Have you ever wondered what it is like to be visually impaired or possibly blind? Well I had that chance on 1st September 2010.
A few days ago, a bunch of floaters bloomed in my eyes and they looked like a lot of dirty flotsams and jetsams floating around which seem to stagnate around more or less consistently in the same section within the eyes. This has happened before but they disappeared shortly. However this time around, a round patch appeared in the bottom left area of my eye. It gradually turned from translucent to opaque over the next few days and from there I know that my left eye's retina has detached. From what I learned from Wikipedia, I have to take quick action quickly because it can quickly peel off like a bubble in a wallpaper.
I had an appointment made with an eye doctor on Wednesday at Pantai Ampang and just as I was driving off to see her, her nurse called me to cancel the appointment because her father was admitted into hospital. I was sorely disappointed because I waited two days for this appointment and instinctively, I gave the nurse a piece of my mind but then I guess the doctor has the right to put her family first. If I had anticipated this, I would have gone elsewhere immediately to arrest the problem and not waited for her.
Anyhow, I ended up at Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital (THONEH) that morning to see Dr Hari Krishnan. Upon a thorough examination of my eye, he ordered a surgery to be performed at 3pm that very day considering the gravity of the situation. It was fortunate that I ate before 9am that morning and nothing else after that. A good 6 hours must pass from the last meal before a surgery can be performed. So that's why it was set at 3pm. With that, a flurry of activity began to happen; ie blood sugar test, blood pressure test, ECG, warding, documentations, guarantee letters, interview by the anestologist, etc. to get me ready for the operating theater.
Next thing I know I was on a mobile bed being wheeled to the 1st floor operating theater where it gets colder and then I got onto the operating table and a mask is placed onto me. They say it is oxygen but I know better. It was just to put me to sleep.Then I blacked out without realizing it.
2 hours later, I was back in my bed and I woke up sleepily with a plastic patch over my left eye. Dr Hari Krishnan had earlier moved my eyeball to the side, inserted some equipment inside to chop up the gel inside the eye which has been pulling at my retina to detach it. Then they drained the gel out and replaced it with gas to push the retina back to the eyeball wall and sewed everything back into place.
The next thing I felt was the hand of my wife besides my bed. She had come to see me after work and seeing that i am out of danger, she drove my car, which I had driven earlier to the hospital, home. Because of this operating procedure, my left eye has no more vision except to see what is immediately within my eye and a inch or two in front of my left eye. Everything else is a blur.
It is interesting to note that I can see a layer of viscous fluid (actually air) up to half my eyeball and the top half is just gas (actually fluid). Eventually, this fluid will fill up and push the gas out. And I can see lots of dark dirty stuff in the murky water in my eye. It sure is distressing to see such things floating inside but what to do? I was told it will go away eventually after a few weeks.
It was fortunate I have my good right eye to use as comparison. A clearly defined ceiling light is just a big patch of diffused light in my left eye. A waving hand is only barely discernible when placed about 3 inches in front of my left eye. Number and letters on my handphone is only discernible when placed about 2 inches from my eye. Interestingly, with my eye half filled with fluid, it is clearer to define the shape underwater than above water even though it is much murkier.
As the hours and day progresses, the fluid level got higher and higher (so it seems) above the lens and cornea and the gas level seems to be reducing. For that the nurse gave me medication to reduce the eye pressure.
From this experience, I now understand what those blind and visually impaired students I have been sponsoring to learn music must have faced in their blindness and visual impairment. One such student by the name of Cheah Min Enn usually put his eyes very close to the electronic keyboard to see the details (like what I am currently doing), dialled the correct numbers to get the right sound and then press the keyboard to produce his Favorite sound: A Gunshot! And he keeps doing that repeatedly. In his case, he is not totally blind, only visually impaired – like what I am experiencing. And because of this experience, I now understand what he is going through.And for all his disadvantages, he is a great student and scored a distinction in his London College of Music Grade 3 Examination along with his fellow blind student, Tan Mike Foong! His parents has also commented that he has bloomed a lot in his self-esteem ever since he could play well and perform before a crowd of many. My hats off to him despite what he is going through. From what I understand too, the blind are not 100% blind; They can detect light and fuzzy outline – also like what I am experiencing – so to greater degree and some to lesser degree.
I have another word about "mean" doctors. I am sure, now and then, we come across doctors who are rude and curt when you asked questions. They make it look like as though your questions are silly and you shouldn't ask them in the first place. I have come across a few in my life. And this doctor who attended to me is no exception. However, all the nurses speak highly of him praising him as the best and I am inclined to believe them. There is another doctor in complementary medicine at Lorong Jubilee, Off Jalan Loke Yew. He is just as mean and rude initially but his prescriptions work wonders. With that, I overlooked the rudeness. I have also come across pretty sweet talking doctors who are very smooth talkers and seemed to be very understanding. However, to them, every case is an operation case.- just like a guy who only has a hammer; everything he see is a nail! Yeah, a RM15,000 NAIL when you are presented the bill! My wife would not agree and want every doctor to be good and well-mannered otherwise she will not recommend them. I think otherwise. After all, as an effective music instructor, I feel that sometimes, I have to be mean to my student in order to get them to get results! So my advice is, no matter what, look beyond the meanness and check out his reputations as an effective doctor. "
Now, today is Friday (3rd Sept 2010), the 3rd day after my operation. The fluid in my eye is now more or less stabilized in my eyeball. It is more or less 2/3 way up. Interestingly, I noticed that the fluid has cleared up a bit more allowing me see my iPhone a tad more clearly – about 4 inches away whereas earlier it was about 3 inches away. The only thing is that it looks like I am looking at it underwater with all the wavy edges. Also I am told to stay away from hilly place and air travel. The pressure created can inflict damage to my eye.
I also asked my doctor a question today as to why must I sleep at a 45 degrees angle if flat on my back or else on my right if I sleep on my side. His answer was that he need the gas to push the retina back onto the wall and eventually get it secured there. At the same time, the gas should have as little contact as possible with the lens and cornea which if the exposure is too long, may result in bigger chances of cataract! Interesting!
So what is the lesson? While most people have health checkups, do not forget your eye check-ups too! You could be surprised how unhealthy your eyes have become without you realizing it. By the time I saw the doctor, he has already detected 6 holes besides the detachment. He also said he saw some holes in the right eye too. In fact, the doctor did comment that, once my left eye is ok, I must come back to do something about my right eye with laser treatment. ie weld the retina back to the wall of the eyeball as he as discovered some slight detachments already. So, readers, better learn this lesson. Don't take your eyes for granted just because you can see!
On the 8th September, 1 week after the operation, I went back to see the doctor. I cracked a joke with left the nurses and the assistant doctor giggling and sniggering. That kind of amused the 'mean' doctor and he became of better mind. So that's how to lighten up the mood of a surly professional! 🙂 Anyway, he examined my eye and said it was healing nicely. He now prescribes that I use the eyedrops once every 3 hours instead of intervals of 2 hours. The itch is becoming less and less but still there nevertheless. I guess the body is still trying to reject the foreign substance and also healing.
On the 14th September, the fluid level in my eye seems to be remaining constant – slightly above half my eye and I suspect it is between the cornea and the lens. I don't know about the fluid in the eyeball. That's because when I face horizontally downwards, the fluid seems to be in a circle in front of me – like how it would look in a concave petri dish. The murkiness seems to be going away. This time, without my spectacles, I could see 1 feet away at my hand clearly without spectacles. The view below the fluid is more hazy now as opposed to before.
The other thing is that my left eye must be trying hard to regain back control. I say that because my left eye seems to be trying to dominate the view in front of me even though it is hazy such that many times, I have to purposely close my left eye to see clearly.
Driving around town is not really a big issue except that I now keep a bigger distance and not drive as fast as before. The GPS also helps a lot because I don't tend to look left as much as before.
Next day, I went for my checkup for the doctor to monitor my progress and I mentioned about how I am looking through a goggle half filled with water in my left eye – top half clear and bottom half murky. The doctor's explanation was interesting: Every image your eye captures is all upside down; your brain just put things back the right way. So actually the top clear half is not gas but actually fluid and the bottom murky half is actually gas. And that top half is very much clearer because the eye is now filling up with the original fluid it had before. In that respect, as the gas disappears, the "water" level should be going down until completely healed. Now I understand.
On 24 Sept 2010, I noticed that the 'bubble that seemed like water but it's actually gas' is significantly smaller. That's a relief! I just hope that it quickly shrink quickly to nothing which means I am completely healed. I am looking forward to that day when my right does not have to compete with that bubble's blurry vision when my right and left vision overlaps.
Then, on 1 Oct 2010, The watery bubble which is actually gas turned upside down is now significantly small though it still gets in the way whenever I need to look downwards. If I were to bend down to look at something closely, the bubble literally covers the whole eye because it floats to the back of the eyeball! So I have to look at all objects at horizontal level. My next appointment is on 6th October and I sure hope the bubble would have been gone by then.
This is what it is like to have retinal detachment.