Monday, June 11, 2012

I Have Seen the Light

People who know me were  treated to my unique appearance a few weeks ago. I looked like someone who had gone two rounds with Muhammad Ali in his prime or who had suddenly gotten into radical eye makeup.  I had eyelid surgery May 11th to correct what is technically called “droopy eyelids.” As my optometrist said when I checked with her last September, “It’s no wonder you can’t see—your eyelid is drooping halfway over your pupil.” I hadn’t said much about it because I don’t think most people are interesting in the medical details of someone else’s life, but I thought sharing my experience here might be helpful to someone with a similar condition. 

I experienced my drooping eyelids as not having enough light to see. If I held my eyelid up, there was much more light, but I would have looked funny walking around holding my eyelids up. Same thing with holding them up with duct tape as some people do. I chose surgery, and it took six months from the time I saw the optometrist to the day of surgery.

Becky drove me over to a well-appointed surgery center in Chevy Chase where I was promptly taken back and prepped for surgery. I won’t go into too many details except to say I was given a “twilight sleep” sedation so I could follow commands. It worked: I was awake but didn’t care what happened to me. I had my eyes closed as the surgeon worked and as he finished, he said, “Open your eyes.”

The room seemed flooded with light. “There’s so much light,” I said, and there was, especially since it was an O.R. with O.R. lights. The surgery crew laughed at what I said. 

After a short time in recovery, Becky drove me back home where we arrived about 2 PM. I was to spend the rest of that day and the next flat on my back with frozen peas or lima beans on my eyes to keep down swelling and bruising.

I found it hard to keep still and lie down. Becky kept reminding me, sometimes forcefully, how important it was to do just that. I eventually settled down, and in the next day and a half discovered some things to do while lying on my back unable to see because I have gauze pads and iced vegetables on my eyes. So, here is what I did:

I listened to the radio, particularly news, traffic and weather from the glass-enclosed nerve center of WTOP. Their frequent times checks made it easy to tell when it was time to switch the somewhat thawed peas for a freshly frozen pack.  By the way, it you want to thaw about a quarter pound of peas or lima beans, hold them on your head for about half an hour. That’ll do the trick.

I listened to Pandora, the internet music service, grooving (but not too much) to the likes of Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot, Art Garfunkel and Jim Croce. I found that I could add percussion by tapping on the wall as well.

I listened to several televised baseball games and finally switched to radio broadcasts where the descriptions were more complete.

I did some gentle yoga exercises to keep from getting stiff from lying around.

And I talked on the telephone with anyone who called, except for solicitors.

I was able to get up to go to the bathroom and eat, and then promptly go back and lie down with my iced eyeballs. 

I decided after trying to make my way around the upper floor where I am familiar with what’s there that I would not make a good blind person. I kept running into things and was afraid of falling down the stairs and setting back my recovery. Vision is truly a gift. I did try playing guitar, thinking that some famous musicians like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Doc Watson and Blind Lemon Jefferson were blind. I could barely play my guitar by holding it on my chest but I didn’t find songs by these artists such as “Deep River Blues” and “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” much help in healing. I gave that up very quickly.

With my eyelids lifted, I have more light coming into my pupils. With more light, I also see details better. I also gained 30 additional degrees of upward peripheral vision through this procedure. I hadn’t thought about this until I was walking into the church Monday afternoon after the procedure and I thought, hey! there’s a whole sky—a whole heaven up there and I don’t even have to raise my head to see it.

In sum, the surgery wasn’t difficult or painful, although the recovery took some doing, the results were worth it. My doctor was Paul Gavaris of Washington and Tysons Corner, and if you need this sort of thing done, I recommend him highly. Let there be light for everyone!

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