7.30 am on the 18th of September and I’m back at Addenbrooke’s Clinic 14.
The usual sight test and lots of dilating eye drops later and I’m chatting with my consultant, Mr Newman. It’s like I’ve never been away. He’s confirmed that he needs to operate, the procedure will be similar to before. This has me worried, to be honest, because my vision in the other eye isn’t brilliant (because I have a cataract which he is supposed to be removing any time soon) and I’m worried about being a bit blind. He is adamant that the operation has to be done now, while the detachment is very small. If it is allowed to get worse that could affect the final quality of my vision whereas by doing it now he expects my vision to be as good as before. I can understand this, my previous detachment involved a large part of the retina and damaged the macula. We don’t want that to happen in the other eye.
OK, said I, reaching for the consent form. It did seem a bit weird though, there I was with good vision having an operation to save my sight in the knowledge that my vision would actually be worse afterwards (if only in the short term).
If you are at all squeamish you can skip this next bit. Today’s procedure involved incisions into the eye, draining the vitreous gel and repairing the damage using cryotherapy, then inserting a bubble of gas into the eye which would act as an internal splint to keep the retina up against the back of the eye while it formed scar tissue.
Then it was off for a briefing from one of the specialist Retinal Nurses followed by some more waiting. She then sent me off on a mission around the hospital, firstly for a blood test and then an ECG so that the doctors could ensure I was fit for general anaesthetic. Anyway, seems I passed the tests as the next item on the agenda was a checkup with another doctor who drew an arrow above my left eye. At least everyone would know what bit they were operating on.
Finally I was moved next door into the Cambridge Eye Unit to get gowned up, meet my anaesthetist and wait for my turn in the spotlight. A lot later, at 3.30pm, they came to get me! Onto a bed, more checks that I was who they thought I was and we were off. On my previous visit they had used the Cambridge Unit’s own theatre but today I was off on a long journey up to the main theatre wing. More ID checks, confirming what Op I thought I was having, etc. then needles, etc. and…
Several hours later I woke up with the (almost) familiar patch over my eye and then we were off once more, this time to the main ward as they were keeping me in overnight. Once I’d recovered sufficiently to take in my surroundings, a nurse came in and arranged for some food and a cup of tea. Marvellous stuff! Actually quite impressed, they had given me my own room with en suite and – if I’d been able to see it – a pretty good view. Excellent!
This time, my posturing instructions were to lie on my side with my cheek in the pillow for one hour then swap over to the other side for an hour, then repeat until told otherwise. I was allowed out of bed to use the bathroom, etc. and of course once they’d removed my eye patch they interrupted my snoozing with regular “obs” (BP, temp, etc.), pain relief and eye drops. Overnight it was nice and quiet in my own room but I did wake up a few times so was able to turn over. I found out next day that the reason for alternating sides was so that the gas bubble would roll from side to side, smoothing out my retina around the area of surgery.