Anyway, I hadn't had an eye exam for probably 40-some years. I began using those "cheaters" that can be purchased in drug stores. They worked just fine for me and I couldn't understand why anyone would pay more than $10 for a pair of eye glasses. I just thought the whole eye exam/eye doctor thing was unnecessary and expensive. Having an eye exam may be somewhat expensive, but it is very necessary! Your eyes are a very important part of your life, so please don't ever take them for granted.
As it turned out, on this initial eye exam, I was diagnosed with "Narrow Angles". He advised me to see a glaucoma specialist immediately. He said I had the type of glaucoma that could cause sudden blindness. I was scared to death. I was referred to an eye doctor by my 100 year old most favorite doctor in the world, Dr. Goldman, and I went to see him right away. He diagnosed me with "Severe Closed-Angle Glaucoma" in both eyes and said that I needed laser surgery asap, within the next six weeks.
With closed angle Glaucoma, the channels which the Aqueous Humor (fluid made in the front part of the eye) flows in and out from behind the iris, are closing and the fluid cannot circulate properly. This in turn, causes pressure on the optic nerve and can damage the nerve suddenly and without warning, blindness occurs. There is no choice. If one has this problem, one must have the surgery or go blind. Because, as with any surgery, there are some risks involved, so the surgery is performed only on one eye at a time.
"You will go blind without this surgery." Those are terrifying words to hear for anyone, especially an artist. My whole life, most of my entertainment has something to do with art. I am a videographer, a visual artist, a painter, I work in mixed media. I have never taken my sight for granted. My friends have always told me that I am capable of "seeing" many things that most do not. I notice everything around me. The birds in flight, the sunrises and sunsets, little bitty snails, and lizards and praying mantis's and snails. I see it all, I appreciate it all, I love it all. I cherish my sight each and everyday. I could not believe that I might go blind. It was a hard reality to swallow.
I have no medical insurance and the surgery is not cheap and I should say right now, I had help to pay for it through my angels of the internet. A good friend of mine, Lisa Patencio, spread the word on the internet and donations came in from all around the world. I cried tears of happiness and I will be eternally grateful to my Angels of the Internet. Bless you all.
I tried my best not to think or speak of the surgery until the day of. I was afraid I would put some sort of bad vibes out into the universe. Let me just say, it is virtually impossible NOT to think about a red hot laser coming toward your eye, while you are awake and fully aware of what's happening. Oh, the scary, evil stories I told myself. LOL. Well, as it turns out, the laser, although red, is not hot. No, it's not hot at all. It's just a light. No Star Wars slashing cuts going on in the eye or anything close to that. Here, I tell the story of my surgery so in case anyone should ever come face-to-face with this same problem, they will know what to expect.
First of all, it is important to have a good relationship/feeling about the doctor who is going to perform the surgery. Although I had insomnia for three days prior to my surgery, I felt totally confident in the doctor who performed mine. He and his staff made me feel comfortable and safe. This is very important, especially if you are a worry-wart like myself.
On January 24th, the day of my surgery, my daughter drove me to the hospital and she is staying with me for a few days to help with my after care. Once we arrived at the hospital, I was taken into a room with two nurses. They asked me a bunch of overall health and medication related questions. Then they proceeded to put different types of drops into my left eye. (The doctor performs the surgery on the eye that has the most damage first, which in my case happens to be my left eye.) The drops were to numb and contract the pupil. In layman's terms, they want the iris to be as big as possible so they can see to drill holes into it easier. Ugh. Just thinking about that makes me sick to my stomach. Wait! It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Once the doctor arrived, I was then taken into another room where there were all sorts of strange looking machines. I could tell by looking at them that they all had something to do with eyes. They all have a place for your chin to rest and your forehead to push against a bar near the top. (Kind of like the machine they use at the DMV to test your eyesight for your license renewal.) So, once all the adjustments were made for my particular height/body type, the doctor sat down in a chair next to me, looked me in my eyes and reiterated what he was going to do, how he was going to do it and the risks involved. The risks are this. For some reason, for one in 100 people, the pressure in the eye does not go down but raises to a higher level and does not ever go down. Also, and less common, some people who have the surgery, see an arch of light in their line of vision at different times and when the light hits at a certain specific pot in the eye. (I had originally thought this arch was present at all times) So, I took a deep breath and said, "Let's get started." So, we did. The doctor put more eye drops in both my eyes. I can't recall what the purpose these drops was, but they actually made my vision so blurry I could only see a shadow of the doctor and the machine. It was sort of like rubbing vaseline petroleum jelly onto a window and then looking through that.
Once I was loaded into the first machine, chin on the lower resting bar, forehead pressed against the top bar, the nurse placed her hand on the back of my head, to make sure I didn't try to jump back once the laser was started. I was scared but I took some deep breaths before the doctor started the laser. Then I tried to be perfectly still and not move or blink or breath too deep. (I thought of the 1970's "Love Is" Characters from the newspaper comics. I had chosen them to be my tiny doctor's little helpers and envisioned them microscopic, inside of my body running around helping the doctor do whatever he needed. A little exercise my oldest daughter, Echo, told me always works for her. Your helpers can be whomever you choose. Hers happen to be the little creatures from the old t.v. show Fraggle Rock. Yours can be whomever you choose.) The first laser machine make little clicking noises and right after each click, my eyeball felt as if it was being tugged on. (I imagined the little characters inside my eye, pulling on the eye, trying to show the doctor where to point the laser beam.) After a few minutes on this machine, the doctor said we were all finished. I started to get up and he said, "No, stay seated, we will move you across the room to another machine and this one is going to feel a little bit different, okay?" So I sat back down but I was a bit worried again, because I didn't recall him telling me he would use both machines, although I'm sure he must have. He then wheeled me over as the chair I was in, was on wheels.
The second machine made more and different noises, I think they were louder. The thing about the second machine was, I realized that I was totally enjoying the laser process. It was a bit of a sensory overload, the noises, clicks, the shots of light, then the light turned red and looked like the tunnel of light they say you travel down once you have died. Only difference was, my tunnel of light was red with black streaks scattered, spinning, moving and very bright. Along with the sounds of the laser, right after each noise came a consecutive pinging sensation. I felt as if the laser were shooting teensy, tiny little metal pin balls through my eye which then bounced around inside of my brain a few times before it hit the back of my skull. I felt this sensation over and over again with each click of the laser. I was watching the red tunnel swirl and move and feeling the tiny pin balls pinging around inside my head, I felt like a was a human pin ball machine. All in all, it was a very cool process and I actually quite liked the procedure. If the treatment on my right eye feels the same way, I am going to actually be looking forward to my next surgery! Is this weird or what? I am a bit odd, or so I've heard. I am so grateful that it turned out like this, because what if it was so terrible that I didn't want to have the right eye done? I am telling you this so you won't be scared if this should ever happen to you. Have the surgery. Save your eyesight. The worst part about the surgery, and I am not kidding here, is the way the eye feels after the numbing drops wear off. I will relate it to sitting on the beach and the person next to you gets up and shakes the sand from their towel and the wind blows it into your eyes. It's like that, only persistent. You can't get the sand out. Another tiny bothersome fact is, that the eye drops taste terribly bitter. Yes, you can actually taste them, especially after you have so many. But overall, in my opinion, it's well worth the chance that the surgery may keep you from going blind. If you haven't seen an eye doctor lately, please go. The thing about this type of glaucoma, even though it's severe and sudden, there is a good chance the surgery can save your eyesight, if it's caught early enough. Special thanks again to my daughter who made me go have an eye examination, well she dragged me, but whatever. I'm glad she did.
After the surgery, more drops are placed into my eyes by one of the nurses. This is done, periodically and systematically at timed-intervals. When she is finished, she writes a list of times and hands the list and an after-care paper to me. I can't read anything yet because my vision is still blurred. I give the list to my daughter in the waiting room and we begin the journey to the doctor's office, stopping every 15 minutes so she can insert the medicine drops into my eyes. I cannot do this myself because I cannot feel my eye yet. It is still numb and my vision is still blurred, so she must do it for me.
We've arrived at the doctor's office and I am feeling much more relaxed and more like myself. My daughter and I are sitting in his examination room and I take out my camera to get footage for the YouTube video I know I'm going to create about this journey. Then, the doctor comes in and puts even more eye drops of another type into my eye and moves his his fancy "eye-microscope" machine up to my eyeball and takes a look. He is writing down notes, looking into my eye, writing down notes. I ask him if the pressure has gone down in my eye. He says, "No, it will never go down, hopefully, it will just not ever get any higher." My daughter asked him if the operation worked. He said we won't know until after next week's examination.
So, I have to go now, back to the doctor again today, the day after my surgery and I suppose again next week then sometime. I guess it all depends on what the doctor sees in my eye today. My appointment is in an hour, so I will update this blog when I return. What a strange journey this has been!
UPDATE January 26, 2012
I tried to re-create the fascinating visual effects that I experienced during the laser surgery through drawing. This is a poor account as it is not near in color intensity as the real deal was. It is also not swirling quickly or sparkling as intense as it was in real life. I don't think I can come any closer to portraying what I saw than this, through a drawing.
The follow-up visit with my eye doctor yesterday went well. He said that my eye pressure was good and he wants to see me again in a week. I am to continue putting two types of drops into my eye until then. One type is a sort of antibiotic I must use three times a day. The other is a soothing gel to help deal with the uncomfortableness of the "sand in the eye" effect ones feels from this surgery. I can use the gel as often as needed. The fact that I don't need to come back for a week is a very good sign! If the doctor had seen any problems, I would have had to keep returning to his office on a daily basis, until he felt the problem was solved. YAY. YIPPEE. All the prayers that were said for me around the world, the positive thoughts that were put into the universe, the virtual hugs and love that was sent over the internet, well, they've all worked! Thank you dearly my friends all over the world. I am blessed and lucky to have you all in my life. XXXOOO
The doctor should know next week if the surgery did what it was supposed to do. It's just a wait and see kind of thing now. Of course, as always, I will keep you updated. Oh and in case I didn't mention this before, this type of surgery has no effects on my vision (other than it will hopefully keep me from going blind). I will still wear my prescription glasses as usual. It was not a surgery to correct my lenses and make me see better. The surgery was to keep pressure from building up behind my iris and destroying my optic nerve, thus causing sudden blindness.