I don’t actually recoil in fright, but when I visit the dentist for any oral work, I have a simple request: a swab, a shot, the gas, and a dental assistant sitting beside me stroking my arm and whispering, “It’s going to be all right.” So imagine my panic when I found out that a solution for another problem was going to require an injection into my left eye, while wide awake.
On a Saturday morning some years ago, I was watching a soccer game involving a granddaughter. I looked around the park, the trees and the sky and thought to myself . . .”Well, that’s strange, everything I see in my left eye is really, really bright. Mmmmmmm, I wonder what that’s about?” Two days later I had a scheduled appointment with my doctor. I mentioned my eye and he looked it over, asked a few questions and suggested I visit my eye doctor. Soon.
As far as I know I have always had high pressure in my eyes. So does my oldest sister. When I hesitated using eye drops to lower the pressure, my friend Jan jumped up and down until I accepted my doctor’s advice. She of course was right. So was the doctor. I made an appointment for this new development. I don’t know all the real medical terms, so I will give you my version. Dr. Joseph Pham of Pacific Northwest Eye Associates is my primary eye doctor. He suggested a retinal expert. The expert was a major from Madigan Army Hospital. The major suggested that injection into my eye. Multiple injections into my eye.
I have a friend who doesn’t like to be confined and doesn’t like to hear about medical procedures. So of course after I started treatment I explained in detail how it went. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a long needle, but he sticks it in my eye from across the room and then walks it in.” I continued on, “The worst part with the injection is the maniacal laughter of the doctor.” My friend was not amused.
Basically, the problem is blood vessel leakage in my retina. An injection of Avastin, a cancer drug used to shrink blood vessels to strangle and stop the spread of cancer, reduces the leakage and the mushiness of the retina. A picture of a normal retina shows two minor hills with a valley in-between (see within green circle). The higher the hills, the bigger the problem. Each appointment involves pictures of both eyes and usually results in an injection.
I liked the major. He traveled out of the country into middle and South America volunteering to help with eye problems. A nice guy. My second retinal expert had a nicer touch with the injection. The major retired and left the army and Madigan. The second doctor had an office in Bellevue, but came down to Tacoma on Thursdays. When he decided to stop driving to Tacoma, I briefly considered traveling to Bellevue for treatment. However, the consideration didn’t last long when I thought of the traffic. I forgave my doctor for leaving, but didn’t follow him. My third retinal expert is Dr. Brenda Myers-Powell. She also has a nice touch and a keen eye for detail. She visits Pacific Northwest Eye in Tacoma on Thursdays. Her office is located in Federal Way. I have visited her office for non-Thursday treatment. Dr. Pham remains my main eye doctor. He does a fantastic job caring for my eyes.
I think everyone as they grow older should have their eyes checked regularly. Watch the pressure! Am I healed? No, but I can still pass the driver’s license eyesight test.
The people at the clinic are always friendly . . . some know me by my first name. Patting my arm and whispering, “It’s going to be all right” is not required. Does the injection hurt? No . . . not really. There is a slight pressure . . . and you can see the drug swirling as it enters into your eye ball, but no pain. However, as the assistant numbs my left eye, I am comforted when I look over at the counter and see the note that accompanies my file. It simply states “extra numbing.”
Jean S Reddish says
“You can eat with false teeth, but you can’t see with false eyes.”
(You should take care of teeth and eyes.)
Don Doman says
Thanks for reading and sharing the homily. I like Soupy Sales’ similar comment, “Be true to your teeth and they won’t be false to you.”
Perhaps, one day we will have computer assisted vision like Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Personally, I’m waiting for computer assisted taste sensors so you can lead to a future article. Thanks for the brain start!
I like your graphic of the eyeball. Been getting injections for over two years every 6 weeks. There is a newer drug called Eyelea, but it is very expensive. Everyone is unique, of course, sometimes it is fairly pain free, others it isn’t. I , too, requested more numbing. On days after the shot, even with my ice pack, it can be fairly uncomfortable ’til late in the evening, but the benefits from having these shots are certainly better than the alternative. I had to accept that the official name of it is AGE-Related Macular Degeneration. A good test is to look at something straight with one eye closed, like a power pole/light pole preferably not when your driving, and if it is not straight . . . get to the doctor immediately. Good information for everyone. Thanks.
Don Doman says
Thanks for reading and sharing. In the beginning it felt like I had a 2×4 in my eye. I would get the shot in the morning, come home, take a pain pill or a sleeping pill and sleep half the day away and wake up feeling better. Two days ago I had my latest treatment, but I had the yellow dye injection before (so they can clearly see the blood vessels. I have tiny pupils so this mean a triple dose of dilation. After then hours my vision reduced from triple-vision to double-vision to normal vision. I had a client meeting at 11:30 so I was useless as far as my computer was concerned. Sorry about your pain. I’m always concerned it will hurt, but so far it’s just been annoying . . .
Thanks, again for reading and commenting.
Kathryn Whitacre says
I had both my eyes have a torn retina. As we age they often separate from the back of our eye. The first one happened when I awoke and when looking through the eye I literally saw stars and fireworks in bright silver! I was totally surprised that it mimicked the cartoons when someone is knocked out. I was told to go immediately to my eye doctor, and did. But when I sat in the chair and they came close with tools, I pressed my head into the head rest with such force they terminated the procedure until I had a shot to make me calmer. I told them I was okay, but they gave me the relaxant anyway. An hour later I was so comfortable I just sat there while they spot lasered my retina around the tear. The next time it happened I was ready with my need for a shot to relax me and that was also fixed. If you don’t fix the retinal tear when it happens you might be blind. So much to learn as we age. They don’t teach you these lessons in school, and rarely do friends discuss it. Thanks for the post.
Don Doman says
Thanks for the image of you backing up your head into the headrest. I could just picture you. I got a nice chuckle out of it. In the early days I would get a death grip on my belt until the shot was done. I looked calm, but I needed something to do with my hands. Shaky hands might be catching and we don’t need that, do we? Dynamic Tension is what Charles Atlas used to call it. My arms got stronger. Now, I just accept it. Thanks for the words that might help someone else be prepared.