"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Egg, Part 2
trau-ma Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural traumas also trau·ma·ta /-m&-t&amp;/ Etymology: Greek traumat-, trauma wound, alteration of trOma; akin to Greek titrOskein to wound, tetrainein to pierce -- more at THROW 1 a : an injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress or physical injury 2 : the result of a collision of an egg and an eye
When I awakened, I had no idea where I was.
Oh yeah, the inner city hospital. In a room. After my eye had been smashed. By an egg, of all things. My girlfriend Debra was there, and so were my parents, having driven 200 miles to be there..
And so was a stranger in the next bed. He didn't have an eye injury. He had a stab wound.
In his back.
By his wife.
With a barbeque fork.
I ignored this bizzare game of clue, closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Again I awakened. They must have had me on some serious pain relievers. I could see through my left eye, so something still worked over there. There was a new doctor in the room.
"Mr. Hursey? Mr. Hursey? Wake up, Mr. Hursey, the doctor is here to see you."
A nurse. It was a nurse. The bed started rising into a sitting position. "Mr. Hursey?" the doctor said. "I'm doctor Andrews. Doctor Stokes called me this morning."
Ah, good. Dr. Stokes was my eye doctor at home. Thank God, this doctor wouldn't be a clumsy old man like the other one.
He examined me for several painful minutes. "There is a rupture in the back of your eye," he said. That would explain the angry blazing stripe across my vision. "It passed very, very close to your fovea. We will have to let it heal before we can be sure how much damage has been done."
The fovea, of course, is the area where you focus your sight in the back of your eye, the most critical spot in the entire eye.
I went home, or back to school, pretty quickly. The other patient in the room had a tearful reunion with his wife, promised to drop any charges against her for attempted murder, and they went home together swearing eternal love.
I hope he never cooked outside around her though.
I got fitted for some new glasses, and finished the term like nothing had happened.
Shortly after I returned to school after Christmas, I noticed a dark area developing in the lower left quadrant of the vision in my left eye. Dark isn't really the right word...it was sort of a crawly dark/light notcolor. There is just not a good word for it. I would notice it more in the shower.
The showers at Furman, at least in the men's dorms, were primitive at best. Each floor had a room where the walls were lined with shower heads. Everybody stood together to shower, and you hoped there would be hot water left when you got there. You also hoped no one flushed a toilet while you were under the spray. There were no places to put your shampoo or anything, and the towel hooks were in another room on the other side of a row of sinks. One hopes they have improved things, since that dorm is now coed.
Anyway, the shower room was dark, and thats where I would see that spot. At first, I wasn't sure I was even seeing anything. After a few days, I was certain. In the moist steamy darkness, it pulsed and flowed.
Something was wrong.
I called home and made an emergency appointment for that Saturday morning with Dr. Stokes.
I drove the two hundred miles to Florence on Friday after classes, and the vibration of the car seemed to be causing a sparkling around that dark area. It disturbed me.
"You have a retinal detachment," Dr. Stokes said after he examined me. "We can do laser surgery on it right now." Which was kind of funny, since being Saturday and an emergency visit, he had come dressed really casually. Usually it was lab coat and tie. Today, it was sweater and jeans. He washed his hands, buckled me in, and warmed up the laser beam.
Over the next few minutes, bit by bit, he burned little spots on my retina, trying to build a dam to stop the rest of it from detaching. Finally, he seemed satisfied. "That should hold. We have a patient that had one like that, and he goes coon hunting every fall and hasn't knocked it loose yet."
Yeah, he really said that.
So I headed back to college with a brand new set of sparkles in my field of vision, and instructions to see Dr. Anderson for the followup in two weeks.
By now, it was Easter season, and my appointment was on the Thursday before Easter.
Dr. Anderson dilated my eyes and examined me for a long time. I got nervous, because the glittering edge of the detachment that I was able to see in the shower had still been moving across my eye, it seemed.
He put down his instruments and leaned back from the equipment. "How soon can you be in Atlanta?"
I was taken aback. "Atlanta?"
"Yes. Your retina is still detaching, and there is a doctor there that might be able to save your eye."
"Oh. Well, this is Easter weekend, and I was taking a bunch of friends to our beach house, then classes next week..."
"Wait," he interrupted me. "You misunderstood me. I meant this afternoon. How soon can you be in Atlanta this afternoon. This is dangerous and critical."
So I drove to Atlanta, taking my girlfriend with me, who was from there. I had called my parents as well, and they were on their way.
What I didn't know until later was that they had just finished a horrible argument, and drove the entire five hour trip in tense silence. While my own drama was playing out, so was theirs. And I was oblivious, so far. Later, I wouldn't be.
By the time I got to Atlanta, I had lost the vision in the entire lower left quadrant of my left eye. The failed Maginot line of laser burns was long overrun from end to end.
I was fascinated with the spot. So this is what blindness looks like... And I still can't describe it.
The hospital was neat. It specialized in eye, ear, nose and throat, and if I remember correctly they even had little balconies in each room where the patient could have a smoke. The staff to patient ratio was like two to one, and every single one was extremely nice.
Hey, it was Atlanta. That's how they do things there. Well, most of them.
My new doctor came in, his name was Donnelly. He told me that the operation they were going to do to me was called a "scleral buckle."
"What we will do is to..." he said and I interrupted him.
"No, please, just do it then tell me afterwards. I don't want to know."
And early the next day, off to surgery I went.
The scleral buckle surgery was a very advanced proceedure in 1980. To understand the surgery, you have to understand a bit about the eye.
The white part of the eye is called the "sclera." This is like the skin of a grape. The eye is filled with a clear fluid called the vitrious humor. In between, held in place partially by the pressure of the vitrious humor, is a very thin layer called the retina.
The retina must lie flat, or the nerves in it can't transmit to the optic nerve. Unfortunately, if there is a hole or tear in the retina, the vitrious fluid starts leaking behind it and it starts falling off.
When it does, you get a blind spot. Like mine.
So, bring in the scleral buckle.
To perform this surgery, they actually pop your eyeball out with a spoon like thing. This is one reason I am incredibly glad I stopped him from describing this proceedure ahead of time. They lay your eyeball on your cheek to work on it. The first few poor people that had this surgery were awake during this. Thank God I wasn't.
Then they implant an elastic band completely around the eye, which squeezes it into a slight hourglass shape, building pressure on the inside.
After this, they simply go to where the detachment is, poke a hole behind it, and the fluid inside of it squirts out, laying the retina back in place. Mostly. A touch of cryo freezing to permanently tack everything down, pop the eyeball back in, and off you go.
Well, OK, the off you go part is a bit of an exageration.
When I came to, I was already back in my room and the entire left side of my face was heavily bandaged. They said I had to rest. That was fine with me. My girlfriend's father practiced at a hospital across the street, and he never even stuck his head in the whole time I was there, even though she never left my side.
That really ticked my dad off.
The doc came into my room eventually to remove the bandages. He did this by grabbing one end and giving a tremendous yank and rip, removing not only the bandage but the three days growth of beard underneath. My beard still doesn't grow right over there.
I opened my eye. Oh my God, I could see even in the area that I had lost! I hadn't expected this, no one had mentioned it. I cried.
They began walking me around the hospital to get my balance back. At one point I ended up sitting next to a young lady, maybe mid twenties, who was in the check out area. She had one eye bandaged up, and was crying.
"I'm sure it will be OK soon," I said trying to comfort her.
"No, it won't," she said. "I came in here Friday with a pain in my eye, and on Saturday they told me it was Melanoma. They had to take my eye out. And here I am, and no one in my family even knows where I am or what has happened."
She was right. Sometimes, it really won't be OK ever again.
After a few days of knitting together, they sent me back to school so I could complete my last term of my senior year and graduate on time. I had a regimen of drops, couldn't lean over to read or write notes, had to literally count my steps and not go over a certain number per day, and wear a metal shield over my eye at night, just in case.
But I made it, and it knitted.
Does it see well? No.
It sees like a funhouse mirror, to be honest. And it's hurt for twenty five years now. It's screwed up my 3d vision too, since my eyes see different things. I can't see straight lines or level edges. And nightime driving in the rain with oncoming headlights, let's not even go there.
But I can see.
Which brings me to here and now.
Four weeks ago I awakened, and my eye was jerking and convulsing violently. This had never happened before. It went on for about thirty seconds, then I was very dizzy and sick at my stomach. Afterwards, it hurt like I had strained it or pulled something.
I went to the doc, and although he couldn't figure out what it was, he guessed it was an inner ear infection and gave me meds to settle my stomach. And over the days, it gradually got better.
Until two weeks ago. Since then it has gotten steadily worse, with more pressure and more pain, and more sickness. It is very localized to my eye.
They did an MRI on me Monday, I don't know the results yet. I had a comprehensive eye exam today, and he says everything is intact and no sign of a problem.
But something is very wrong, I feel it. And I feel it where I shouldn't feel anything at all.
Prayers will be appreciated, and I'll keep you posted.
Oh, and pardon the pun.
A Hospital is no place to be sick. --Samuel Goldwyn
Update Noon, 12/23/2005: Just got a call from the doc, the MRI is fine. That means that, so far, the eye is holding together properly and there are no beastly interlopers growing in my head. That's the good news. The bad part is that it is more uncomfortable than ever, and no one has a clue so far why. We're going to throw some more doctors and money at it and see what happens.
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