chocolate, or sleep tea; listening to soothing music; a warm bath; burning lavender oil; spraying lavender pillow mist; wearing myself out with long walks; practising mindfulness techniques; eating a banana (apparently it’s supposed to release some kind of sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain)…  I’m not really convinced that any of these techniques has a particularly noticeable effect, although I have reached the firm conclusion after extensive research that Teapigs Redbush and Honeybush Tea is the perfect soothing bedtime drink.

In an effort to help myself, I’ve read a fair amount on the subject of insomnia (it’s only a very foolish man who believes that the opinions of experts aren’t worth considering), and have encountered three broad approaches of how to deal with it:

  1. Go to bed only when tired.
    Whilst this seems pretty logical, I think my boss would have something to say on the matter if I sloped off home at 11:30am-ish saying I was going for a snooze.
  2. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something for a while, then go back to bed and try again.
    I do this occasionally, usually in the ‘later’ early hours when I don’t think there’s much chance that I’ll get any more sleep.  Sometimes – usually at weekends – I do occasionally manage to doze off again upon heading back to bed.
  3. Stay in bed and just rest, or use breathing / relaxation exercises to try and encourage a return to the land of nod.
    This is usually what I try and do once I’ve stopped checking for flashes and floaters and making sure I can still see.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  Usually it just leads to that somewhat frustrating pattern of dozing, dreaming bizarre dreams, and waking again.

I’m thinking of trying a different technique next, in the form of alcohol.  One night I could try wine, the next night gin, then whiskey, then perhaps vodka…  If I’m still capable of coherent thought by the end of the week then I’ll decide which one works best.

Oil on canvas

“Your son told me you’re a painter, so I suppose -”
“I used to be.  Not any more.  Now I put oil on canvas.  But anyone can do that.”

Charlotte Gray’ by Sebastian Faulks

Unlike Monsieur Levade in Charlotte Gray, I hadn’t even been putting oil on canvas since surgery number five, back in May 2015.  I thought about painting a lot, and sometimes saw things I wanted to paint; but when it came down to actually setting up my easel and getting my brushes out, I procrastinated.  My eminently practical arty work colleague tried to encourage me by suggesting, “Maybe you just need to find a new way of painting?”.  She told me stories of various art classes she’d attended where the participants were encouraged to engage in wild and wacky behaviour like creating a painting using only red paint; or drawing a circle on the canvas first, which then had to be incorporated into the painting; or (horror of horrors) do life drawings spending only ten minutes on each pose.  I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for detail and accuracy in my paintings, being criticised in my university studio sessions for spending too long measuring things out, and so I listened to these ideas with a mixture of awe and discomfort.

Considering that one of the first thoughts which went through my head after retinal detachment number one was, “Oh my God, what if I can’t paint again?!”, it seems a bit weird that I’ve spent over a year without having painted a single thing.  Then again, I guess it also provides a pretty good indicator of the extent to which my eye problems have affected my confidence in certain aspects of my life.  My reluctance to lift my brushes hasn’t always been quite this bad.  There wasn’t any time to even attempt getting back to painting between surgeries one and two.  However, a few months after surgery number two, I determinedly had the usual fight with my easel (it’s a bit tricky getting it set up) and, amidst much swearing, I produced ‘Silicone Oil Tinted Rose’ (see below).  At  50 x 51cm, this was larger than I usually tend to paint as I thought that this might make it easier.  It didn’t.  ‘Silicone Oil Tinted Rose’ narrowly missed being stabbed with my palette knife in sheer frustration on more than a handful of occasions.  However, I was reasonably satisfied with the final result and it now hangs safely out of reach on my sister’s dining room wall.

'Silicone Oil Tinted Rose'

‘Silicone Oil Tinted Rose’

My next bash at picking up my paintbrushes occurred in April 2015, after surgery number three, and was an attempt to illustrate how the vision in my right eye had changed.  I set up exactly the same still life as I’d painted a few years previously, and attempted to reproduce it using only my RD eye.  When I say using ‘only’ my RD eye, I quickly realised that I couldn’t entirely pull this off.  For starters, when holding the paintbrush at arm’s length to measure the bottles, I found that I couldn’t actually see the end of the brush, let alone where to place it in order to measure the bottles.  Obviously, I had to use my ‘good’ eye in mixing the colours, but I mixed them to try to match what I could see out of my RD eye.  So it was all a bit experimental, but I felt that the end result (below) was a fairly accurate representation of my vision at that time.

Bottles paintings comparison - a visual experiment

Bottles paintings comparison – a visual experiment

I did a couple more bottle paintings after this one, and then came surgeries four and five, followed by the long artistic drought.  My arty work colleague once again offered words of encouragement: “Why don’t you just put some paint on canvas?  It doesn’t matter what you paint, but just mix some colours and see what happens.”  I thought about this for far longer than was necessary.  (“Procrastination is the thief of time”, I heard my Grandad telling me in my head, and pictured him shaking his own whilst raising a shaggy eyebrow and jokingly telling me in a growly voice to “just get on with it!”.)  I dug out a canvas and divided it up into 6cm squares.  This wasn’t done in reference to my much mourned for 6/6 ‘normal’ vision, but in retrospect the number seems somewhat symbolic.  I’ve always been primarily a still life painter, so I decided to select various objects around the house and mix two colours for each object.  One would be as I saw the colour through my ‘good’ eye; the other would be as I saw the same colour through my RD eye.  I then painted each colour on the canvas in a square, side by side.  With each pair of squares, the one on the left shows the colour as I see it through my left (‘good’) eye, and the one on the right shows exactly the same colour as I see it through my right (RD) eye.

I painted the colours of all kinds of everyday objects: the spines of folders and books on the shelves in front of me; the yellow of the toolbox in which I keep my paints; the blue bottle of bleach in the bathroom and its red top; the warm earthy hue of a jar of cinnamon from the kitchen; the bright orange of a drinks coaster given me by a friend; the pale blue of my glasses case…  It felt good just to mix paints again and put the results on canvas (even though I discovered that I had to close my RD eye in order to be able to paint in a straight line).  I realised that I’d missed the smell of oil paint and white spirit wafting through the house, and even managed to laugh rather than swear when I made the familiar mistake of dipping my elbow into my palette and smearing oil paint up my arm.  I was surprised at some of the results of my visual experiment – I had thought that colours containing red were more distorted through my RD eye, but this isn’t actually the case.  There doesn’t seem to be any pattern, other than that colours seen through my RD eye generally appear far less saturated.  Some colours look fairly similar through each eye, but others are dramatically different.  Although I’m sure no-one will want to hang my latest painting on their wall, I’m oddly pleased with it.  It represents not only my current colour vision, but also the jumping of an emotional hurdle in getting back to painting and refusing to be beaten by my ruddy retina.  Now for the difficult question of the next painting… any suggestions, anyone?

'Eye Chart'

‘Eye Chart’

Note:  If I ever appear in danger of another painting drought, would someone please remind me that it took ALMOST AN HOUR to unscrew all the welded-on lids of my tubes of oil paint.  To do this, I had to hold them under a hot tap and then use a rubber glove to prise them undone.  This exercise is not conducive to artistic endeavour.

Happy birthday, dear silicone oil…

My silicone oil is a year old today.  I wondered whether I should sing ‘happy birthday’ to it, or perhaps bake a cake to mark the occasion.  Naturally, I decided against giving it the bumps (The advice, “Don’t get a head trauma” still rings in my ears.).  This is my third lot of oil.  The first lot was in for seven months and the second was in for three and a half months.  So that’s almost two years of peering at the world through a silicone oil filled eyeball.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining here.  The oil is holding my retina in place, for which I’m exceedingly grateful.  But, as one of my eye buddies once said, “I have a love-hate relationship with the silicone oil.  I love it because it’s holding my retina but I hate it because of the crappy vision it gives me.”

As someone who’s pretty rubbish with numbers (it’s a source of some bemusement to me that I can remember huge chunks of ‘Hamlet’ with ease, and yet can’t recall my mum’s ‘phone number), I find it rather odd that I can remember all my surgery dates.  This is also somewhat unfortunate, as in the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself almost re-living the emotions of a year ago.  I had surgery to remove my second lot of silicone oil on 14 May 2015.  Before that surgery, I was terrified yet also incredibly hopeful and excited at the prospect of regaining some decent vision.  I knew that once the oil was removed there was a possibility that my retina would re-detach, but of course I didn’t think this would really happen.  I mean, surely three detachments were more than enough for one person, right?  I knew that I’d be living in fear of a re-detachment for a while, but I hoped that everything would go smoothly and the fear would lessen over time.

During the surgery to remove the oil, detachment number four was discovered.  I cursed my sodding retina soundly, but remained hopeful.  The detachment was fixed in surgery, a gas bubble was inserted, and posturing was prescribed.  This was all familiar territory; I knew the drill, and I was determined that this time the retina WAS GOING TO STICK!  I only had the short-acting gas on this occasion and when it began to disperse after only about a week, I was beside myself with excitement upon making the startling discovery that I was able to read again using my right eye.  “Wehey!”, I thought to myself, in awe and wonder.

After four more days, my excitement was cruelly smothered by a heavy blanket of doom, as I made an emergency visit to Moorfields after experiencing some odd visual effects, and was given the grim news that my retina had detached yet again.  Spectacularly detached.  In two places.  Within hours, the weird translucent areas I could see became darker as they gradually spread and transformed themselves into the dreaded ‘curtain’, which I could no longer see through.

Surgery number five took place on 28 May 2015, when quite a lot was done (a brief run-down can be found by reading ‘Where I’m at now‘) and silicone oil was put back in.  So within the space of two weeks I went from having blurry vision with my oil-filled eye but still reasonable peripheral vision; to only being able to see light with the gas bubble; to pretty good vision returning once the gas started to disperse; to all kinds of bizarre visual effects once the retina started to re-detach; to blackness once the detachment progressed; and then back to very blurry vision through the oil with considerably reduced peripheral vision due to the 360 degree laser treatment.  Exhausting and relentless emotional rollercoaster are the words which come to mind in describing my RD journey.

Anyway… I’m feeling in need of being cheered up now, so I’m off to put the kettle on and cut myself a large slice of silicone oil birthday cake.



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 https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/pre-appointment-paranoia/ 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.