I had a vitrectomy. I’m not going into the gory details here (Google “vitrectomy” if you want those). Personally, I preferred not to have too clear an idea of what the ophthalmologist planned to do to my left eye. If it had been surgery on my ankle or heart, that would have been different. But thinking about someone messing with your eye … that’s creepy. But the simple answer is, the surgeon takes some fluid out of your eye and puts in something else. No, not a micro-miniature bathysphere or an alien spore. In my case, it was a gas bubble.
The actual procedure was a breeze. I recall being wheeled into surgery (at a hospital, because, terrifyingly, the surgeon wanted to be sure of having "tools that are long enough"--a phrase one does not like to hear applied to one's eye surgery). I noticed I was in a large room with a couple of other medical personnel in it (I could hear their voices). And then I had a drape over my face and Dr. R. said something like,
"Hand me the cat grader"*.
The reply was "Not the heron wader*?"
"No, the cat grader."
And no, that isn't actually what they said but it was all Greek to me.
*Actually, as everyone who is familiar with the rigging of 18th century British naval vessels knows, the cat grader secures the mizzen mast to the catstick and the heron wader performs the same function for the fore-mast and the twiddle-poop.
At one point I thought of something witty to say ("Are we having fun yet?") but decided it might be a mistake to move my face if he was using a cat grader. It wasn't until I got to the recovery room that I realized that I'd missed five probably rather fraught minutes when I was given two shots to ensure that I didn't feel anything. And I only know about the shots because at the appointment at which Dr. R. scheduled the surgery, he told me there would be two shots and that I would be given something to relax me beforehand. When he said I wouldn’t remember afterward, it was not particularly reassuring. Yeah, yeah, I thought, but I’ll be aware of it at the time.
But there was absolutely no sense of ANYTHING having happened between arriving in the operating room and the moment I found myself admiring black and white geometrical patterns (I’d have said, inside my eyelids except that my eyes must have been open, since Dr. R. was … doing something to one of them).
I arrived in recovery and the recovery room nurse said, “Let me take the pillow out from under your knees”.
I said, “Why, however did that get there?” I hadn't understood how thoroughly I wouldn't recall and how efficiently it works.
The procedure was easy. I never had any pain. I’ve had more discomfort from an ingrown toenail.
The ordeal was the week of face-down recovery. Apart from 15 minutes for meals and five minutes an hour to get up and go to the lavatory or simply walk around, you have to be face down. You sleep on your stomach. That was the worst part of the whole thing. I never sleep on my stomach. I’d wake up once or twice or three times a night and have to sit up (face down) for a while, listening to audio books. You’re discouraged from reading, which makes your eyes move too much.
I’d rented recovery equipment, a sort of modified massage chair with a variety of face support and other cushions and a device for supporting my face in bed. It included an angled mirror which would have allowed me to watch TV. However, the TV was in a different room than the massage chair, and moving either one was not an option. Fortunately, I’m not a big TV fan, and I had lots of audio books. I also spent some time thinking deep thoughts: is there an easy way to convert Centigrade to Fahrenheit in your head? What, exactly, is Ottoman silk? Could I use curare as a poison in some future novel set in the 18th century?
If you have to have a vitrectomy, unless you have a live-in Jeeves or Bunter, stock up with food that doesn’t need preparation, apart from a quick heat-up in the microwave. I made a big batch of Irish oatmeal, the steel-cut oats kind, which reheats better than rolled oats oatmeal. Those lunchbox size cups of pudding, Jello, yogurt and apple sauce work well. So do pre-cooked bacon or deli meat, entrees from the freezer case, some of which aren’t bad. Salads (pasta or fruit) from the deli case are a possibility. None of these are things I’d usually ingest; I almost always cook from scratch. But 15 minutes is not a long time to eat even a rather minimal meal; any prep for it should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes. You will not have time to make a salad—or anything else, really—from scratch. Maybe a scrambled egg—but then you’d have the clean up to do. Trust me on this: I have a wonderful roommate, a former R.N., who was extremely helpful. But we don’t eat the same kinds of things on the same schedule. It was just easier to have stuff in the fridge I could zap. She did bring me a gift of chicken tenders, however. They were delicious.
I’m still recovering. The gas bubble will take time to dissipate. The left eye will improve, I hope, but it will take weeks. It’s been a week plus two days, so I’m no longer face-down, and I’ve almost finished weeding out my junk email. I haven’t tried reading yet, except for the labels of the four eye drops I’m using and the occasional news alert online. I’m supposed to take it easy for a while—no hiking, hoicking around heavy loads, going up in airplanes, etc. In a few days, I plan to resume the edit of the first draft of my next historical romance. And that’s how I’m spending my summer.