Saturday, March 14, 2009

Juicy Eyes

When you tell most people your eyes need to be lasered, they think it's cool.

"I always wanted to try LASIK," they say.

Of course you did.

But that's not the treatment I'm getting.

On the same day I found out about my book deal, my eye doctor told me she thought the blood vessels in my left eye were looking a little juicy.

And that's not what someone with retinopathy wants to hear.

I tried not to think about this. I made an appointment for two weeks later when I could go back to the eye clinic (with the lame waiting rooms) and instead concentrated on the good things. The book excitement. Life. My happy son, Baby L. My supportive husband, Mister L. The tasty celebratory dinners out to celebrate the book news. (Mister L asked if I sold the book so I could get free meals from friends and family. Now that you mention it...)

But then the follow-up eye appointment arrived this past week.

This was my third laser experience. Lasering the leaking blood vessels that have developed in the back of my eyes after years of living with type 1 diabetes.

The first time, I cried in anticipation. I emailed bloggers and other diabetic friends asking about potential vision loss. I pondered. I worried.

The first time wasn't pleasant. But I made it through without any noticeable vision loss.

The second time, on my other eye, was tolerable. And again, I made it through.

This time, the Mister took a day off from work and came with me.

I've had so many eye doctor visits that they've become routine. Front of the eye optometry check: read letters on the wall. No wavy lines on the grid. Read tiny print in front of me. Maybe check my eyesight with different lenses and I'll tell you if it;s clearer with lens one or two. Squirt a few numbing drops in my eye. Watch the blue light come right up close to me and tell me the pressure in my eyes is below glaucoma level. Go sit in the waiting room for a half hour and watch things get blurry and my pupils dilate. And then I go see my Eye Doc and she looks deeply in my eyes and (usually) tells me everything looks fine

But this time, after all the front-of-the-eye acrobatics with lenses and wall letters, I went into a room and sat in front of yet another eye apparatus. The chin rest had paper to keep things sanitary.

I signed away a waiver explaining that I understood the risks of the procedure. Because only my left eye was getting treatment, I could see clearly out of my right eye and hadn't had any drops put in. I corrected three typos in the waiver form and noted them next to my signature.

Mister L. told the eye doctor I typically charged for my proofreading services but that these typos were on me.

Unlike the first two times I had laser, I don't remember any zaps during the procedure. Instead, the eye doc pushed a cold contact lens into my eye to keep it open. (Numbing drops made this experience awesome; as in, I didn't feel a thing). She shined bright light directly in my left eye many times. I occasionally felt eye strain, and told her so, but there was no real pain. (I'd taken two Tylenol before it started, just to make sure).

I keep thinking of a good word to describe this, but the best I can come up with is "unpleasant." Repeatedly, the eye doc told me to keep my chin down and my forehead pushed against the edge of the eye machine so she could get to the area she needed to get to. "You're doing great," she said repeatedly. "Excellent," she'd add.

I've noted in the past that my eye doc was a strictly-the-facts-ma'am kind of gal, but I really appreciated the praise. It made me think she realized how unpleasant this whole experience is.

Finally it was over. My forehead was sweaty and I now realize that the machine should have forehead paper along with the chin paper.

I noted immediately a pink tinge around my left eye, which went away soon after, but no peripheral vision loss. Eye Doc confirmed that if I didn't notice anything right now, I wouldn't notice anything else from this treatment from now on.

However, being the way she is, and heck, the way just about all doctors are, she couldn't tell my why the retinopathy had flared up again now. Was it because I pick up my 30-pound son all the time? Is it because I started running last year? She had no answers.

She did say that as a rule, she tells her patients with retinopathy not to do anything jarring. Or to lift up anything heavier than 15 pounds.

And as someone who has no intention to stop lifting my son, or pushing weights, or running because it makes me feel good and regulates my blood sugars, because there's been no published study that tells me to stop, I am respectfully ignoring her advice.

Driving a few days later, I noticed that when I waggled my fingers in the top peripheral part of my vision, I could see a tad more on my right side than my left, but the distinction is miniscule and my regular central vision is fine. I can drive without glasses. I can read without glasses. I can see at night without squinting.

I could get all riled up and emotional about having to go through all this. Having to sit in doctors' offices and wait in their waiting rooms and make small talk and sweat on machines and worry and have to take time off from working and all that.

But I don't.

After three decades with this disease, my vision--the vision that I use everyday with eyeballs that are now scarred with laser burns--is good. I can read and write and blog and surf the Internet. I'm writing a book--fulfilling one of my life's goals. I can and see the smiling faces of my family and the funny things my husband does and watch my son as he runs around and picks up lint from the floor and says "Yuck!" and swings at the playground and smiles and squeals with delight about going higher and faster.

I figure it's all a small price to pay.


Minnesota Nice said...

I am going to be mildly expressive and just same DAMN, rather than the words that are really more appropriate.
What exactly does "juicy" mean? I know that you have background problems, but was this a switch to the proliferative side?
When I had my treatments 6 years ago for prolif, I was certain my activity and lifting would be restricted. The doc said no, and later on I also asked the technician, as he'd worked for several retinal specialists. He said he'd never heard any of them make that restriction.
You are a woman of immense strength. I love your "deal with it a move on" attitude. Yet, this seems like one of the unfairest things I've witnessed.
My best wishes to you, L. Stay the course.

Scott K. Johnson said...

I agree with MN, your strength and courage to roll with the punches is admirable, and I hope that I can be as brave when my time comes.

Eva said...

My brain doesn't use the info from my right eye at all. It's nice to know you only really need one. Uh, if that info helps.

Dealing with this stuff sucks. And that does sound unpleasant. But it's done for now, so that's something.


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