This past Friday, I decided I would get out and knock out some more Christmas shopping. Right before leaving the house, I noticed my left eye felt a little scratchy, sort of like your eye might feel if you have an eyelash in your eye. I looked in the mirror and didn’t see anything, applied some moisturizing drops in my eyes and went on my merry shopping way. That was at 2 pm.
By 3 pm (yes, one hour later) I was calling my husband to tell him I was heading to my eye doctor’s office as I had lost most of the vision in my left eye. Scary? You bet!
Shortly after 2 pm when I pulled into the store parking lot, I thought my glasses must be dirty because I wasn’t seeing real clearly. I removed an alcohol wipe from my purse, cleaned my glasses and walked into the store.
After shopping for 10-15 minutes, I noticed what appeared to be smoke filling the store. It was strange. This “smoke” rapidly got worse to the point that I wondered if there was a fire. I also wondered why I couldn’t smell smoke and why in the heavenly blazes the smoke alarms weren’t going off! That’s when I started looking around for an employee. And THAT’S when I noticed that every person in the crowded store was shopping away. No one seemed alarmed or seemed to be noticing this “smoke” like I was. I started covering one eye and then the other and that’s when I realized I had a cloud of smoke in my left visual field. I went to the checkout, made my purchase and left the store. My plan was to go home, call my ophthalmologist’s office, and inform them what was going on. By the time I got to the car, I couldn’t see much of anything out of that eye. It was as if a thick fog was closing in.
I was losing my vision and losing it fast. I had no idea what was going on. Was I having a stroke? I knew cataracts usually come on gradually but I wondered if this was some sort of cataract from hell? A brain tumor? A tumor in my eye?
I can’t tell you the fear that I felt at how fast this was happening. At this point, I knew I didn’t need to waste time driving home and calling the eye doctor. I needed to just go in. I called my husband and told him what was going on. He said he was on the way. So I drove the 10 minute drive to the eye clinic praying all the way and trying to remain calm.
My ophthalmologist was out of the office but they told me I would be seen by one of the other ophthalmologists. They did a quick glaucoma test and then the technician started testing my vision. My husband arrived and was ushered into the room about this time. I could not read even the largest letters on the screen with my left eye. I told the eye technician that it was if a white cloudy haze was over the letters and I just couldn’t see them. It was all a white blur.
It was at this point that the fear overtook me and the tears began flowing. I was trying hard NOT to cry as this does not help when one is trying to do a vision screening but the tears wouldn’t stop.
I probably should have mentioned that it probably didn’t help that the night before I had watched an old episode of Little House on the Prairie where Mary Ingalls loses her vision and goes blind. Yes, I did. And I felt every bit of her fear.
I was also thinking about my oldest sister who was diagnosed last year with a choroid melanoma. She’s been through multiple surgeries, radiation therapy and laser therapy. Her eye was saved and she still has some vision in the affected eye. I think about how she was alone when she received her diagnosis, and how terribly scary that was for her. She had not told us she was seeing the specialist that day. I knew she had been having some problems with her color vision and was being monitored for a choroidal nevus, commonly called an eye freckle. I did not know she had started having some blurred vision which prompted a visit to her ophthalmologist who then referred her to an ocular oncologist at The Vanderbilt Eye Institute. Upon receiving her diagnosis of ocular cancer, she was distraught. Who wouldn’t be? And this sister of mine is not the type to show her emotions. She’s always the calm one in the family—the one who is always cool as a cucumber. She ended up going to the chapel in the hospital she was in where there happened to be a priest. This priest talked to my sister, prayed with her, and calmed her down so she was able to drive home. He told her before she left that when she had first walked into the chapel and his eyes had caught hers, that his first thought was that she surely must be dying. After hearing that, I knew how upset she was and I felt so much regret that I had not been with her that day. But I just didn’t know.
The technician patted me on the shoulder and decided to forego the rest of the vision test. She left to summon the eye doctor. After numbing drops and dilation and a very thorough eye exam, he told me he could see what the problem was. He said I had endured a PVD, or Posterior Vitreous Detachment. He said this was very similar to what I had occur in my other eye not quite two months previously but instead of seeing floaters as I did then, I was seeing a white cloud of fog. He said the entire vitreous (which is the jelly like substance in the back of the eye which gives your eyeball its shape) had pulled loose from my retina and fallen forward. It’s an aging change so I guess that means I’m old. He said I was fortunate because often when the entire vitreous detaches, it can tear the retina, then vitreous leaks through the tear and that can cause a retinal detachment, which is a surgical emergency and which of course can be a permanent threat to your vision. He asked if I was seeing flashes of light or a black curtain covering any portion of my vision. I was not. He said my retina looked healthy and that my vision would improve with time (it could take several months). He wanted me to be rechecked in 3-4 days so they could monitor me for a retinal tear. He told me what symptoms to watch for and what number to call if I should develop symptoms of a tear.
Driving home was like driving through a dense fog.
I can’t even describe how tremendously relieved I felt on that drive home though. To go from normal vision to hardly seeing anything out of one eye in an hour’s time was very scary. I knew this could have been much worse. I realized how much I take the ability to see for granted. I prayed a lot on that drive home and I thanked God for all his many blessings, especially those blessings that I so often take for granted.
Today I went for my re-ck. The white haze has cleared a lot though not totally. My vision tests have improved somewhat from Friday although things are still very blurry in that eye (both near and far vision). My ophthalmologist said my retinas both looked very healthy and there was no sign of retinal tearing. She said she could see a big white glob that is causing my hazy vision. She feels things will improve with time.