Regrettably, I didn’t produce a blog last month because I was on vacation. I know that’s no excuse and the guilt I’ve been carrying around for a month because of my neglect is heavier than the few pounds I gained while out of town. I admit it’s a good thing to take a break now and then from daily, weekly and monthly routines, to refresh, redirect and refocus.
And I wanted desperately to refocus. The trip was awesome. I refreshed my outlook, I redirected my intentions, but my actual “focus” was compromised.
Not 24 hours after returning home from a road trip that included five states and elevation reaching over 7,500 feet, I noticed an annoying “floater” creeping into the peripheral vision of my left eye. Now, I’ve had these in the past, so normally, I wouldn’t be too concerned. They’d always gone away on their own. Or maybe I’d become accustomed to them and no longer noticed them. This time, however, my gut told me this floater was different. It was long and squiggly. Literally, my vision (focus) was being affected. Negatively.
Day three of no relief compelled me to go to the ophthalmologist, who, I was sure, would proffer a quick remedy. After dilating my eyes, and looking deep into both spheres, she forthrightly professed everything looked good, I had healthy retinas (for someone my age!) and the floater would likely go away on its own. “That’s it?” I asked sheepishly. “Yes,” she replied. “Nothing we can do for floaters.”
I wasn’t convinced it would go away on its own but remained hopeful. But when a week later the floater seemed to be getting worse, obstructing some of my peripheral vision, I went back to the same office and saw another ophthalmologist, whose specialty is cataracts. This time, only my left eye was dilated. As he examined my eye, he barked out several esoteric medical terms to his assistant who took copious notes. Feeling like I was in a foreign language lab, afraid he wouldn’t find anything wrong with my eye except age-related issues, I perked up when he started speaking in plain English. “You may have a tear in the retina.”
Although I heard “tear,” my mind translated that to “detached.” As in detached retina where you lose your sight. My heart began to race.
Sliding away from the exam apparatus, the doctor stood and ordered his assistant to call one of two retina specialists to determine who could see me on short notice. The closest one was 20 miles away. “You’re going there this afternoon. No ifs, ands or buts. This could be serious.”
Scared yet angry about the first doctor’s misdiagnosis, I waited patiently at home for the assistant to call me back with confirmation of an appointment.
With thoughts swirling through my mind on how and why this happened and projecting the worst possible outcome, I saw the retina specialist two hours later. She confirmed I did indeed have a tear in the retina and said the first step would be laser treatment to seal the torn flap back in place. After the uncomfortable and a bit painful procedure, she instructed me to not read up close or do any physical activity for a week! I could only use the computer for work-related duties; limited to only what was necessary. She wanted my head steady so the “glued” flap wouldn’t tear again.
I learned a lot about the jelly-like vitreous humor in our eyes and how age affects its consistency. It becomes more liquefied as we age. The vitreous humor can peel away from the retina, causing posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is often associated with “a sudden increase” in eye floaters.
Refocusing on What’s Important
Sadly, my floater hasn’t gone away, but it also hasn’t gotten worse. After two follow-up appointments with my doctor, she is cautiously optimistic, but also realistic: she doesn’t give me false hope. “It may go away, or it may not.” It may also get worse with age. In that case, I will have to learn to live with floaters. I have another follow-up appointment this Friday. She is nothing but thorough.
The good news is I am not prohibited from staring at a computer monitor for hours on end or performing any physical activity. I can write, hike, dance and do jumping jacks till the cows come home. And high elevation does not cause this condition, so I am free to return to the Grand Tetons anytime I desire. Think I’ll go back to Jackson Hole for some inspiration for my next novel.