During a Friday afternoon, I went to my local Lenscrafters to get my annual checkup. Sometimes I have a change in my prescription. I like to do this during the summer, right before going back to school. My appointment was pretty redundant until the conversation about dilating my eyes came up. I had very little knowledge about dilation. The year before, I said no because I thought it would hinder my ability to drive home from the appointment. After looking at images of my eyes from the year before and images we took that day, the doctor really encouraged me to let her look further into my eye through dilation. I agreed.
After taking some stinging drops to the eyeballs, I sat in the reception waiting for them to kick in. Once they were ready, my doctor brought me back into the room and began shining lights into my eyes. It was incredibly uncomfortable. once she finished both eyes, she stepped back and walked over to a poster displaying the anatomy of the eye (cue the internal panic).
She described that she thinks my retina is experiencing “tears” or “holes”. I watched her scribble a small diagram of my eyes onto a referral sheet along with a phone number and address. I was told to make the appointment as soon as possible so that I could be “treated”, but I was getting on a plane heading towards Puerto Rico in less than 24 hours. To my relief, she told me I would be okay traveling, but that I needed to go to a retina specialist in Puerto Rico if I began to see flashing lights and stars. Being the stubborn child that I am, I still boarded the plane the following morning. I had a grand vacation with close friends, NO REGRETS.
Once I began my journey back to Illinois, I made a Retina Specialist appointment for the day after my arrival. My mom and I went to the appointment together (crossing our fingers). At the appointment, the nurse began by testing the pressure of my eyeballs. To do this, they put numbing drops in your eye and then press a little device against your eye until it beeps, recording the pressure. Let me tell you, a numb eyeball is a weird feeling...but the test wasn’t scary or painful at all. The next few tests were similar to my regular eye doctor visits, with your average reading of the letters in front of you, covering left eye, covering right, etc. The nurse then gave me some dilating drops and had me wait in the reception until the doctor was ready to see me.
By the time I could barely read the texts on my phone, I saw the doctor walk down the hall and call me name. Here we go. We sat in a different room and waited more. The doctor seemed to have been busy finishing up someone’s laser appointment before finally making it into our room. He introduced himself, asked some questions about my floaters and flashes, and then positioned my chair back to observe my eyes with a magnifying glass and another very bright light. This part sucked. I wasn’t the biggest fan of having my eye somewhat probed while having a magnifying glass ENHANCE the lights that were already shining through my eye. He finished the right eye, saying that everything was good. I then had to endure the same uncomfortable probing and blinding lights on my left eye.
When he finished mumbling off terms to the nurse like “___ 8 o’clock” and “___ 11 o’clock”, he leaned against the desk and began to explain the retinal detachment that was happening in my left eye. He explained that I would need eye surgery as soon as possible, and that his next opening would be the following Monday. My mom chimed in, asking if it was a laser type of surgery, and he shook his head and said, “No, this is surgery. Like at the hospital and with general anesthesia”. He went on to explain more about how I was going to “need a Scleral Buckle.” #yay. He told us that is was a silicon rubber band that they will be placing around my eyeball. #totallynormal. It will essentially make my eye less sphere-like and more oblong like a grape. #trendy. It will physically help push my retina back into place. Though it won’t change the shape “appearance” of my eye. In surgery, they will probably laser parts of my retina, welding it to the back of my eye. And then they may potentially put a gas bubble in my eye to help push the retina into the back of my eye even more. This would prevent me from being able to fly in airplanes until the bubble disappeared (which could take a month and prevent me from going back to England for school). Gasp.
I was scared. I’ve never had surgery, never gone under anesthesia, never even had my blood drawn (until moments after we left that office to get a pre-op check up). In the long run, this surgery saved me from going blind in my left eye. As cool as it sounds to be a one-eyed-photographer, I’ll pass on the opportunity. The night before the surgery, I stopped eating and drinking after midnight. The next morning, I headed to the hospital. And BOOM. Surgery.
I will genuinely say that recovering was the absolute worst experience. I should have been more afraid of recovery than the surgery itself. I came out of surgery with my eye all patched up, and it had to stay that way for 24 hours. I could not read, watch tv, or even look without my patched up eye trying to move alongside it's healthy partner in crime. Seriously, dude. Why?! So, I found a nice audio book and spent a good portion of my first week in bed listening to Amy Poehler in her book, "Yes Please". I thought, if I cannot watch comedy, I might as well listen to it. And of course I searched for my comedy queen's new book. I was so relieved that the book was not only available in audio format, BUT THAT AMY READS HER BOOK TO YOU. Yup, I spent my first week of recovery, in bed, with Amy.
Nobody told me how fashionable eye surgery was going to be. Unfortunately, I had brought everything but a fresh pair of underwear to the hospital that day. So I asked my mom to get me a pair from the mall (conveniently close to my hospital, is this a sign?) While I was in the operating room, not only did she buy me CUTE panties, but two pairs of sunglasses came back in the same bag.
One pair is featured in the photos. I cannot tell you how often I had to wear these things. My 3 different eye drops/4 times a day routine made my eye's pupil massive. Therefore all forms of light were uncomfortable to be around, including natural daylight around the house.
The second week was better, I was actually moving around the house. Keep in mind; I'm not even supposed to lift anything beyond the weight of a gallon of milk. I even went out to dinner
with my mom and her boyfriend. Now, I had to choose between being looked at for my eye being all weird and disgustingly red, or for having an eye patch. I went with the eye patch; I figured the other patrons would enjoy their dinner more had they not laid eyes on my one terribly freaky one.
The waiter, coincidentally, was hot that night, and my mom's boyfriend thought it would be funny to ask him how pretty he thought I looked that particular evening. As cute as it is to blush after experiencing this hilarious situation, remember to add that eye patch to the equation. Hot. Very hot pirate. As in, my cheeks are burning.
In the end, "we" all had a blast making fun of one-eyed Alena. Hell week was over and things got better (much better). Getting eye surgery was a scary concept to begin with, but I'm glad I won't be going blind anytime soon. The lesson to be learned here is that you should always get your eyes dilated (specially if near-sided), and DON'T ever ignore flashes or major floaters in your vision.
Happy Seeing :)