Emergency Surgery

I had a lovely weekend planned. A haircut, lunch at one of my favourite restaurants, the the British 10k race on Sunday. All of that got blown away Friday afternoon when I looked up to find my eye full of floaters, dark strands filling the vision. They settled down, but over the next few hours, a blurred spot started to grow at the edges of my site and the eye now appeared to be filled with dust. Myy first thought was to pop in to the opticians on Saturday morning to see if there was a problem but some internet reading on the NHS site led to articles about retinal detachment and worried me enough to decide to give the 111 service a ring, just to check.

Now, as I’d just got off the train (I did not want to walk the 10mins home if I had to go right out again), the initial conversation was a little silly, The first thing they want to do is find out where you are just in case they need to send an ambulance and Chiswick Station was not in their list, so I offered them a pub name. They eventually found something that matched but seem to have issues without postcodes, which is just sill for a service that is part of an emergency response, you may never know where you may be if you want to call them, We worked our way through the questions – no bleeding, no breathing issues, no migraine, but, after a few minutes on hold as my call taker consulted, i was told to make my way to A&E within an hour and given the address of the nearest. But this was a mistake, as they should have told me to go to the specialist eye A&E at the Western Eye Hospital. When I got to Charing Cross (which is in Hammersmith, no idea why), the receptionists thought i should be elsewhere but said i should be seen anyway. The doctor immediately sent me to the eye place!

Two hours after arriving, I got seen by the doctor who spent a long time staring at the back of my eye and as long on the phone to her boss. I definitely had a retinal tear, she thought I had fluid behind the retina but there was nothing she could do then, so I had to return in the morning where I would be assessed by her boss and a decision made. Just in case, I was to be nil by mouth after 1am.

Saturday morning, 8am, I was back. Pretty much the first to be seen, the next doctor spent slightly less time looking at my eye and decided that i was a surgery candidate. But his boss, the consultant/surgeon, needed to make the final decision. So more hanging around the waiting room for her to arrive. She was already on her way in to do a procedure on a child as an emergency, it looked like i was to be the other on the list. Finally, I was examined by the surgeon and it was all agreed. I needed emergency surgery to fix the tear and get the retina back connected with the eye. Continuing the trend, the most senior spent the least time looking at the eye. The more experience you have, the easier it is to recognise things.

So I was admitted and found a bed and a gown. A few hours later, off to surgery, under a full anaesthetic. The decision was to fix the tear cryogenically and inject a gas bubble into the eye to keep the retina in the right place. From going into the operating theatre to waking up took 2 hours. They’d left me with a patch to protect the eye. I then had a choice to stay overnight, which given I had to be back in for checks in the morning I decided was the best thing to do. I did help that I was in a private room.

Everything was checked as Ok in the morning, so off home I went. But the surgery does not fix it immediately. I have to stay lying down on my left side, keeping the bubble pressed on the right side to keep thee retina flat until the fluid behind it has gone. All I can see is light and dark and large movements, until the gas bubble has been absorbed and the eye starts working again. There is a 90% chance that all will be fine, but still a risk i have lost some sight. We just don’t know until it heals. So 5-7 days lying down, another week off work before I go back for a checkup then still a few months for everything to get back to normal. It’s just one day at a time.

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