Sunday, September 26, 2021

I’ll Be Seeing You: What it is like to have eye surgery

By: Danielle Tierney/Junior Writer

Unlike most people in the world, I can say that I have already undergone two eye surgeries in my lifetime.

It’s definitely not what you think of when you think of surgery.

To preface my experience with the surgery, I am going to start with why I actually needed it. I have something called strabismus, which is essentially a lazy eye. Most people would assume that you don’t need surgery for something like that, but it can actually be really seriously detrimental to your eyesight. Your brain can just decide that “hey, you don’t need that eye anymore” and start slowly shutting it down.

When I was two years old, I had corrective surgery to fix it. Naively, I thought that it would never again get to the extent that it did when I was that young and that the problem was out of my life.

Over middle school and especially high school, I knew that my eye was turning in again, but I didn’t realize what it was doing to my sight. When I went to get my permit, they made me do a vision test through a machine requiring me to see out of both of my eyes at the same time. I didn’t understand why I could only see one column out of the two. They told me I couldn’t get my permit if I didn’t pass the test, but I was able to pass anyway because as soon as I shut my left eye I could see the column I couldn’t before.

What is essentially happening is that the brain shuts off the other eye to avoid the double vision that happens when your eyes are misaligned. Even though I could still see, I was going blind in my right eye.

Ever since this point, I let my parents know so they could get me an appointment at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. They specialize in my condition, and they also were the one’s who preformed my first surgery when I was two.

Fast forwarding to what this article is actually about, I will be going through the exciting day of my surgery, November 24, 2020.

It starts way too early for my usual liking at a time of two in the morning. That was when we got in the car and started our trip to Philadelphia. I don’t know if it was a good or a bad thing that I slept the entire time, because I pretty much shut my eyes and then I was there.

Getting there at five in the morning, still too early for my usual liking, we signed in and then just waited. We were told that my surgery was going to be at six in the morning, but it ended up being more around eight. So while people were signing in to their Zoom classes that morning, I was getting poked in the eye in an operating room.

Before eight, they took me and my mom into pre-op. I very much did not enjoy pre-op and I wouldn’t recommend it. First, I got dressed into a hospital gown and a really cute hair covering they gave me (sarcasm). It kind of looked like a blue mushroom on the top of my head. Then my surgeon came to see me and give me the breakdown. He was very reassuring and made me feel pretty good about my surgery. I also got an IV in my hand instead of my arm which was not the IV that I’m used to.

The progress the surgeon made was immediately reversed by the anesthesiologist who wasn’t exactly the most comforting guy in the world. I started stress crying and it was very obvious he had no idea what to do at that point, but his job wasn’t to make me feel better anyway so he just gave me funny looks. His job was to ask questions to see if I might have a response to the anesthesia. As soon as he left, my surgery came very quickly.

They told me they were going to give me something to make me “relax,” and I remember this wording specifically. It was just a nice way to say that they were putting me under, but I can’t say it made me feel better about it. I was on a gurney that they wheeled down a hallway, and as soon as I entered the operating room it all went dark. It wasn’t very gradual either. It was like someone smacked me in the head with a frying pan of sleep.

When I woke up, I was told that I had been out for more than the average time. The nurse who was there must have thought I had control over the time that I woke up because she was telling me that I couldn’t have anymore sleep and I had to get up now. It felt like I was being lectured, which is really weird to come out of a surgery to. I wanted to rest a little more, but she was not going to let that happen, as she was already sitting me up the moment I even opened my eyes. Apple juice and crackers were given to me, which seemed like a gift straight from God at that point.

When I finished eating and drinking, I was immediately allowed to leave and we started the trip back home. And again, I fell asleep the entire car ride. Which was probably a good thing because when I got home, I almost threw up from just standing. The motion of the car probably would not have done very nice things to me.

In the days that followed, it was really painful and all I did was lay in bed. It didn’t look very good either. I couldn’t even open my eye the first day because my eyelashes were stuck together from all the blood. My eye was entirely red when I finally could open it, and it was very uncomfortable to look at. It was the type of thing that if you made eye contact with someone, they would immediately look away and maybe shield their children from.

Even a week from the surgery it is still pretty red, but it’s getting better. In terms of pain, it is still sore but honestly it feels so much better than it did a week ago.

I went back for a follow-up, and they told me the best possible news. My eyes are working together again and I will return for another follow-up in two months.

Before the surgery, I was having a hard time staying in my lane when I was driving because I couldn’t really see the right side of the road. I went out driving recently and I could actually see where I was in the lane!

Should I have been driving before this? Maybe not… but we don’t have to talk about it.

Even when I’m walking around the house, sometimes I will just lose my balance because I’m not used to seeing with both of my eyes. But I’m happy to start this transition of getting used to the both of them working together again, despite how uncomfortable it may be.

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Danielle Tierney
Danielle Tierney grew up in Hallstead, Pennsylvania. She is a full-time student, with many hobbies on the side. Some of those hobbies include playing guitar, playing piano, playing ukulele, listening to music, lyrical ballet, riding bikes, and swimming. She would love to talk to you about the band The Strokes at any time of the day. Because she didn't have games on her old Windows XP desktop as a young kid, she wrote stories on Microsoft Word for fun.

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