Looking Your Fear in the Eye
Depending on how we are connected, you may have heard this story. I hesitated to mention it on my business pages because it really shook me, and I didn't know how to express it in a professional manner. Plus, I wanted to get a few follow-ups with my doctors under my belt so I was more positive that the procedure had worked.
The story began with a long-ago eye appointment where I was told that I needed to be mindful of changes in my vision. I needed to look for floaters. But more importantly, I needed to watch for flashers. Now I'm not talking about trenchcoat-wearing weirdos hanging out at bus stops. These are flashes of light in your vision.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I awoke to what looked like white fireworks in my eye. It lasted maybe 10 minutes or so. It really freaked me out because of what I had been told about the flashers. But I wasn't sure what they would look like, so I couldn't be 100% sure that is what I was experiencing.
Now, I knew what this could mean for me if they were the flashers. And to say that I was scared would be an understatement. I had two friends to whom this happened and I knew what to expect. So the Scaredy Cat in me took over, and I just went about my life convincing myself that these could not possibly be the flashers that I was warned about. In addition, my ophthalmologist had retired and I was going to have to go to someone new. This contributed to my nervousness.
A couple of months later, more symptoms appeared and my fear of the consequences of waiting shook the Scaredy Cat enough to prompt me to call the doctor NOW. You see, if I had done nothing, I was going to go blind in that eye because my retina had become partially detached.
I called the doctor and my Corgi angels must have been looking out for me because from that call, things quickly fell into place. They immediately connected me with their triage department and thanks to a cancellation, I had an appointment just down the street from me in 15 minutes. My husband and I walked quickly down the street and got there in time.
The initial doctor did a complete eye check and confirmed that yes, my retina had indeed detached. The good news was that a specialist happened to be at that particular office on that particular day. I had to wait until the end of the day and my anxiety grew as we waited through the afternoon.
When I got called in, he did another exam to double-check and then gave me the news I was dreading. There were three options for treatment. I won't go into gruesome detail, but two involved going to the hospital but had some serious drawbacks. The third was the option I had known about since the incident with my friends and it had been playing in my head since I first saw the flashers. That was the procedure he recommended.
The doctor was going to freeze my eye and then puncture it with five different needles....while I was wide awake! I am not ashamed to say, I started to cry out of fear. I am super needle-phobic. Not only will I not look when presented with a needle, I'll squeeze anything in my grasp, and sometimes they use the kiddie vaccine pad to distract me. Thankfully Bill was there with me to keep me as calm as possible.
We went to the surgery room and they told Bill to wait in the waiting room. I informed them that that was not an option. He had to stay, and they thankfully agreed. I needed a hand to hold.
The procedure got underway and I can't tell you how freaky and terrifying it is to have needles coming at your eye, even knowing that you won't feel the prick of the needle. My eye was frozen, the vitreous fluid was removed from beneath the detached retina and gas was inserted. It took about 15 minutes, but it felt like forever.
I was sent home with instructions to sleep sitting up with my head tilted to the right for a week. Needless to say, I barely slept or moved for a week. I had a black gas bubble bouncing around over half of my eye every time I moved. I also could not change altitude because of the gas bubble. So I was super limited in what I could do.
Once I was home, I discovered that sitting like that for 24/7 was a challenge. I came up with an interesting, if not embarrassing, solution. Benny had recently been neutered so we had two inflatable dog collars. Benny wore one and I wore the other. We made quite the pair.
Now three months later, I have had four follow-ups and so far everything seems to be holding. I am so grateful for Dr. Chan-Kai at EyeHealth Northwest. He was amazing. Bill watched the whole surgery and he was blown away by how smoothly the process went. Dr. Chan-Kai was so patient with my freaking out about having needles stuck in my eye.
I hope this never happens again, but at least I know I can get through it and face my fear. Facing my fear saved my vision. As you can imagine, it means a lot, but especially when you are a photographer.
So now when something gets difficult, I remind myself that I lived through having NEEDLES STUCK IN MY EYE. After that, I feel like I can get through whatever is in front of me. I take a deep breath, cry if necessary, and move forward toward the thing that scares me.