Last week, I had a surgery to help my ‘tracking’, to help correct my double vision. They do this on little kids all the time, you may even know someone who’s had it. For those of you who didn’t know this about me, my right eye was basically crossed, like the opposite of a lazy eye. This causes extreme double vision- like, the two images are not even close. This is a really common issue after head trauma, but usually resolves on its own. Like everything else, I waited two years for it to wake up, then decided it was time to get moving.
The surgery couldn’t restore my nerve function, but the fantastic surgeons at UCLA were able to rearrange my eye muscles so it’s at least straight. I still have slight double vision and will likely wear special glasses, but I will be able to look someone square in the eye (once they’re BOTH open). When I had pitched this idea to the surgeon who originally sewed my eye shut (Dr. Goldberg), he was not thrilled about it. He wanted me to wait just a little longer, give it one more chance. He came and checked my eye every day that I was in the hospital at UCLA with about 17 residents and medical students behind him, like ducklings. I would feel like a science project laying in my bed with all of these curious eyes on me.
The way that I was able to feel powerful was when Dr. Goldberg would quiz me on the cranial nerves in front of the students. I had known them before, but I became an expert as I was living through the issues that arise when they are interrupted. I would recite them seamlessly, and would pretend that maybe some of these brilliant, young, able-bodied students were envious of the feeble girl in the hospital bed. When he pushed back about pursuing surgery, I asked him what my other options were, because I was NOT going to live my life with one eye. I started to cry, and I think that’s when he realized how serious I was. In the hospital, I was stoic and positive through every poke, prod, every “sorry sweetie, it’s almost over.” But I was tired, and mad.
In his defense, he has tried to un-do my eye, let me have a little freedom, and I got a minor infection. But this is a much more supervised, structured path to freedom. We started with this tracking surgery. A very predictable, straightforward procedure and he was in the room to stitch my lid closed as soon as Dr. Demer was finished with the muscles. That was the deal I made with him, very low-risk for my cornea, and more-delayed gain for me. It was a problem that would need to be fixed eventually, so why not start with it? Baby steps. I spent more energy talking him into the surgery than I did myself.
When I saw both surgeons (separately) at my post-op appointment today, they were practically levitating. I don’t think either of them could have fathomed a better result. I would have loved for the double vision to go away altogether, but my cornea is clear and healthy, and my eye APPEARS straight. My lid is still mostly closed, but I have a peephole in the center so that I can actually use my eye. This is best-case scenario. Now, I need a nerve graft to my eye, the next surgery. This will help give me that ‘blink’ reflex to protect my cornea, something I do not have since I have no feeling in my right eye.
This is a very new, but very promising surgery where they take a piece of nerve from my (other) foot, and connect it from my good eye to my bad eye. Basically, the eye-version of the surgery I had in July. Dr. Goldberg, my very conservative surgeon who doesn’t like taking big risks, is rearing to get going on this next surgery. I don’t know if it was the ease with which I healed from this surgery, or the positive momentum of my recovery, or my attitude, but I’m not questioning it.
I feel like, for the past year, I’ve been saying “ready when you are” to the world. And now, the world is ready. The ground is rising to meet my feet, and it’s time to run.