Vitrectomy

Laser beam in my dream, laser beam in my dream, laser beam in my dream, I can't get on, I can't get off, laser beam's like a sawed off dream -Steve Cash, Ozark Mountain Daredevils
 
“DO NOT LOOK INTO THE LASER WITH YOUR REMAINING EYE!” – tired old Slashdot joke
 
Tami's alien husband joined the National Guard, and left her homeless while he was in basic training. Swell guy, eh? So I let her crash at my place. It turned out to be a better deal for me than for her! Because I'd seen the snake. I knew this snake. It wasn't bighead (although she played a part in the previous journal).
A visit with Dr. Odin was scheduled on a Friday, and I went. It seemed the eye was almost cleared up – but Dr. Odin was worried. The retina might be detaching, but he wasn't sure. “I'm going to be out of town, but if you lose any peripheral vision or see a gray curtain descending, be sure to come in to the office. I have an alternate in case you need surgery.”
He sent me over to Dr. Yeh to laser my bloodstained CrystaLens implant before sending me home.
That Sunday it seemed I lost some peripheral vision at the top of my field of vision. I went in to work the next day, and left for the eye doctor as soon as they opened. I saw Dr. Ekon, an optometrist, who thought I did indeed have a detached retina. So he sent me to St. John's Pavilion at St. John's Hospital, a Catholic hospital here in town, to see Dr. Dodwell.
The doctor had good and bad news. The bad news was that I did indeed have a detached retina. “But if I had to have one myself, yours is where I'd want it.” He said he thought it would wait for Dr. Odin, but if I saw a gray curtain “then you're my problem.”
It did indeed wait for Dr. Odin the next Monday, who scheduled surgery at St. John's for Thursday. But first he said I had to have a physical exam to make sure my heart and lungs were good enough to get anesthetized and have needles stuck in my eyeball.
He asked if I wanted a local anesthetic or a general anesthetic. “I have a choice?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered.
“Knock me out!”
I scheduled an appointment with Doctor Smelter for Wednesday.
For my birthday I got a physical exam. First the nurse took my temperature and blood pressure. Then the doctor looked in my ears, listened to my chest with his stethoscope, poked around my abdomen, and decided to find out if he could see the detached retina. He shut out the light and shined his instrument in my eye.
From his response, I think he's a slashdotter.
“I think your cataract implant is loose. It's moving around in there!”
“It's supposed to do that,” I replied. “It is?” he ex-claimed.
“Yeah,” I said, “it's a new kind. You can focus with it. I've got better than 20/20 vision at all distances. I don't even need reading glasses!”
“Really? Wow! Well anyway I couldn't see anything. Did Dr. Odin dilate your eye?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Oh, well there you go” he said.
The nurse wished me a happy birthday and I went home. As I'd been instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight, I decided to take a couple of hours off that after-noon. I collected Tami to be my designated driver.
There is a tradition in most Springfield bars of giving you a free drink on your birthday. There is also a Springfield tradition of hopping from bar to bar getting shitfaced drunk on your birthday for free. I cashed a check on the way home, and had the teller give me some of those new dollar coins to mess with bartenders with; they look kind of like bronze quarters. My guess is they'll go over about as well as the Susan B Anthony dollars they issued back in the seventies. Kids, go to your bank and get some of these dollars, I hear the Anthony dollars are worth more than a buck each now.
The first place we went was Felber's, and the bartender poured me a giant glass of beer and a normal twelve ounce glass for Tami. I tipped the bartender with one of the bronze coins.
“So what did you get for your birthday?” the bartender asked.
“A physical exam. Tomorrow's birthday present is getting needles stuck in my eye!”
“Ouch!” she said. I explained about the detached retina and its subsequent need for a vitrectomy.
Some time short of midnight we got home, and I staggered to the kitchen to drink a gallon or so of water before bed. The surgery was scheduled for ten o’clock the next morning, and as I planned on going in to work for two hours before the surgery I set the alarm and got the coffeepot ready. No, I wasn't thinking straight, there would be no coffee until after the surgery.
The alarm went off and I blearily stumbled into the kitchen, and as I reached for the switch on the coffeepot I remembered – no food or drink. Damn. I'm a caffeine addict and can't function without my coffee. So I set the alarm on my phone and went back to sleep.
Sans my “third eye” I had Tami drive me to the hospital. We didn't have to wait long for them to call my name, unlike when I had the cataract surgery. My blood pressure and temperature were taken again, questions asked (allergies, did I eat or drink after midnight, etc.) and was given a hospital gown and told to wash my face with some strange liquid soap that looked like Mercurochrome, and to put a dot over the eye to be operated on so they wouldn't poke needles in the wrong eye and my initials on my neck so they wouldn't confuse me with a different patient who might be there for an enucleation or brain surgery or something. Yeah, this really restored my confidence...
I then met my anesthetist, whose name I can't remember. She was a gorgeous, thin black woman who could have easily been a supermodel, and she unfortunately talked me into a local anesthetic. She pointed out that for general I would have to have a breathing tube inserted, there would be a whole lot more postoperative pain as there wouldn't be as much anesthesia in the eye itself, etc.
I regretted that decision!
They would dose my eye with drops, then cover my face. Then do it again. And again. Slashdot would mod them “redundant”.
“Would it be okay if I prayed for you?”
I uncovered my face and there was an angel standing next to the gurney. No, on second look it wasn't an angel, just an old woman dressed in white, a Nun. “Yes,” I said, “thank you.”
They stuck electrodes on my chest and a needle in my arm and wheeled me into the operating room, where I was knocked out for a short time. I came to with my face covered, instruments apparently already inside my eyeball, unlike the cataract surgery. I was told it would take between an hour and a half and two hours.
The first part of the operation was easy. So easy, in fact, that I fell asleep a few times and they had to wake me up.
The later part, however, was pure torture. I have arthritis in my spine, and my neck started hurting. Then it started hurting BAD. “Hold still” the doctor said, and I discovered to my horror that I was strapped to the table with my head bolted down.
By the time the surgery was finished I was in agony from my arthritis, although the eye didn't hurt a bit.
In post-op they asked what kind of juice I wanted. I told them I'd rather have water, and they brought a glass of ice water, followed by some grape juice. They then gave me the post-op instructions: two kinds of eyedrops four times a day, one kind twice a day, and a tube of ointment for if there was any itching or irritation in the eye.
And I was instructed that I had to keep my head down at all times until the doctor said otherwise. I could only look up ten minutes out of each hour. They put a plastic bracelet on my arm, with instructions that it was to remain there until the doctor removed it. Warning: Gas bubble in eye Use of nitrous oxide or change in atmospheric pressure may cause an increase in IOP [inter ocular pressure] resulting in blindness. Consult the optometrist on the other side of this bracelet before treatment.
Leadfoot Tami had run out of gasoline going here and there, and had been hassled by the police, and was in a foul mood when she picked me up. I would have none of it – I was still in arthritic agony, and had been sternly instructed “no aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Naproxin.” And I was jonesing for a cup of coffee. Cup? No, hell, I was jonesing for a whole damned pot! I had her drive me to the D&J Cafe on Laurel street near MacArthur for breakfast and COFFEE! COFFEE! MUST HAVE COFFEE!!!!
After breakfast (at maybe two in the afternoon) we were both in better spirits, although my neck and back were still in pain. I spent the rest of the day at the dining room table with my head down, and laying down when the pain in my neck and back got too excruciating. Tami was impressed – she saw from the expression on my face and by how pale I was that I was in terrible pain, and said I was the first man she'd ever known that didn't turn into a little girl when he was sick or in pain. But what good would complaining do?
I'd get up to get a glass of water or something, “I can get that for you!” she'd say. But I needed to get up once in a while.
I wanted to go to Felber's for a beer; their drafts are only a buck, JW's beer is a buck and a quarter. “I don't think you should go drinking so soon after surgery!”
“Damn it, woman, the doctor told me no aspirin but he didn't say no beer! I'm going to Felber's and you can come along if you want or you can stay here!”
She regaled the lady bartender with tales of my stoicism, which I didn't understand at all, and understood even less when the bartender, a woman who looks maybe ten years older than me, agreed with Tami that most men turn into little girls when they get sick or hurt. This puzzles me, as I've seen Die Hard and all the war movies and action flicks where the guys limp along with a bullet in their leg and broken glass in their feet and still manage to beat the shit out of the bad guys.
The next morning I was to see Dr. Odin again. The retina looked good, but the pressure in the eye was thirty-five. Thirty five what I don't know, but it's supposed to be between ten and twenty. He gave me a giant orange pill and told me to come in the next morning, a Saturday. I spent most of the day at the table with my head down, part of the day in bed (on my right side as instructed, although my right shoulder has problems of its own, having been dislocated back in 1976 in a head-on car wreck and not wearing seat belts) and yes, at Felbers, where I showed everybody the picture of a vitrectomy from Wikipedia.
Saturday morning we drove to the doctor. Pressure in the eye was still 27, and he gave me a prescription for fourteen orange pills, which I can't remember the name of. I sent Tami to Walgreens to drop it off. She said they told her the co-pay would be four dollars.
Then we went to Felber's.
About six-thirty we went back to Walgreens to pick up the prescription, and the drugstore was open, the camera department was open, everything at the pharmacy was open except the God damned pharmacy! WHAT THE FUCK?! It's supposed to be a goddamned drug store, and I can buy anything there except DRUGS! I demanded to see the manager, who informed me that the pharmacy was closed – at six thirty on a Saturday evening, because it wasn't profitable.
“Yeah? Well how fucking profitable is it going to be for Walgreens when I go blind and SUE YOUR GODDAMNED ASSES???”
My pain had left me with a bad disposition and I was in no mood to put up with any corporate bullshit. God damned money worshiping FOOLS!
He said the pharmacy was open at the Walgreens at MacArthur, so I drove down there. They filled the prescription. “That will be forty four dollars.”
“Wow, that's a lot for fourteen pills, how much is the co-pay?”
“That is the co-pay! The medication is sixty seven dollars.”
“WHAT? I don't have forty four dollars on me right now! I'm going to go blind!”
She said she'd see if there was a generic alternative. I sat down and waited. Tami had stayed in the car, seeing that I was already going to explode after the Sixth street Walgreens' pharmacy was closed on a Saturday evening and not wanting to be caught up in it when the police came because I'd have murdered all those people with my teeth.
The lady walked up and sat down next to me with a bag in her hand. “We couldn't find a generic and we couldn't get hold of your doctor.”
I felt like crying.
“But I can see your pressure is high and I don't want you going blind. Here, I'm not going to charge you.” All I could do was thank her, take the drugs and leave.
I saw the doctor again Monday morning, and the pressure was down to a safe 11.5. Tami was a godsend; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, everything a housewife does except sex, but a lot of married guys I know get less sex than I do. Which lately has been none at all.
The week was still hell.
I ran out of the Vigamox drops and remembering the episode with the pills decided to call all the pharmacies in the area for the lowest price. The highest priced places informed me that my co-pay was the same no matter what the insurance paid, so I went to Walgreens.
“Are you going to come back for them?” the pharmacist asked.
“Hell no!” I said. “I'll wait.” Theirs was the highest price of anyone's, eighty seven dollars. But it wasn't as bad on my end. The tiny bottle of eyedrops cost me twenty two dollars. Retail price in Canada is twenty five. Tell me again how the free market is the best under all circumstances? Or how it even applies to health care at all?
I went back to Dr. Odin yesterday, who informed me that I don't have to keep my head down any more, although I still have to sleep on my right side.
Anyone who saw the smile on my face yesterday probably thought I'd just gotten laid.
Apr 15, 2008

 

 


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