Five Years

On a June night in 2003 I was rocking Jakob (10 months old at the time) to sleep, looking out the window, glancing at the TV, enjoying a nice quiet summer night.  All of a sudden, my vision became slightly blurry in my right eye.  I thought that there was some eye mucus (I call them “eye boogers”) floating around, not uncommon for me as I have allergies.  I rubbed my eye, checked it out in the bathroom mirror..nothing, still there?  The next day at work, I was drawn to the mirror in the ladies room to try and figure it out.  After looking closer, I saw a cloudy spot on my lens.  Panic mode!  My initial thought was “Oh my, I have the disease that my Grandmother had when she was younger that caused her to lose her eye!”.  I left work and immediately headed to my eye doctor (optometrist).  After the examination, he had no idea what it was (!) and sent me straight to an Opthalmologist 10 minutes away.  To be honest, I had no idea there were two different types of eye doctors!  I remember feeling sick to my stomach the whole way to see the doctor. 

It didn’t take long for Dr. Shah to make a diagnosis and have a treatment plan ready.  He is one of the most awesome doctors that I have ever dealt with.  The problem was that I had fluid (also known as Hydrops- a rare complication of keratocunus, generally occurring in advanced keratoconus. It is caused by a fissure or split within the internal layers of the cornea. Fluid then enters the cornea from within the eye. When it occurs, the cornea becomes acutely swollen and opaque (cloudy/white) on my cornea due to Keratoconusa degenerative disorder of the eye in which structural changes within the cornea cause it to thin and change to a more conical shape than its normal gradual curve.  We talked about the keratoconus and the stage it was at and the fact that it could have been treated years ago by my optometrist (he did know that my cornea was a little cone shaped at least 12 years prior to this and should have recommended hard contact lenses to try and reshape the cornea).  At this point I needed a cornea transplant.  The thought in itself scared me (I hate operations!).  In order to have the transplant, we needed to treat the Hydrops.  Treatment required me to wear a pressure patch on my eye 24/7.  By applying pressure to the cornea, it gradually drains the fluid.  This my friends, was not fun…..I had to work and drive with it on.  Heard many pirate jokes too!  After a few MONTHS, the fluid had cleared. 

I waited until the following year to have the surgery (if it wasn’t for the Doctor, I would still be waiting to have it!), mostly because I would not be able to pick my child up or bend down for at least 2 weeks.  I kind of new what to expect from following this guys  journey, even though it was a “few” years before mine.  As long as I was completely sedated (yeah…they sew a metal ring to your eye so it doesn’t move while they replace the cornea people!!), I guess I was ok with the transplant.   

October 21, 2004 finally came.  I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be.  I had all of the faith in the world in my doctor.  I even wanted him to photograph the stages of surgery, but he couldn’t (camera would need to be sterilized).  Remember me saying I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was?  Here is a little excerpt from out family newsletter:

Oct/2004:  The Dr. Shah came in and spoke with Todd and I about the procedure that would take almost 2 hours to complete.  It almost didn’t happen as the cornea that would be given to me was from an African American woman in her 60’s that had Lupus.  The second available donor was a 3 day old baby.  It took a lot, but he was able to obtain a cornea from a 34 year old male that died in a farming accident.  At the point of hearing all of this, it became real.  It is hard to explain the feeling I had after the doctor left the room, just knowing that I would be receiving a donated cornea from a person who lost their life, and was only 6 years older than me.  The transplant went well.  Jakob greeted me and my patch with “Momma, you pretty!”.  The following day, Dr. Shah had removed my patch and checked my vision.  Before my surgery the vision was 20.-400 in my right eye, the day after it was 20.-100, such a huge improvement!  I have an abrasion on the cornea and it is swollen due to the collagen shield used to protect my cornea (before the patch being removed) being soaked in EAR solution rather than EYE solution (not the doc’s fault). This mishap has caused my eye to feel dry and like an eye lash is poking it, and the lid wants to stay closed rather than open. I am currently on 3 antibiotics, one of them is to prevent rejection (he has increased this dosage from 4 times per day to every 2 hrs).  I have a follow up appointment next week, where I expect that my vision will improve further. My doctor expects that I will have full vision within 3-6 months.

Feb/2005:  Just a note to let you all know that my eye is almost completely healed!  My vision is 20/60 (it had stayed 20/150 since the day after surgery; with the “pin hole” it is 20/50!  The doctor has reduced my Pred Forte (anti-rejection/steroid antibiotic) drops from 4 times per day to 3.  He has also moved my monthly appointments to every 6 weeks.

 May/2005:  It has been almost 7 months since my surgery and the doctor is very pleased with how well my eye is healing.  I am on no medication and my vision is at 20/40!  I asked for a lense with no prescription as I see better in that eye without anything (went today and got new glasses!)- it is strange, one is is far sighted and the other is near sighted.  I go back in 3 months and he is looking to take the sutures out before the 1 year mark.
Sept/2005:  October 21, 2005 will mark my one year anniversary! I had a follow up appointment today and Dr. Shah says everything still looks great. Of the transplants he has done in the last year, my eye has healed the best and has the best vision. Before my surgery, my vision was 20/-400 with it now being between 20/30 & 20/40. He will begin to take out my sutures in 6 weeks, starting with 3 on the right side of my cornea as they are kind of tight.
I do experience eye head aches (if you have allergies or have had one, you know what I am talking about) when I am really tired….

 Nov/2007:  Follow up appt. consisted of Dr. Shah. removing all but one suture in my eye that had the cornea transplant. Everything looked great with the exception of my vision. I had 20/20 since the surgery 3 years ago, but now my vision was reading 20/400 (where it was before the surgery)- I had definitely noticed a change. This was all due to my astigmatism returning (4 diopters) and developing a slight cataract due to the steroids I was given to prevent rejection of the cornea.  I didn’t take the news too well.

Feb/2008:  Visit wasn’t much better than the last as far as the cataract. It has gotten worse. I was given a prescription for the “dummy” lens in my right eye (woohoo, I could see again!). And we would discuss the possibility of surgery at the next visit in June.

June/2008:  Visit went tears this time! Dr. Shah is so great, I couldn’t ask for a better doctor (our kids are even about the same age). They performed the glare test and I didn’t glare down past 20/50, so that was good (I don’t drive much at night anyway). He did mention almost right away that I now was a candidate for the surgery. Good thing is, I can put it off. He wants to see me back in January- that’s when the “new” cataract lens comes out (it is 4 diopters); it would be pointless to have the surgery now as the lenses only go up to 2.5 diopters.

 As you can see, the procrastinator in me has no update since last year.  I did have an appt. scheduled in January that had to be cancelled..haven’t gotten around to rescheduling.  I know he is going to want to do the surgery.



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