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    Experiencing retinal detachment as an OD

    Words of comfort for patients come easily to me now

    “‘Tell us please, what treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?’....I met his gaze and I did not blink. ‘Words of comfort,’ I said to my father.”

    --Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

    When the retina in my left eye detached in early October 2013, I was on a tour bus, somewhere between Canter’s Deli and Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles.

    Non-stop texting caues a case of retinal detachment, says Chinese media

    There was a series of flashes, like warning flares, and then a black tide, an oil slick of a blind spot that started down and to the left and crept toward the center of my vision, arcs of lightning heralding its advance. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t want to believe it. My wife and I had snuck out to California from Alabama for some much needed R&R—and now this.

    No stranger to ocular procedures

    It was little wonder that I’d arrived at this point, though. After many years of diagnosing eye disease and battling vision loss in others, I had, from June 2012 until May 2013, experienced in order: a posterior vitreous detachment; retinal tear; and vitreous hemorrhage in the right eye which had been treated with laser retinopexy and vitrectomy; a myopic shift from rapid-onset nuclear sclerosis following the vitrectomy which caused several diopters of anisometropia; another retinal tear in the left eye (at 10:30 o’clock) with laser repair; an epiretinal membrane in the right eye; and finally, cataract surgery in both eyes.

    That’s a lot of ICD-9s and RVUs that simply don’t do the experience justice.

    From the location of my scotoma, I reasoned that the laser repair in my left eye had failed for some reason. It was late on a Friday afternoon, and I didn’t want to be that patient who rushes into the office at the end of the week with a major problem. I judged that my macula was still on, and I knew that if I had surgery within a couple of days, my prospects remained good. I tried to enjoy the rest of the tour as much as possible, and later that evening we met up with our friends in Malibu.

    I decided not to totally ruin the grand reunion by telling them right away. We had dinner, and afterward, I closed my eyes in an effort to quiet the currents of liquefied vitreous that pulled on the retinal tear and held my head to down and to the right, enlisting gravity as my ally to prevent my macula from unraveling.

    Eventually, they noticed. “You must really be tired,” one of them observed.

    “Yes,” I replied, “but my retina is also detaching.”

    Michael Brown, OD, MHS-CL, FAAO
    Dr. Brown has practiced medical optometry in a comanagement center and with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in ...

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    • StuartGindoff
      what a wonderfully descriptive and insightful article. My wife suffered from almost the same thing a couple of years ago, eventually having 3 RDs in the same left eye over a year or two. Very enjoyable read! Skip Gindoff, Sarasota, FL.
    • StuartGindoff
      what a wonderfully descriptive and insightful article. My wife suffered from almost the same thing a couple of years ago, eventually having 3 RDs in the same left eye over a year or two. Very enjoyable read! Skip Gindoff, Sarasota, FL.

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