On Seeing

Ten days ago, I lost almost all vision in my right eye.

What started as a dark spot in the center of my vision, grew outwards until I functionally could not see.

If I stood in front of a car on the sidewalk, I would not be able to see the car.

It was scary and disorienting.

When I visited the ophthalmologist, he said “You have a detached retina.”

They take detached retinas very seriously. My retina, he explained while holding a cross section model of an eyeball, is like wall paper on the inside of a spherical room. The edge of the retina had a small tear leading to fluid flowing in behind the retina and detaching it from the back of the eye.

A black and white portrait of a Chinese man. He has a metal eye patch on his right eye. He wears a hoodie.
After surgery, with my eye patch.

“I’d like to get you into surgery today.”

Within two hours, I was hanging out in a surgery room ready for a vitrectomony.

The surgery went well.

In a vitrectomony, they replace the liquid in your eye with a gas bubble. The gas pressure pushes the retina back to where it belongs.

The bubble slowly gets absorbed over a period of weeks.

“It’s like a sling for your retina,” the doctor helpfully said.

Post-operation, it means two things, when I look out of my right eye, it’s like I’m wearing googles that have filled up with water.

Because of where the tear is in my eye, I have to be lying down on my left side for 23 hours every day.

(Fun fact: did you know that the image on your retina is backwards and upside down? So the tear that I see on the bottom left of my eye is actually on the top right of retina.)

I’m lucky.

My prognosis is good for restoration of most of my vision. I have great healthcare through my employer. My team at work has encouraged me to take time off to heal. I have paid medical leave. I have a spouse who cares for me. I have children that are self-sufficient.

Still, it sucks and I’m worried about my vision long term.

I never realized how much ones senses are interconnected. A loss of vision means a loss of depth perception. It means vertigo and occasional bouts of nausea.

I’m simultaneously grateful and grieving, which is not an unusual set of feelings that many have been experiencing lately.

Oh if you ever find yourself needing surgery in Oakland Kaiser, ask for the Snow White and Lightning McQueen room.

Wide angle photo of hospital room. There is a bed, IV and tv screen in the foreground and posters of animated characters on the walls.
Pre-operation surgery prep room

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14 Comments

  1. Once there was a country farmer in Mexico who was selling his horse when a couple drove by and asked how much? The farmer said $50 but he don’t look so good, the guy said he looks fine to me I will buy him. An hour later he came back all dirty and bruised yelling you sold me a blind horse ! The farmer replied I told you he don’t look so good 😊

  2. Eugene! I’m so glad they caught it and the surgery went we. Rest well so you can heal up nicely my friend! 🙏🏾

  3. Eugene! We’re so glad you’re home and recovering. Let the pampering commence!😅 We miss you all. Xo

  4. Oh dear Eugene. Appreciating our sight. You of all people with your talent in seeing. May you draw on patience and insight….

  5. Eugene,
    So eloquent as usual. Thank you for the explanation. I’m so sorry you are going through this.

  6. Whoa, that’s quite the scary story, Eugene. Glad your got good healthcare from Kaiser. I dodged a similar bullet a few months ago when I went to Kaiser for a routine eye exam where they discovered that my retina had a very tiny tear. Two days later I had a laser procedure which repaired it. I was lucky to catch it and that my health plan was on top of it.

    Hope you’re well on your way to recovery now. 😎❤️

    1. Yes, thanks Kathy! Glad that you got yours caught early and they took care of it. Thank you for the well wishes – definitely on the road to recovery.

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