I would have been... hmmm... fourteen. I was just coming out of middle school. I probably weighed all of a hundred pounds, this twiggy, zitty, awkward thing that carried around a sketchpad like it was a lifeline.
I wanted to play basketball, in an offhanded sort of way. I was tall, and fairly fast, and thought I ought to make an effort at a team sport. And I liked playing basketball, though I honestly wasn't good at it. I wasn't the last person picked in gym class, just somewhere comfortable in the middle. Towards the bottom of the middle, probably.
So that was my plan, to play basketball in high school. Maybe act in the theatre; I had such a fun time in the last school play at the middle school.
I seem to recall telling the Ophthamologist my plans. I was down in the lower 48, because it was often cheaper to see a doctor down south, and it was definitely cheaper to buy the glasses down there. (What, you think my miser tendencies came from a vacuum?)
I've worn glasses since first grade. (I swear, it had nothing to do with poking myself in the eye with a stick. That only scarred my pride. I was five or six and I knew I'd done something dumb straight away.)
((Pause while the author tells the cat to quit eating the box and gets a shoulder rub from her husband))
Cronological is apparently not how the storytelling is happening tonight. I hope you'll bear with me.
At any rate, the ophthamologist looked closely at my eyes and said, 'I see some thin spots in the retinas, you should have that checked out before you consider getting into contact sports.'
*thinksthinks* You know, it may have been not an ophthamologist, but just a regular eye-checker-person. I forget the details. I didn't collect business cards when I was fourteen. Yes, I have some facts to sit down and work out before I write my biography. Deal.
Anywho, I'm boring even myself.
I went to see the local Ophthamologist when we got back home.
I had tears in my retina. The rips kind of tears not the wet kind of tears that's spelled the same but sounds different. Before I'd even figured out that this isn't another joke (Dr Deramus is a hoot), I was scheduled for surgery in October.
I was a little frightened, who wouldn't be?
But everyone assured me that this was routine, normal, no big deal. If I was feeling well, I could go home the same day, though it was more likely I would stay overnight. The idea of my eyeball lying on my cheek was awfully chilling, but other than that, I had no real terrors. The procedure was called a schleral buckle. Go read webmd.com if you want details. I can press my finger against the side of my eye, look left and feel the buckle sliding past. It's a little creepy, even still.
I have to digress to talk a little about Dr Deramus. He is an enormous black man with the most gentle hands. He is always laughing, and he remembers my mother very fondly and always asks after her when I go in for my yearly appointments. He thinks she reads the most fascinating books. Which she does. Sometimes I toy with idea of setting her loose on a livejournal. /digress.
The surgery was supposed to be brief. But when the Dr got in there, with the eyeball on the cheek or however it goes, he discovered much, much more extensive damage than he had expected. Apparently, I had been on the very, very edge of a complete retinal detachment. The kind that makes it a lot harder to successfully save vision. I wonder now that I didn't notice a decrease in vision. I vaguely remember flashers being worse than usual.
Only one of the eyes was supposed to be operated on, but it turned out that both eyes were suffering. So instead of an hour or so, the surgery was 5 or 6 hours. (My memory says 8 or 9, but I'm thinking that my memory must be exaggerating.) I was supposed to be able to see when I woke up, but they had to bandage my eyes. On top of that, I reacted very poorly to the pain killers.
I came to in a groggy haze of pain and darkness. There were voices, but they made very little sense. I was supposed to be able to see, and I couldn't! I have never been so terrified in my life. I was drugged to my gills, blind, and floating. I spent what felt like days struggling back, certain that I had died, and that surely this was hell, because everything was awful. I think it only took a night to realize what was going on, but those were the longest, most grueling hours of my life.
That scared me away from drugs for all of my high school career, incidentally.
I had to wear an eyepatch for a couple of weeks. I've had to have minor laser surgeries twice to cauterize new little tears in the eye without the schleral buckle. That's about it.
I was unbelievable lucky, really. If the surgery had been days later, it might have been twice or three times as complicated. I talked to a girl a little younger than I who'd had her retina completely detach. She spent a week upside down in a complicated sling that kept the pressure in her eyes all correct. That could've been me.
'Scuse me... I'm going to go look at something beautiful for a while and appreciate my eyes.