Saturday, August 6, 2016

Blind Luck

It has been an intense 48 hours.
On Thursday morning we were woken up at around 4:45 am because of a family emergency involving Rebecca's son, Jonny. This ordeal, in which I did not have to deal with the brunt of responsibility but merely provide assistance and moral support, involved a 600 mile drive and, eventually, the amputation of Jonny's right pinky. For details, see here:
What is relevant for this update is that upon waking up at that early hour, and coping with the various physical and emotional stresses of the day, I noticed a general blurriness in my vision. I attributed it to simple eye fatigue and sleep deprivation and went on with the show.
By Thursday evening, I started to become more alarmed. The loss of vision seemed to be getting worse, not better. Covering my left eye, I determined vision through my right eye was perfectly fine. Covering with right eye, I realized I had lost much of the visibility of my left eye. All was blurry and dark.
Friday morning the problem remained, so I immediately went in for an eye exam at a local clinic. This revealed a likely retinal detachment in my left eye.
A few hours later, a more detailed inspection by an experienced ophthalmologist at a medical center confirmed this initial diagnosis. The retina was torn, with an impact to the macula, and the extent of the damage was determined to be severe. An on-call retinal ophthalmologist was brought in. A few hours later, his inspection ratified a giant retinal tear/detachment and he advised immediate emergency surgery would be required.
Approximately two hours later I was connected to an IV and administered "twilight" anesthesia in an operating room. The surgery lasted between 1.5 and 2 hours and involved the insertion of a scleral buckle, the reattachment of the retina, the injection of a gas bubble to hold the retina in place, and laser welding of the retinal attachment area. I was discharged at around 11:30 pm, took some strong painkillers, and went to sleep.
Today's initial post-op consultation has revealed that the retina appears correctly attached. The pain is decreasing, while the swelling is increasing, and there is some discharge--all as expected. I have a gas bubble cataract which should in principle disappear as the gas bubble itself dissipates.
The reason for my focusing on this last detail is because the gas bubble, which will take approximately one month to dissipate, will have a significant impact on my immediate future. As gas expands with altitude, I have been forbidden from any altitude-related travel for the next month.
Unfortunately, and much to my distress, this means that I can neither drive nor fly to Kansas City for WorldCon.
I am deeply saddened that I will miss all my friends, be unable to join in the wonderful roster of panels I had been assigned, and sign copies of my new book. If I had made social or business plans with you, I sincerely apologize, and hope you will understand my absence. More thoughts on that in a future post. I have emailed the programming team and hopefully they are updating information as needed.
Throughout these travails, I have had the indefatigable support of Rebecca, who calmed and helped me through the various stages of fear and anxiety and in general was indispensable to navigating the practicalities of the situation. When I came out from anesthesia I asked the nurse to fetch my partner immediately. "Rebecca?" asked the nurse. "*Golden* Rebecca," I corrected somewhat groggily. I could blame it on anesthesia-induced delirium, but in fact I believe that was a very clear-headed observation. Thank you also Thea for your support and spending time with Rebecca while I was under; very much appreciated. Thanks to Jesse for croissants today. And thanks to everyone with whom I've interacted along the way that sent positive wishes and provided help or encouragement.
The next month will involve slow healing and a restricted scope of activities. Work is out of the picture this coming week, as is driving for the next several weeks. Right now my visibility in the left eye is limited to motion-recognition; no shapes or colors are visible. The expectation is that as the gas bubble dissolves and the eye heals, I will gradually recuperate vision. In the meantime I have been instructed to administer antibiotic and steroid drops to assist healing. It is unclear how much vision I will eventually get back, but I will take whatever I can get--it will be better than what I experience immediately pre-surgery.
The scleral buckle will remain inserted for life. I can't quite claim to be a cyborg, like Neil Clarke does, but I am inching in that direction.
Obviously, as my vision is impaired and should not be taxed, I will be able to use screens only in moderation, and will also limit my time reading. This will curb my social media for a bit.
However, audiobooks to the rescue! I started on my first one this afternoon, projecting the sound through a wireless speaker, so that I can lie down with my eyes closed with the sound nearby. I have a feeling I'm going to be getting a lot of "reading" done via audiobook in the coming weeks 
That's it for now. More updates as I have them.
Thanks again to everyone and sorry for not being able to make this WorldCon. I was really really looking forward to it.

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