Going blind is one of the scariest things imaginable. Even partial blindness is a horrible prospect because surely Hollywood will eventually figure out a way to make 3D movies not look like total ass (surely). But when doctors told Jacqueline that her retina was detaching, she wasn’t scared of losing sight in one eye… because the docs then explained to her exactly what was wrong with her and how they were planning to fix it, which turned out to be much, MUCH scarier. For example, she learned that…
5. Your Eye Can Just Start Leaking One Day
The human eye is such a complex, goddamn miracle, it’s no wonder people are saying it’s proof that God exists (who else but a benevolent creator could give us an organ for enjoying naked people at a distance?) Here’s the problem with that: the eye isn’t perfect. It’s actually so not perfect that roughly a hundred different things can go horribly wrong with it, most of which Jacqueline experienced firsthand.
“I have strabismus [crossed eyes], myopia [near-sightedness], amblyopia (where one eye has poor eyesight and one is okay, so your brain starts only listening to the good eye because fuck that other useless eye), and Duane syndrome,” which I initially thought was when you watch the infamous Duane video and end up pouring bleach into your eyes.
Oh God… it’s so white…
Jacqueline adds: “I also have esotropia and exotropia, two forms of strabismus which are supposed to be mutually exclusive.” Her biggest problem, however, started a few years ago when doctors discovered that Jacqueline’s retina was detaching from her eye. It was at this point that I asked Jacqueline if her ancestor stabbed an old Gypsy woman in the face or something.
The retina is one of the inner layers of the human eye. It acts sort of like a lens or a projection screen, except in Jacqueline’s case where it was being damaged by a rip in her eye that was seeping eye juice all over the place.
“I had a bunch of eye surgeries as a child, and they think some residual damage occurred causing a slow leak of vitreous [eye juice] fluids … There was a bubble [caused by the leaking fluid] on the bottom right hand corner of my retina, bulging it out. If they hadn’t have caught it, vitreous fluid would keep leaking back there until eventually my retina would just pop off, leaving me permanently blind.” Please give me a second to appreciate my non-ruptured eyes… All good.
Obviously Jacqueline isn’t a common case, but a stray sucker punch or diabetes could put you in the same, leaky boat. Pray that it will never happen, though, because…
4. One Of The Most Common Eye Surgeries Is The Stuff Of Nightmares
“The procedure that I had for my retinal detachment was called a scleral buckle – DO NOT YOUTUBE SEARCH THAT, especially if you don’t feel like screaming forever. What they do is completely detach the eye from the scleral muscles [i.e. scoop out your peeper without cutting it off], and place a silicon band around it, squooshing all your eye juice back into place (technical term: squooshing).”
The procedure compresses your eye until the… eye skin on the opposite sides of the tear starts to come together and eventually scars, shutting off your eye faucet. Once again, this is achieved by essentially putting your eye in a girdle of sorts, and it’s actually considered the safer kind of surgery. We will have more on that in a moment. But massive psychological scarring is available right now. (Warning: gross)
“The scleral buckle is the easier, less-intense procedure. It involves 4-6 weeks of recovery time, about 21 days wearing an eyepatch, and a permanent implant in your body. However, it has a lower success rate.” That actually doesn’t surprise me: any surgery where one of your organs is popped out of you like a terrifying flesh yoyo must be very hard on the body. That’s why doctors occasionally opt for another, though equally-horrifying procedure…
3. The Doctor Might Drain Your Eye Juice And Replace It With Gas
If the scleral buckle fails to make a patient better, which in proper medical terms is known as a “you have a rubber band on your eyeball, why would that make you better?!” the only thing left is a vitrectomy. Think of it as the nuclear option of eye surgery, where in order to stop your eye juice from leaking out, the doctors beat nature to the punch and just drain it all themselves.
“If the damage to the eye is too intense or if you have too much scar tissue from previous eye surgeries like they were worried of in my case,” Jacqueline explains, “then a vitrectomy is the only solution.”
“The surgeons actually suck out ALL the vitreous (eye juice) from your eye, close the hole, and then fill your eye up with gas or oil … The vitrectomy leaves you blind in that eye for 6-8 weeks.”
“Additionally, it causes cataracts,” because of course it does.
Now, putting gas or oil into you is bad enough when you do it through your mouth, but when you start injecting them into your eyes, you’re in full-blown mad science territory. But there’s a reason to this madness: although humans still can’t grow back limbs, a lot of our parts do regenerate, like our eye mucus. So within a few months of the vitrectomy, the eye juice will top off and push the oil/gas out, but only after…
2. The Doctors Freeze Your Eye Shut
No matter which surgery option you decide to go with, the doctors will ultimately have to close the hole in your eye using sci-fi technology like lasers or cryotherapy implements. And yet… they still try to fix your eye by hugging it really tight or draining it like a pool someone pooped in. In Jacqueline’s case, the docs finished off her scleral buckle by blasting her eye with intense cold, probably while silently humming “Let it Go.”
“There had been an injection near the site of the retinal tear that froze all my eyeball nerves and/or muscles,” Jacqueline explained. “I’m not really clear on the details, it was kind of hazy. The procedure blocked pain and sensation for around 24 hours. It numbed my eye and kept most of the pain-causing movement at bay.”
Then the docs put a metal probe against Jacqueline’s tear and ran extremely cold gasses through it. The tiny controlled blizzard then caused the broken scleral tissue to scar over and, unless pop culture has lied to me, gave Jacqueline freeze vision. I’d expect nothing less from a procedure named “retinal cryopexy.” However, with incredibly invasive, awesomely named surgeries like this one, it should really be no surprise that…
1. The Recovery Is Long And Will Drive You Insane
When the surgery was done, Jacqueline was sent home with a bunch of instructions to aid her recovery. They more or less boiled down to “Try to do less… living,” possibly because the surgeons didn’t want Nature to catch on that they just flipped her off with awesome science.
“I couldn’t bend at the waist or put my head below my heart because that’d fuck up the pressure behind my eyes.”
“The rest of recovery was boring and slow. I wasn’t allowed to do anything, essentially. Not bend to dress myself or tie my shoes. I couldn’t even wash myself in the shower. Thank god everyone made an exception for the no bending rule so that I could use the restroom unassisted.”
She continues: “Opening my eye still hurt and there was still so much blood in the socket that there wasn’t really anything I could see with it anyway. I pretty much lay around the house listening to the Snow Crash audiobook and/or watching comedy specials. [But] doing things with my eyes closed made me sleepy. So despite having so much free time, I didn’t catch up on nearly as much reading or TV as I wanted. We did manage maybe the first 6 or so episodes of Daredevil, which turned out to be a terrible idea when there are two eyeball-related violent incidents in the first three episodes. That shit gave me sympathy eyeball pain.”
However, all of that still beats recovering from vitrectomy surgery. See, Jacqueline has heard that due to the gas in their eyes, vitrectomy patients need to be lying down for 55 minutes of every hour.
If you take a three hour nap, you can only get up for 15 minutes.
On the one hand, that’s crazy. On the other, we are talking about the aftermath of having your eye juice stolen and replaced with gas or oil so… actually not that crazy.