Detached retina surgery

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On this date 3 years ago I had surgery for the first time in my life for a detached retina. It was a surreal experience to wake up at 4 in the morning in the darkness of the woods at my campsite, and then suddenly be under the electric lights of a hospital. And I felt more than a bit of pressure. If the surgery failed, my eyeball would completely shrivel up in it’s socket (“dead eye”) and I’d have to wear a pirate-like eye patch for the rest of my life. So that would changeĀ things.

I marvelled at the whole concept of the surgery. It was mind-boggling to me that human beings could actually think this stuff up. There are basically two different kinds of detached retina surgery. The retina is kind of like a wallpaper stuck on the wall in the back of your eye. When it “detaches” it falls off the wall. When you see enlarged photos of your eye, it actually locks like crumpled up wallpaper lying on the floor of your eye.

The kind of surgery I had, they actually cut into your eye. And the surgeon goes in by hand, picks up the crumpled retina, puts it back on the wall, and then presses it onto the wall so it sticks like glue.

Unfortunately, shortly after the surgery, my retina fell off the wall again.

So the surgeon did the second kind of surgery, equally ingenius. The surgeon inserts this gas bubble into your eye. And the bubble presses against the retina to make it stick to the wall.

On the downside, as part of the recuperating process, you have to spend two weeks lying on your belly, face-down on a bed, for virtually 24 hours a day. You need to maintain this posture so that gravity forces the gas bubble upwards, pressing the retina against the wall. And after 2 weeks the retina is (hopefully) permanently pressed back on the wall.

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A room with a view.

But it’s a weird kind of a torture. Especially for a high-strung, fidgety type like me. Having to maintain this awkward, uncomfortable posture for 2 weeks straight (lying on your stomach, your face pressed into a pillow). And there’s this constant anxiety that if you make one wrong move, you’ll knock the retina off the wall and you’ll have to go through the whole surgery again.

But 3 years later, my retina is still attached to the wall. So knock, knock, knock.

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