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My shiny new retina

I feel a little like one of those late-night TV ads, where we see the photo of an overweight, schlubby-looking guy (i.e., someone who looks like me), followed by a toned, fit, six-pack-ab’d superman, whose stunning transformation was made possible through an all-grapefruit diet and three hours a day of headstands. In my case, my external appearance hasn’t changed very much, but man, get a load of my right retina!

Here’s a picture – an optical coherence tomograph – of my right retina two months ago. That nasty red stuff was scar tissue, obscuring the fovea (the center of the eye, with the highest nerve density) and pulling on the retina, causing it to ripple and distort.

Here’s what it looks like today:

It’s not perfect – the red shows areas where the retina is thicker than in a normal person. It’s possible that the thickness comes from inflammation, which continues to decrease as I heal from the surgery, which was only three weeks ago. Looking at the cross-section shows just how much distortion of the retina has been removed. Here’s before:

And after:

Those nasty, hollow cysts in the retina? Gone, more or less. The two remaining ones in this image may recede as the eye heals further.

There’s a great deal of faith involved with having surgery. Not only are you trusting somebody to cut holes in your body with the hope of making you well, but you’re confronted with the reality that you’re going to feel worse – for a while, at least – after the surgery than you did before. Despite my elation today, my right eye still has a lot of healing to do, and is only working 20/60 corrected today. (The goal, based on today’s progress report, is 20/25 in that eye in the next couple of months.) While vision in that eye has moved from Mark Rothko to Claude Monet to “Did I put on the wrong pair of glasses?”, and while reading is now possible, it’s still not easy. This process takes a long, long time.

And, of course, unlike the guy with the six-pack abs, I’ve had nothing to do with this transformation. I just lay there, heavily sedated, while Dr. Jorge Arroyo worked his magic. And I’ve basically griped and complained while friends – especially my lovely wife – and my doctor here in Pittsfield, Dr. Andrew Danyluk, have nursed me back to health.

And so I’m very, very grateful and very happy to be (partially, a few hours a day) back online.

Here’s hoping that anyone else who has to go through vitrectomy and retinal peel to combat diabetic retinopathy has at least this level of good fortune.

8 thoughts on “My shiny new retina”

  1. This is like the coolest blog post ever! A optical coherence tomograph!!!! What!! Love the new eyes as well. You should get a new 60 inch flat screen monitor to celebrate!

  2. Fantastic. So happy you’re mending as well as hoped. Oh, and your OCTs beat the pants off boring corneal topographies, but the microscopic assay of corneal cell density, counting actual cells and showing them cell by cell, is kinda nifty.

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  5. Hi there Ethan. Was just Googling Retinal Peeling as I’m due to have it done (hopefully) on 19/08/09. Not exactly worried – just apprehensive. It’s good to hear of someone who’s had it done and come out the other side. Well done Ethan and thanks! valerie (England) x

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