A Gift of Sight, Part One

For the majority of us, the first thing we do when we wake up in the morning is open our eyes and look at our clock or phone to see what time it is. A simple thing, right?

But for many people it’s not that simple. Some can’t read the time without their glasses or contacts. Some can’t read it because of eye diseases…cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration.

Some can see but not very well due to those eye diseases, and may be considered legally blind. And some are unfortunately totally blind.

Those of us with minimal or no problems don’t stop to consider how truly fortunate we are to have the ability to see, either with or without the assistance of glasses or contact lenses. We usually take it for granted. 

Until something happens to change our situation.

In my case, a change in my vision started gradually. Which happens to almost everyone as we grow older. It got harder and harder to see my computer screen clearly and working on my jewelry projects was very difficult unless I took my contacts out and used reading glasses to see the holes in the beads because of my astigmatism.

Even though my eye doctor is fantastic, I was still scared to have the surgery and kept putting it off for several years.

Until my husband was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes.

Which forced me to have the cataract surgery, which was, yes, the best thing I’ve done in ages. 

But this isn’t about me.

It’s about my husband Ben.

Some 25 or so years ago he was on a business trip and woke up in a hotel room four hours from home with his left eye red and extremely swollen and sore. He said it looked like something in a horror movie. 

Fortunately he found a local eye doctor who was able to get it calmed down enough with eye drops so he could see well enough to drive home. He told him to get to an eye specialist as soon as possible because it looked like something called iritis, which could be serious if not treated properly. Luckily he did find a specialist when he got home and was able to get in to see him quickly.

And it was iritis, which is an inflammation of the iris. And according to the doctor, a bad case. So bad, in fact, that he had to have an injection in his eye to help calm it down. 

Iritis is something that cannot be cured. It is an autoimmune disease that in many cases is caused by the chicken pox virus, which is most likely what caused his. And it can also cause problems with vision, which of course it did.

His was a stubborn case, naturally, and over the course of several years he had to have two more injections in the eye. He’s been on daily steroid eye drops which eventually also cause vision problems, and a number of years ago he was put on a daily pill to hopefully help reduce flare ups. So far it has, but not before the eye damage was already done.

The steroid drops caused a cataract and surgery to remove the cataract was done probably at least 15 years ago in the left eye.

But as time went by, and even though the flare ups lessened, the eye damage continued, until he was told he needed a partial cornea transplant to save his eyesight in that eye. You can read more about this in the blog I wrote titled “The Expense of a Second Chance”.

That surgery was fortunately a success. 

That was almost ten years ago. 

Fast forward to now. 

As I said previously, Ben was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes last summer. Fortunately he has an excellent glaucoma specialist who’s doing everything he can to keep his sight from getting worse, using a number of eye drops to reduce the pressure. Of course he’s monitored frequently.

But his vision was slowly getting worse in his right eye. The pressure didn’t want to stabilize and he began having issues driving at night and especially in the rain. His peripheral vision on the right side wasn’t good either. And he also was having fuzzy vision in that eye from a cataract.

So both his glaucoma specialist and his cataract specialist recommended that along with the cataract removal he also needed a partial cornea replacement in his right eye, because the glaucoma was making the cornea thicken too much. Both procedures would be done at the same time. But before that he needed laser surgery in each eye to prepare for this next surgery.

Yes, that was a lot to take in. A lot to consider. And trust me, we had several discussions with both doctors, and among the two of us.

And there were a lot of “what if’s?” In those discussions. What happens if we don’t do it? And we knew the answer to that. Everything we do revolves around our ability to see, and see as clearly as possible.

The bottom line is, our eyesight is vital. And it’s a gift that many people don’t have. We take for granted that we can see and don’t really think about it until something starts to go wrong.

And then our whole perspective changes.

And in order for this procedure to take place, he had to have a cornea donor. Which meant someone had to die and give him the gift of their eye tissue. If you’ve read the previous blog I referenced you know how that affected my thoughts.

But he did have the surgery. And we are truly grateful for the person who cared enough about other people to decide to be an organ donor so others could have lifesaving or vision saving surgeries that were desperately needed.

The surgery was easy but recovery from the transplant surgery took longer than just cataract surgery, which basically takes a day.

More on that recovery process in “The Gift of Sight, Part Two”, hopefully to be published the week of May 8.

And for more information on becoming an organ/tissue donor, please go to organdonor.gov. Both Ben and I have been included in the registry for years.

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