I was diagnosed at 19 with diabetes and weighed 86lbs when admitted to the hospital. I was skin and bone. Now, having just turned of “legal age” in Canada, it was tough to listen to the doctors tell me that I couldn’t drink or abuse any substance whatsoever. What? But I live in Prince George so what on earth am I going to do?
The doctors told me I had five years to enjoy my youth and do as I please without repercussions. This was false as I would later find out…the hard way.
At the age of 27 I began to have sight problems however I never shared this with anyone because I simply thought it would go away. It didn’t.
At the age of 30 I finally decided to ask my diabetic specialist what the story was with my eyes and he directed me to an optical specialist in Victoria. I saw Dr. Burnett on a Thursday and by the following Wednesday, I was already being operated on to salvage my vision.
Throughout the entire process one of the more difficult things for me was, explaining to people that although I look normal from the outside I could still be blind. You see my eyes fill up with blood on the inside when I have a rupture and therefore anyone looking at me won’t see anything different but to me it’s either blindness or like looking through a muddy glass of water. So needless to say when I do have a blood vessel rupture in my eye…it’s a very very personal experience/misery.
Meet my condition: Diabetic Retinopathy – Proliferative Retinopathy
Meet my condition: Diabetic Retinopathy – Proliferative Retinopathy
I suffered through at least a dozen or so operations of a pain that is unimaginable. Imagine having a six inch needle shoved in to your eye while you are strapped to a bed by leather straps. You can see it coming because you are wide awake and the worst part….this is the freezing process! I learned quickly that when a person is under high stress while getting a local, there is a high possibility that the local will not take effect as the adrenaline will nullify the effects. On one occasion Burnett tried to freeze my eye 4 times before giving up and leaving my eye chalk full of local and swollen like a dead fish. It’s worth noting that the eye is the biggest concentration of nerve endings in the body outside of the brain. So chances are, the doctor will hit one going in with the needle. And when he does…you quickly realize the importance of the leather straps.
The strangest thing that I experienced throughout the whole process is something I would love to share with my readers because there is no way of knowing this unless you’ve been through it yourself.
During one of the operations, Dr. Burnett told me that I need to prepare myself for something. What he was telling me was that the eye has a defense mechanism and when one eye faces severe trauma, the other eye will “turn off” like a light switch. After a short while it will return to sight however I needed to prepare for that and he said some people can really panic when it happens. I thought to myself that I would be ok so let’s get on with it. I wasn’t ready for it.
When someone like myself, a person who is solely reliant on their eye sight to make a living, is faced with a moment where they may lose that…it’s frightening! And you quickly have to begin to think absolutely positive thoughts or you could find yourself in severe trouble if you don’t. So every step of the way I would think of positive thoughts and outcomes despite what was at hand. When my one working eye turned off like a “light switch” like Burnett said, I wasn’t prepared for the rush of fear that went threw my body. I panicked. Previously I had been thinking that if I lost sight in one eye I would still have the other one to fall back on in a worst case scenario. When they both shutdown it was like nothing I had ever experienced before in my life.
Throughout my life I have always had sympathy for the blind. Maybe it was because later in life I would have the battle of my life to save my own vision. Who knows.
The pinnacle moment for me throughout this entire part of my life was when I had just returned home from the hospital after having my right eye removed and drained of it’s natural vitreous to be replaced with saline solution. Now you should know that the eye keeps its oval shape due to the vitreous fluid inside of it so when they drain that, the eye goes completely flat like beach ball drained of it’s air.
So the day I was released I had my wife at the time, pick me up from the hospital with both eyes blind and with eye bandages on. Remember what I said about the eye’s defense mechanism under trauma? Well this was as traumatic as it gets so naturally I was blind in both eyes.
We returned home and within the first hour of being home my loving, now ex wife, says to me that she is leaving me! WTF?
Here I am blind and completely without family around to help…all I had was this one woman who is suppose to be there for you at your worst moments, telling me she is leaving me because I am “too needy”. This was my second bout of emotion like the previous time when Burnett told me to prepare for the “light switch” effect. So here I am blind in both eyes, with the possibility that I may lose my vision and the woman I love is telling me she’s leaving. At this point thinking positive thoughts is getting really difficult.
After you’ve gotten vitrectomy surgery there is a certainty that you will develop a cataract. However before this, after the bandage comes off, there is a chance that you could scrape your entire outer coating of your eye off because of lack of lubrication. Well guess what? You got it…it happened to me.
After vitrectomy surgery your tear ducts no longer function for a period of time and therefore your eyes become susceptible to dryness and it’s “possible” that you could essentially blink and rip the membrane on the outer part of your eye.
Now let me tell you something here folks…when this happens, you scream like there is no tomorrow. After all, your eye is now fully exposed without any protection and every time you blink…well imagine losing a wisdom tooth and having someone poke the nerve with a scalpel. It blood hurts.
So back to the doctor with no skin on my eye and in an obvious severe amount of pain. He put on a band-aid. Thats right…a special band-aid that goes right over the eye on the surface and dissolves as the new membrane grows back. Cool eh?
Then the part when I almost died…
Two weeks before leaving for Costa Rica, I was told to prepare my right eye for cataract surgery by taking eye drops to progressively numb the eye for the surgery the next day. Shortly after I began the drops, I started to have abdominal pains. Now this is nothing out of the ordinary for a diabetic however these pains got progressively worse and worse until I found myself unable to stand up and completely dehydrated. I collapsed.
Waking up later I found myself surrounded by 3-4 paramedics taking my heart rate etc and asking me what medication I was on. I remember telling the one lady paramedic that I thought it was related to the eye drops however she said no and put them back. I collapsed again and was rushed to the hospital.
It’s true folks…you do see a light. At least I did anyways. I can honestly say it was the most peaceful moment in my existence on this planet.
Later when I was released the eye doctor told me again to take the drops because the hospital had said that my reaction was due to me having 4 strains of ecol-i poisoning from not washing my fruit and veg. I disagreed and told the doctor I would prefer not to take the drops and take my chances without it. Nope. So I started them again. 45 minutes later the abdominal pains returned. I called him and told his secretary to go to hell and that I didnt care what they thought but I knew that the drops were what almost killed me.
The next day sitting on the operating table waiting for the cataract surgery the doctor came in and sat on the bed next to me and said, “you were right. turns out that you are “deathly” allergic to an antibiotic called moxifloxacin and that there was trace amounts of it in the eye drops.”
He followed that by saying it’s a miracle that throughout my life, not once has a doctor given me this drug in tablet form to treat flu. If I had digested a pill of it…I would be dead.
Today I’ve got my sight, albeit not the greatest vision, at least I have something right? I’ve got plenty to be happy about. I no longer have the “needy” woman in my life (not entirely true however I’m working on it ), I have a son, an understanding and supportive woman and every day I am grateful to have “my sight“.
Not wanting to sound like a hypocrite, I have to explain that it is true, I don’t live my life with regret so the title of this post is a little deceiving because I believe that throughout my life I’ve experience the good and the bad. And from all of it I’ve taken away more experience and learned from my past in order to be who I am today.