I just turned thirty-seven and I have a cataract. That’s not the half of it though. This past year has been a turmoil for me in terms of what is undoubtedly our most precious of the senses.
I found out this past spring that I had a degenerative disorder where the retina in both of my eyes was slowly detaching. If left untreated, I would gradually go blind. Obviously, there was no other option than to undergo two processes to save my sight.
The first procedure would be the most invasive, performed on the worse of the two, my right eye. A vitrectomy, my retina specialist explained, is a surgical procedure where three needles are inserted into the retina. One drains the gel from the eye, another repairs the retinal wall from the inside and the other maintains pressure and replaces the natural gel with a gas. After the surgery, the gas bubble will eventually dissipate, bringing clearer sight as it does.
The procedure took. My retina was reattached, however, I’d never regain the peripheral vision I’d lost. The healing process took weeks, much longer than I expected. It was nearly maddening with the three different lenses I seemed to be looking through; my left eye with normal vision, my right eye with a blackish gas bubble in the bottom half and the blurrier, lighter sight in the top half.
After the gas bubble disappeared, the “clearer” vision was like looking through a mud-clouded windshield. Specks and spots floated in my field of vision. On more than one occasion I could have swore I’d seen a mouse run in front of me, when it was actually a floater entering the picture.
For months, this became my norm. Until one day, I realized, except for one area near the inner corner of my vision, I was seeing fairly clearly out of my right eye. It was only a few weeks later when the noticeable cataract began to form, once again clouding my vision. But there was something different about that spot near my nasal region. It was darker, more shadowy. I’d close my left eye. Look up. Look down. Testing my boundaries. I held my hand in front of my face. Moved it up. I could see it. Moved my hand down. There it was. But somewhere in the middle of my line of sight, my hand disappeared altogether.
I had a blind spot.
My eye doctor explained that I had suffered a hemorrhage in my retina during the vitrectomy, leaving my partially blind in that area. Only time would tell, but it was likely to be permanent. There was a small chance my eye would heal itself, the veins finding their own way to “re-route” themselves and restoring some vision in that area. But the chances were minimal.
For weeks, the spot was all I could see. It was right there, center-line and just off to the left of my sight. It was like having something on the side of your nose. You know it’s there, you can see it, but you can’t get it off. And it never goes away.
“It just happens sometimes,” he told me. I’m sorry that wasn’t explained to me as a possible risk before the procedure. Would it have changed my decision to have the vitrectomy? Probably not. I didn’t really have a choice, given the alternative.
I cried. That’s a lot for me. I hardly ever cry.
I was angry. I still am.
I’ve felt sorry for myself on occasion. But I like to think I’ve tried to handle the loss with grace and hope. I say “loss” because I’ve been mourning the deterioration of my sight. I stopped writing for a long while.
I recently underwent a subsequent procedure on my left eye, a less invasive laser treatment where a “fence” is built around my retina to retain any further progress in the detachment. I continue to have floaters and arcs of light I liken to a blue lava lamp.
My sight in this eye is very much different than it was less than a year ago. It, too, will never be the same.
I have trouble seeing to read, my other favorite past-time, second only to writing. I’m only thirty-seven, but my eyes already feel like they’re eighty. I go in for cataract removal in about a week. I can only hope that having this procedure done will help alleviate some of the differences in vision that I currently have.