Detached Retina: Understanding that My Eye Won’t Be the Same

Any time a person goes through a big change in life, a seminal event usually occurs to make that individual recognize that the change is becoming a normal part of life — permanent even. The  seminal event in my right eye detached retina saga occurred a few days ago at a regular appointment with my retina surgeon.

mountains to climbAfter my fifth vitrectomy I continued to be the “cockeyed optimist,” as Nellie Forbush, the dedicated South Pacific nurse, sang while World War II raged around her. You see, I kept thinking that if I just hoped enough or continued to wish for better sight to return in my right eye, it would eventually come back. After my appointment, however, I realized that this isn’t going to happen. My eye will improve, but it will not return to the condition that it was in after the first vitrectomy and cataract surgeries nearly a year ago when my sight was better than 20-20.

I can now see shapes and large letters, but even if I stare at labels or big signs, I cannot make out much of the smaller characters, at least not yet. The silicon oil in my eye will probably remain there for foreseeable future. My retina surgeon explains that the silicon oil makes my right eye extremely far-sighted, so he recommends that I visit my optometrist, getting a refraction to see if we can correct the farsightedness as much a possible. He worries that if we take out the oil that my retina will simply detach again, despite the scleral buckle and all the surgical laser hits (there must have been thousands by now).

It comes down to a risk and benefits analysis — perhaps a topic to explore in a later post for this blog’s Epidemiology 101 page. But not now.

“Hope and reality lie in inverse proportions,” author Jodi Picoult writes in her book, Lone Wolf, interestingly about a family dealing with a hospitalized and dying family member. I understand this quote now. Our minds — right now my mind —  do not want to give up hope for what could be, what seems possible, no matter how unattainable the reality. It’s hard to let go of the idea that my wonderful amazing sight  — literally the view of the world that I had for three months in both eyes — will not return in my right.

I need some time to come to come to terms with my other anxiety —  that the detached retina in my left eye, well repaired 20 months ago and providing me with 20-20 vision, will also not work at some point, and that I will become sight-disabled in that eye, too. It’s so difficult to let go of fear, even for something that is completely beyond my control.

So right now, despite having a great support team around me — my husband, my physician-daughter, the skilled and concerned ophthalmologists — the responsibility to modulate my hope and wrestle with my fear is mine alone. I am not feeling sorry for myself, but I am feeling frustrated  I’ll need to figure out how to jump over this hill that life has placed in my path and get on with things. As life and aging problems go, this is not an especially high hill to scale.

But right now it feel more like a mountain.

9 thoughts on “Detached Retina: Understanding that My Eye Won’t Be the Same

  1. I completely understand your emotions as l had first detachment in left eye September 2012 second detachment in November 2012 oil removed in April 2013 cataract operation in September 2013 vision now 20/300 basically blind my work requirements are minimum 20/40 so l have not worked since September 2012 have to take from savings to get by could draw social security but have been holding hope to return to work as l was self employed and enjoyed my work and customers . Right eye had to be lasered twice since August starting to be more concerned about rt eye now. About to give up thoughts of returning to work have to take each day as it comes hope for the best.

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    • Thanks, David, for your comments. You — and your eyes — have been through a lot. When eyes are the problem, the recovery process goes well beyond the medical treatments. I am thinking of you!

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment! Yes, I am definitely learning my way around the retina surgeon’s office. I love your blog —
      http://adventuresinlowvision.wordpress.com, and will add it to my resources. You have taken a difficult situation and figured out how to get on with life. A great model for many of us with severe retina problems.

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  2. As I lay sideways on the sofa after my third vitrectomy, I googled why my retina keeps detaching and came across your blog. Can’t say it was reassuring to read, but insightful. I am hopeful this third one took and I am going to make a full recovery!! Wishing you the best!

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    • Thanks for your comment, Leesa. I hope that things are going splendidly. I was just at my doctor’s office for a check-up and I am now one year out from any surgery with a stable retina, though the vision in that eye is not great. Of note, however, is that despite my frustration with the vision on my eye, I am now living a normal life.

      I am not a physician, so my thoughts are strictly my own, but my only significant viewpoint on multiple vitrectomies is that a person should work hard to avoid really active bouncy activities until the doctor is convinced you are really stable. I will be writing another post on my most recent physician visit soon.

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  3. I had retinal detachments in both eyes in sept 2013. My left eye was serious as I had wavy vision for over a week before I went to the doctor. They performed a schleral buckle on my left eye without vitrectomy. I had persistent sub retinal fluid after surgery so my vision was still wavy after surgery. It took a year for the fluid to go away and although my vision improved some I am left with a permanent bend or distortion in my central vision. Luckily my right eye wasn’t fully detached and they treated with laser and so far it hasn’t detached. I hardly notice my distortion when using both eyes.

    With all that being said your post was everything I have thought and felt over the last 18 months. While I am thankful I can see at all, I always cringe when I go for a followup or someone asks how my eye is doing. It has been tough realizing my vision will never be the same and I have a fear of my right eye detaching and being left with both eyes impaired. I can’t imagine having 5 vitrectomy surgeries, because I know the fear and panic I felt during my two procedures. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and prayers for you.

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  4. I had a sudden retinal detachment at 62yo which was repaired with a cataract removal also. Then I had Strabismus muscle surgery. Well my affected eye is distorted and tries to work with my other eye but it seems blurry. Many times I just shut my eye to read etc. I have a cataract in other eye but dread to have it done in case something goes wrong. I just pray and hope for the best.

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    • Hi Lottie,
      Thank you so much for writing. Going through the process of experiencing a detached retina is scary and discomforting, and it requires a lot of time an energy. My answers to all your questions is to check with a physician, ask lots of questions, and not be afraid to get a second or even third opinion. My eye surgeons welcomed questions, and I had a lot of them.

      In terms of my experience — my good eye, with the help of my brain, got used to doing much more of the work of seeing. Most of the time I hardly notice the poor sight in my other eye.

      I also suggest that you connect with the supportive and moderately active Detached Retina User Group community that lives over at Yahoo Groups where people are welcome to ask questions of others who are challenged by retina conditions although after sharing most people on the list also suggest asking your physician lots of questions. Hal Moyers, the gentleman who started the group way back in 1999, maintains a resource page at Sightwise.org. The detached retina Yahoo group is filled with helpful and concerned people who ask questions, offer some answers, direct people to resources, and sometimes just comfort. It is reassuring that when an individual shares some symptoms, the first recommendation of group members it to tell that person to get, without delay, to a physician. There is also a Facebook page. One cool this about the listserv is that there are people who are keeping track of and sharing the latest retina scientific research.

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