The surgery was surreal. I entered the outpatient center, was called back to the pre-op area, and the usual preparations began. A gown over my clothes, covers on my shoes and hair, an IV started. Monitors. Oxygen. As I’ve discovered at other points along this journey, I was the youngest person in the room by a long shot.
“I hope I don’t hurt your young skin,” the nurse fretted as she pierced the back of my hand. Young skin. That’s a new one.
Then the anesthesiologist dropped by and said he’d be putting me out for a while, and he did. I asked for the demi-Michael Jackson, he chuckled, and the next thing I knew, I was awakening in a warm cloud of opiates.
“Is it over?” I asked.
“The numbing is,” the nurse said. They’d put me all the way down so that two shots could be administered above and below the eye, but the surgery was still ahead. And for that, I’d be awake, although the anesthesiologist would be on hand “to take the edge off, but only if you need it.”
And then they were wheeling me back. “Fentanyl, please!” I called out to the room. No, none of that. “Then pour me another Michael Jackson,” I said. Nope. “You’ll be fine,” someone said. The surgeon said, “No more talking” as he laid the drape over my face and the world went black.
But I was awake. I heard the machinery beeping, a computerized voice announcing numbers. The procedure started — pressure here and there, but no pain at all. No anxiety. I could feel my shoulders were tense, so I told myself, relax your shoulders. I did. The doctor began to whistle. The nurse said, “Are you playing any golf this week, doctor?” He said maybe, and they chatted about teaching the game to their children.
This must be good news, I remember thinking. Golf is better than “oops,” anyway.
And here’s the thing: I could see the needles. I couldn’t see-see them, but their shape, their movement within the eye, was quite visible. There were two. They appeared as shadows on shadows, and I was totally calm, able to think, those are the needles in my eye and not FLIP RIGHT OUT. It must have been the drugs.
And then it was over, the dressing was taped on, and they wheeled me to a post-op cubicle. The monitors and IV were removed, the gown and other stuff taken off, and up we go. I was sitting next to Alan in recovery probably five minutes after leaving surgery.
The doctor appeared to say it all went well. The nurse kept asking if I wanted a blueberry muffin. I had a glass of water and went home. Two hours in and out.
Before we left, I told the doctor I could see the needles. Really? he asked. Absolutely, I said. He shrugged. “Must be some sort of optic-nerve thing.”
It reminded me that doctors, for all their education, can be as tough to interview as anyone. About 10 percent studied enough poetry in college to have a sense of wonder about the miracles they perform every day, the drama they witness as a matter of course, and can talk about it with some feeling. The rest are flesh mechanics. You wouldn’t expect the guy who fixes your Buick to marvel at the magic of internal combustion, would you?
The rest was the recovery, by far the hardest part. Lying facedown with your head supported by a donut pillow feels a little like, as Jeff Foxworthy said, a St. Bernard coming in through the cat door. It wasn’t so bad during the day, when I raised the donut, stacked a bunch of pillows and assumed a position not unlike humping a pommel horse. I put the iPad under the donut and watched Netflix. I watched “The Trip” and I watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” I watched some “Mad Men” and I watched nine! hours! of “House of Cards.” I watched the FalconCam. I read the news and stayed up on Twitter. And when the night came, I lowered the donut, adjusted the pillows and tried to sleep. Wasn’t easy. I tried to drift off to Netflix, which only led to puddles of drool on the iPad. I tried drugs, but all I got was some lousy Tylenol 3, which didn’t do much. The final night was the worst of all by far, but Tuesday came and I had my follow-up. The macular hole is closed, and I am cleared to rise to my feet, watch TV from the couch again, read and ditch the damn donut.
Now all I have to do is recover the vision in my eye. It’ll take a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be frightening people with my bloody orb.
There’s a lot going on in the world, and I’m going to spend the next few days letting it pass me by. No regular blogging schedule until next week. The world is half-blurred, and I plan to ride the blur for a spell.
Carry on however you like. Open thread, all.