We’ve had a rough trot in the land of the hunters. Murphy paid us a little visit and he liked it here, so he stayed a while. All is not lost yet, so its very likely that dear Murphy’s hiding in a cupboard or behind the fridge.
But this is a serious post so other than saying that it’s been raining shit in our neck of the woods, I’ll cut to the chase and just get serious. You see it’s my eye. M’eye precious.
In the early naughties I noticed a "loss" of focus in my left eye, just enough that the details in my then girlfriend’s face on the other side of the netball courts were not as crisp as they were the day before; tragically, I could no longer read the label on her bloomers from cross-court.
A visit to the optometrist revealed a very mild astigmatism. My eye was shaped like a football - the curve in the lense was becoming irregular.
"It’s very mild and there’s no point in looking at glasses as they’ll just make you lazy. You’ll just get used to this level of vision and it will be your new normal.”
Exactly what I wanted to hear. I went home and forgot it ever happened. I could still spot the flick of a hog’s tail or the twitch of an ear in the scrub at a hundred yards. No problem.
Fast forward 10 years and my eye was constantly irritated, red, itchy, swollen. I assumed the lack of sleep, the all-nighters on the road heading out for a hunt, working late? It became unbearable. So a quick visit to the GP, then a referral to the specialist and I found myself getting tested for anything that may have caused my condition. The verdict?
“A remnant bacterial infection. Take these two courses of antibiotics and if you get a recurrence you can by this one over the counter. If it doesn’t improve, come back.”
I went back a few times. Then I tried an optometrist. Perfect vision; let it go Dan. Then in July, two days before my wife went in for spinal surgery, I woke up to very blurred vision. I spoke to my father who sent me to his optometrist “…ħu ħsiebhom għajnejk, għax mingħajrhom you fucked. Xurtijk mhiex għajnek tax-xellug!”
He was right - I was lucky it wasn’t my shooting eye.
I walked into Jenny’s clinic one Friday morning in July – "you’ve got a pterygium,” she said as soon as she looked at me. A diagnosis just like that? You have to be joking, I thought. “The pterygium forces an astigmatism and this is why your vision is so blurred – the lens has been deformed.” That sounds bad.
How bad? Well you really have to appreciate the cornea to understand the gravity of it all. The cornea is a very special tissue; in laymen’s terms, it is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil. The cornea accounts for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total optical power and contributes most of the eye's focusing power. That’s all we need to know. So you gotta’ look after your corneas!
From here it was off to see the surgeon - an ophthalmologist.
“It’s definitely an pterygium,” he explained, “very advanced, it’s growing over your pupil… unlikely you’ll get your vision back. Only treatment is surgical removal followed by a conjunctivital graft, where we cut out the sclera to the inside of the cornea and then replace it with another piece of tissue from the top of your eye. Scarring from the surgery could further affect your vision.”
The doc indicated the procedure on my abstract eyeball, which he had drawn on a clean letterhead.
“Doesn’t sound like fun at all! How do you hold in the graft?” I asked.
“Stitches,” he stated matter-of-factly as he scratched little crosses on my draft conjunctivital graft, "it’s a very uncomfortable procedure.”
“Excellent. Book me in.”
And so it came to be that last Wednesday I lay on a bench with an anaesthetised eye. Although I could hear surgical implements clinking on the stainless steel bench beside me, and was vaguely aware of people working on my eye, I was very much nonchalant about the whole thing; although still awake, there was just enough anaesthetic in my IV that I didn’t give a damn.
The sandwich and bad coffee after the procedure were terrific. My father collected me and delivered me home; he looked concerned. My wife tucked me into bed and shushed the girls. I had a terrible night's sleep. It hurt a lot. Thursday was more than uncomfortable. My eye stung. It itched. The stitches pressed against the inside of my eyelid. I drifted in and out of sleep. Friday wasn’t much better. Saturday was not bad. And today, Monday, I’m looking at my MacBook with the brightness on its lowest setting tapping away at the keyboard.
Upside? I caught up on a lot of lost sleep. I got six days with the family. I even made time to tell you about it.
Downside. My left eye is buggered. I was inspecting it in the mirror earlier today and it’s not a pretty sight. I’m hardly handsome so that’s of no concern, it will get better. My vision? Worse now than before the surgery and hopefully that’s as bad as it’ll get. A painful few days but it appears the worst has passed (though I do have to have these stiches in my eyeball removed). Maybe glasses? Definitely.
Moral of the story.
I read a paper published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in their EyeNet Magazine; in the paper it was noted, “…research indicates that sun exposure in the first 10 years of life is a key determinant of who develops pterygia, followed by the cumulative effects of the sun as the years go by. In many… patients, a pterygium begins to develop in the teens or 20s.” http://www.aao.org/publications/eyenet/200607/
I was an outdoors kid, the same way that I am an outdoorsman. I spent years in the sun and didn’t own sunglasses till I was nineteen. To this day, I never where them hunting. Guess all that’s gonna’ change now. And my fair, freckled wife, she’s known about the sun for a long time and is very diligent with our girls; they’ve been wearing sunglasses since before they could walk.
M’eye precious. My precious eyes.
Look after your eyes. It's like my dad says - without them you're fucked.