Menopause

Macular Hole Surgery: The Recovery

 

Bracelet

This post is long-winded and jumps around a bit, but I wanted to thoroughly chronicle the experience for others who may need to have eye surgery and then spend time face down. You can read the first two posts about my macular hole here and here. 

The hospital sent me home with this green bracelet. The bracelet was to remain on my wrist until all hints of the gas bubble in my eye were gone. If I needed emergency surgery, I couldn’t have nitrous oxide because that doesn’t mix with the gas, and I couldn’t be airlifted as that creates a change in pressure. I had to cancel a trip to a conference in the mountains later in the month after the doctor told me the restriction against changing altitudes. The results of not following these mandates can be extreme pain and blindness. Yikes!

The 45 minute ride home from the hospital seemed like ten minutes thanks to the lingering effects of the anesthesia. I kept asking Cliff, “Does this ride seem short to you?” I had no problem keeping my head down in the car since the time magically  flew. I was worried about neck pain, but I had zero trouble.

As soon as I got into the house, I began the serious business of keeping my face down for seven days. The doctor said the first few days were the most crucial, so I didn’t take many breaks during that time. After that, I did use the five to ten minutes allowed each hour. Luckily you are permitted to walk about as long as you keep your head down, so I made lots of circles around the downstairs of my house.

I soon realized that I liked the face support that hooks to the end of the bed the best. The chair I rented wasn’t especially comfortable to me for sitting long periods, and the face support system that works in the bed made me feel like I was sleeping on a ramp. You can see all of these products on the Comfort Solutions website.  The equipment rents for $150 a week, which I think is a very good price, especially since that includes shipping both ways. In fact, this was by far the cheapest part of my surgery.

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Although you are permitted to read, I found it difficult, so I listened to audio books and had a blast. I also put my phone on the ledge on the side my bed and watched three seasons of The Durwells in Corfu. Since I don’t watch much TV, this was fabulously fun. (The ledge of my bed is a little dull for photography, so I thought you might like to see our new headboard and one of the pillows that matches the duvet.)

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Sleeping was a challenge. I dozed some during the day, so I wasn’t super tired at bedtime. Once we turned the lights out, I put my head in the end of the bed face support. About halfway through the night, I cheated by sleeping on the bed itself with my head to one side.

The oddest thing is when morning comes. You think, oh good. I can get up. But you really can’t. You can get up just long enough to grab a hot beverage, and then it’s back down again.

My daughter Laura sent me sunflowers with a lovely note from granddaughter Emerson:

Friends visited and brought entertaining stories, food, wine, and flowers. If I ever popped my head up, they instructed me to put it back down again. Bossiness in friends can be good! I must admit it did feel strange entertaining guests with almost zero eye contact. Since my eye was red and somewhat closed, I have a feeling they were just as happy not to look at it.

Cliff took excellent care of me, and I greeted cocktail hour with gusto. A word of caution: wine is so delicious through a straw that it’s easy to over-imbibe.

On the day after the surgery, I saw the most incredible black and white geometric patterns in my surgery eye. I wished I could take a screen shot so I could later paint them. They were fleeting but amazing. This is the closest pattern I could find to the real ones:

Another time, I saw a bright red oval with brillaint silver tinsel all around it. Christmas in July!

I returned to the doctor the day after my surgery. They removed the bandage, checked my eye pressure, and examined my eye. The doc reported that things looked good. The eye was cloudy, so he couldn’t tell for certain, but he thought the hole was closing. (It starts to happen that fast.)

That day, I began a regimen of eye drops: a steroid and an antibiotic, four times a day for a week. Then the drops slowed to just the steroid, tapering off over a month. Cliff was my drop guy. After a while, I got more used to the drops, and learned to do better about not blinking, but there’ s just something about eyes that shout: “No! Nothing goes in here.” I bet people who wear contacts would have an easier time than I did. I’ve definitely gotten used to the eye pressure tests during the exams since they do this every time I go in.

After six days, the gas bubble began to shrink. At first I could see a small sliver at the top of my field of vision. Every day it got a bit lower. It seems like you’re mostly underwater with just part of you above.

My next eye appointment was a week after my surgery. This time they took films. I waited nervously for the results. The bubble was still obscuring enough of my vision that I had no clue if the hole was closed.

“It’s closing,” the doctor announced. He pointed to the picture.

“Yes! Please thank Dr. Manning for her fine surgery,” I said. “I’m so grateful.”

“I will,” he promised. “She ties fabulous stitches.”

Then I asked, “I’m blogging about this. May I take a photo?”

“Sure.”

I got out of the examining chair and snapped some photos of the screen. Below, you can my macular hole in  a photo taken before the surgery.

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In the photo below, you can see that the hole is closing at the top. The doc says it starts at the top and gradually closes in to the base. Macular holes tend to not reopen because the vitrious fluid that caused the problem in the first place is removed during the surgery.

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As the gas bubble got smaller, it felt like I was looking at the world through the giant bubble that transports Glinda in the Wizard of Oz:

After twelve days ,when the bubble grew so small I figured it would soon be gone, I spoke to it: “Thank you bubble, for healing me eye.” A few hours later, I realized the bubble officially was gone. It had become a buddy of sorts, so I felt a twinge of sadness.

I still had the stitches for company though: delicate black strings dancing across my vision. They were tons of fun to watch. They’d go away and reappear again like a ballerina coming back in from the wings. Now, eight weeks later, I see a tiny speck of black every now and then.

And eight weeks later, after two more trips to the doctor, I am celebrating my completely closed hole:

I never experienced any pain deep in my eye, but it did hurt some when I opened and closed my eye. I took Ibuprofen until that pain went away in about six days. My first foray into the world didn’t go well. Despite the super dark sunglasses they gave me at the eye doctor, the sun caused me to feel off balance and almost blinded. I stayed out of the sun for the next few days, and then  I was able to venture out with regular sunglasses.

Once the doctor gave us the good news that surgery had done its trick, we packed up my face down equipment, and Cliff took it to our local shipping store. Comfort Solutions really is a wonderful company to work with.

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My vision should continue to improve over the next three months. I can read print again, and work on Friend for the Ride without any visual distress.The weird jumping around that my eye did is gone. I began driving again after twelve days, which pleased me as I feared it might be a month or so.

The procedure causes a cataract, which is now forming according to my last check up.  I will need cataract surgery in the next year. I’m at increased risk for a detached retina, and I will forever fail the Amsler Grid. Parallel lines are still crooked. Some part of my central vision is now gone.

By the end of my face down time, I was going a bit bonky. I posted the old song I Am Slowly Going Crazy on Facebook. But all in all, this was not a bad experience. In some ways, it was like a personal retreat. I enjoyed the time to chill and listen to books and watch TV and chat with Cliff and friends. When you know you aren’t supposed to be productive, the time away from life’s pressures can be quite fulfilling.

And I don’t think wine has ever tasted so good as did through that straw!

7 thoughts on “Macular Hole Surgery: The Recovery”

  1. I am so glad the outcome is positive! You make it sound rather easy but really head down and sleeping like that, really sounds difficult to adapt. You are one good patient!

  2. You certainly kept an upbeat attitude throughout. Thanks for making a scary procedure a little more relatable. So happy your vision is returning to normal.

  3. I’m so happy the surgery was a success! I especially identify now that I’ve been to a retina specialist and seen my retina! Life is always a learning experience, isn’t it?! Prayers for continued good news for you!

  4. I am so glad that your surgery was successful, Barbara! I felt somewhat breathless after reading all that you went through. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us. Any kind of surgery (or interventions on the eye) is very frightening to me (I don’t even like to get my eyes dilated to tell you the truth). You described the visual and sensory experiences so well, and I’m sure that your getting through all of this is encouraging to so many of us!

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