Thursday, November 23, 2017

Four days face down

Thursday 16th Nov I had eye surgery. On the back of my eye, the front of my eye and the perimeter of my eye. Friday I felt fine, so I was quite unprepared for what happened next! Why wouldn't my body decide to protest at all that surgical intervention??

Sure my eye was sore, that was to be expected, but as Friday became Saturday, and the swelling and pain continued, it became increasingly impossible to spend time upright. Maybe a couple of hours but longer than that and the pressure build up forced me back horizontal with my face down, which only made my face and eyelids swell more!

One of the problems with pain is it turns you into a blithering self centred mess. Nothing else exists but your own little sphere of experience. You can't eat, can't sleep, can't hold much of a conversation with anyone, and you become completely obsessed with finding a position that makes you comfortable.

Yes I took painkillers and all the eye drops prescribed, but unless I was facedown, the pressure in my eye overwhelmed me. I have a pretty high pain threshold (ummm.... skiing with a broken arm anyone?) so by late Saturday afternoon I began to be just a bit worried that I had better ask the experts.

Stay face down was the advice I was given. But for how long? I could manage a couple of hours at a time upright, but much beyond that and I was back to a self absorbed painful wreck. Gosh pain strips us of our humanity doesn't it? I remember this from when I hurt my back in Japan a few years ago. No-one else matters, only you.

During this time I was staying with friends who were going through their own pretty confronting health issues, and I marvel at their generosity in continuing to extend their hospitality to me during their own very trying times. It is moments like this when you confirm who are your real friends, and I hope that I was able to be of some support to them during their ordeal.

By Sunday afternoon we were all keen to get out of the convalescent house, so went for a short drive to look out over the beach at St Clair. I was at 3 hours upright when we left. I shouldn't have gone. It didn't end well. I texted Harry with an exclamation mark! He replied that he could put a small hole in my eye with a laser that would allow me to get upright. I decided I would cope with staying face down a bit longer rather than undergo more intervention. Not that I don't trust him, just I couldn't emotionally cope with more surgery, even minor, just now.

Another day face down, listening to podcasts. ABC Radio's Richard Fidler interviewing fascinating people isn't such a bad way to spend a few days. Monday afternoon Harry asked me to come into the clinic for him to check my eye. All good, but the gas bubble effectively blocks fluid exchange in the eye, causing pressure buildup, which is only relieved by positioning the bubble so it doesn't obstruct the flow. Wasn't a problem when I had a lens in place, but this time is different. And it will take a few more days until the gas bubble reduces in size and the problem resolves. Harry would rather not laser a hole in my eye either, though it's a minor thing to do he says with a mere shrug of his shoulders....

Just pop those steroid drops in every hour for the next week or so!

One of the podcasts I listened to in my face down isolation was an interview with a Buddhist nun, Robina Courtin. Her explanation of Buddhist philosophy is probably the best most practical explanation I've ever heard. The concept of compassion without attachment really struck a chord for me as it's actually a way I have been trying to live my life for some time now. Here's a link to the podcast if anyone is interested.

No I'm not going all Buddhist on you, but it did help me to gain some clarity in my current situation. To understand my distress and fear, and to begin the process of letting go of those negative emotions. Of accepting that the eye sight I end up with is the best that my surgeon can offer me, and that there really is no point worrying about what the future holds. It is what it is.

I am also very grateful for the well wishes and love sent me over the web from friends far and near. My choice to live a solo, travelling lifestyle means that when I am confronted by health issues, particularly when they are far from trivial, I have to rely on my own personal resources to get through. Every comment, like and emoji has been appreciated, thank you. 💗

By Wednesday I am up for most of the day and feeling human again. There's still some pressure buildup but the gas bubble edges are now visible to me, meaning it's shrinking in size. I think the central distortion has improved (Harry says it takes 48 hours for the hole to close) but it hasn't resolved completely. My research suggested one can expect improvement to continue for some months, but I'm not giving myself unrealistic expectations. It is what it is.

I'm well enough on Wednesday to bake bread, go shopping and cook dinner for my hosts. Thursday they head up to Wanaka for the weekend, and I get myself prepared for heading south again.

My eye is still feeling somewhat precious, but I'm recovered enough to get out of Dunedin and go on another adventure. That's next...


  1. Good that something beneficial has come out of this in terms of your mental stance.Challenging to be away from home at a time like this. Good luck Naomi .

  2. It certainly has been a year of ups and downs. Best wishes for 2018