Saturday, July 10, 2010

Goodbye to bridge loops?

Yes, I intended this to be primarily a running blog. Unfortunately, I haven't been doing much running lately, not even since I became a college graduate at the beginning of June. Actually, make that any. At all the checkups following my second eye surgery, I grumble a bit about not being able to run like I want to. I make sure to ask about all the other details I can think of too--

Can I sleep on my back yet? (No)
Can I lift weights? (Only if they're very light)
Can I swim? (That should be okay)
Can I do anything besides the exercise bike? (Elliptical)
How long until I see with both eyes again? (Can't make promises)
How long until you'll be able to "call it" healed and I can go into maintenance mode? (6 months if everything stays fine...)

After the first surgery I looked forward to these frequent eye checkups, because every time I went I was allowed to do more things. At the end of June, though, I was told I could only do low-impact stuff and could still only pick from two sleeping positions. That's when I understood how worried my first surgeon was that the retina might detach again. (He's the one who, my mom says, returned after 3-and-a-half hours "looking like he'd been through the wringer" after the nighttime ordeal in February that took nearly twice as long as it should have. His partner did the second surgery, which was much less complicated except for that little hiccup where my retina wouldn't stay completely put and had to be fixed right there, hence the worry, I guess.)

So, turns out they were right to worry. This past Monday I was sitting in class (I'm tutoring for a summer program where we teach high school girls about mechanical engineering--staying local because I knew the air bubble would prevent me from being able to fly). I had been watching the air bubble's edge slowly retreat downwards, as the doctors said it would because everything in the eye is reflected along the x-axis. Closing the good eye and shaking my head slightly to make it move had become a new little tic since I began seeing the edge a few weeks ago. That day, I realized suddenly that everything had become much more dim and I could barely make out the formerly sharp dividing line as it jiggled. Doctor Number One had told me to call if I noticed any sudden decrease in vision, so I quietly slipped out of the classroom and called the office. Monday being July 5th, the office was closed (oh right) but I dialed "1" for medical emergency and spoke to the doctor on call, the new fellow (the old one liked to promise too much, like I might not even have to lie down for a whole week, ha). Unfortunately there was little point coming in since if something was wrong they wouldn't be able to do anything, so tomorrow would be better, etc. etc.

I spent the rest of the day worrying, trying not to snap at people, convincing myself that things would work out, verging on rage about the unfairness, and venting my stress to anyone at pika who would stand still long enough. Then at 9 am Tuesday morning I was in the doctor's office, within half an hour he had taken a few looks and decided my retina had certainly re-detached, and was laying out a plan of action which of course involved at least two more surgeries. The catch is he couldn't even see how bad it was because my cataract has grown so much, so I guess it was like trying to diagnose through a literal fog. He said he doesn't think it looks bad and it should be fixable.

So here's the deal: this Tuesday (three days from now), I will show up at 6:30 am (subject to change), and I will get a lensectomy, vitrectomy, membranectomy, silicone oil injection, and laser. You know, typical things a 22-year-old always wants. If nothing else goes wrong (and once they're sure it won't, maybe in 6 more months), I will get the oil taken out yet again and replaced with a new gas bubble, lie on my face, watch it disappear, don't fly, the whole drill. Dr. Number Two says he knows an important guy at Stanford Medical School, also an excellent retinal specialist, whom I'm sure I'll see a lot starting in September. Then, much later if I want (as long as everything stays fine) I can get a lens implant to replace the one they're taking. Apparently that's optional, though, unless I misunderstood, since sometimes people just use contact lenses. This detail prompted one of my pika friends to wonder just how much of your eye you actually need, since I apparently won't have (or need) a vitreous or a lens anymore, so I'll ask. Apparently the retina is pretty important, though, since that's the part they're actually worried about...

Ugh. If you're still reading, thank you. I just had to get this all out because every so often I get frustrated and upset about it all. All the things I can't do right now, everything I've been through and still have yet to come, the uncertainty and slim-but-still-present chance that in the end all of this won't even help and I'll just be half-blind forever. I would much rather not run for a year (or two, or...) than never be able to use the left eye again, so this is what I have to do. More updates to follow, I guess.


  1. feel better jackie and jackie's eye! i feel like your eye has put you through so much that it deserves its own name....lefty? ida? herbert? kevin?
    also, does this mean you have to drip to stanford? that would sort of suck but it might be a cool road trip.

  2. Haha thanks Marie! Not sure about the names, but maybe one will speak to me at some point. Anyway, since this time they're using liquid, I'll be able to fly. They also told me that it's not a good idea to go over the Rockies with the air bubble, so I don't know how I would have gotten there...Panama Canal?

  3. i'm following your story very closely because of my -15 and -14 refractive indices in my eyes which makes my retinae liable to explode off with rather little notice.