A couple of days after I got back from holiday, I had my fifteenth eye operation. Surprisingly, it had been six years since my last eye surgery, how time flies. When I was younger, I got so used to having operations that the surgery never scared me, but the needle always did. Gradually, my needle phobia got worse and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t help getting hysterical about it, it’s so embarrassing. People always think it’s the pain of the needle that frightens me silly, but that’s a load of rubbish, I can take pain. It is the fact that the needle is in me, in my skin, in my body that freaks me out.
Since it had been a while since my last eye operation, I was quite anxious, especially because for the first time I would actually be awake for it. The surgery was to remove calcium build up on the front of my cornea, which had been causing me immense eye pain. The build-up is a result of having an oil bubble in my eye, which once held my retina in place, now it just keeps my eye from shrinking and preserves it until technology advances.
Today is Halloween, so I thought I would share this story that sent shivers down my spine and might well do yours. Please stop reading if you would prefer not to hear about my eye operation in gory detail!
I arrived at Moorfields Eye Hospital and went up to the day surgery clinic. It was basically a corridor of old people, some of whom had already had their surgery and others were waiting. There were no beds, just rows of chairs and to find a free seat was a challenge. The nurse checked my blood pressure and was alarmed to read that I would be awake for my operation, as she thought usually people having my surgery were put to sleep. This made me feel a little iller, perhaps it wasn’t minor surgery after all. I was sent downstairs to see my consultant who marked my left eye with an X, just to make sure he operated on the correct eye. That part always amuses me.
I then had a long wait upstairs, the nurse kept coming to me for different reasons, I was waiting for the anaesthetist to pay me a visit to explain how my eye would be numbed, but he never came. Eventually, the nurse came with a wheelchair and told me to get in. She didn’t explain that it was time for my operation and feeling panicked to where I would be going, you tend to panic more when you can’t see I find, the tears began to roll down my face. My mum asked if she could come with me and the nurse replied comically ‘why?’! My mum followed anyway!
I’m not too sure why I couldn’t walk to theatre, maybe the nurses aren’t trained in guiding people, so I rolled up in this wheelchair. There were lots of medics in theatre already and were all asking why I was upset. I’m sorry was it just me who was aware that I was about to have my fifteenth eye operation at the age of twenty-four and on top of that I was going to be awake for it! Of course I didn’t blurt that out, as much as I would have liked to.
They seemed surprised that I didn’t know how my eye was going to be numbed and weren’t too sure themselves. Apparently, sometimes the operation could be done with numbing eye drops, which filled me with relief until they said that wouldn’t work for me with my minor nystagmus, meaning I wouldn’t be able to keep my eye still, so they would have to inject my eye. Oh my god, I could have died, why didn’t the ground open up and swallow me! I was going to have to have a needle in my eye, in my eye, in my eye!!!
They offered to put me to sleep instead, but this still would involved a needle, so I turned them down, as I had eaten lunch and wasn’t in the mood to be throwing up afterwards. I can’t believe some crazy part of me agreed to have a needle in my eye! Argh!
Apparently it is inconvenient to cry when they are trying to stick a needle in your eye, which was most annoying, so I had to divert to making caveman noises, grunting here and there. The injection took an age, it stung horribly, despite having the numbing eye drops. My whole body was shaking uncontrollably afterwards, even when they wheeled me into the next room. They attached me to a heart monitor and I couldn’t count the beeps on the machine they were going so fast. I smiled to myself every time the machine made an odd noise, jumping or sounding a sort of alarm, as if I was about to go into cardiac arrest like you see on Holby City. I knew I was clearly freaking out.
If things couldn’t get any worse, they placed a sticky sheet over my face, which had a little cut out area for my eye. If I wasn’t already struggling to breathe normally, this wasn’t helping. The surgeon went to begin and the first prod hurt, as if I was being stabbed with lots of little needles. The numbing procedure hadn’t worked, my eye wasn’t numb because it had only just occurred to them that I had lots of scar tissue from previous surgery. Therefore, they had to pour lots and lots of drops in my eye, which infuriated me more because they were leaking all over my hair! This meant I had to focus on a light throughout the surgery to keep my eye still. When you only have light perception, this is a tough task. They kept having to tell me to focus on the light, as my mind was drifting thinking why on earth am I letting them do this to me.
Although I could no longer feel what they were doing, I could hear every scrape they made, as they scraped the calcium off of my cornea. It sounded like they were scraping paint off of a window and sent shivers down my spine like when somebody scratches a blackboard. They put a contact lens bandage on my eye, as a barrier whilst the skin grew back and was meant to reduce the pain. Totally traumatised, the whole thing lasted around an hour.
As I said, this was my fifteenth eye operation and previously, after retina surgery, I got so used to having it, I didn’t need pain killers. After this surgery, I was allowed home a short while afterwards. I was desperate to lie down, yet there were no beds. I had to travel on the tube back to the car and then had a two hour drive home. The pain slowly increased. I lay on the back seat of the car in agony with my eye oozing non-stop. As son as I got home I downed some pain killers and ate something. However, it wasn’t long before I was throwing up, I think from the sheer pain, it was unbelievable.
My eye hurt all week and until I had the contact lens bandage removed the following week. I would love to say I’m now cured and the trauma was all worth it, but my eye is still playing up from time to time, which is just my rotten luck. I have a follow-up appointment in January and if I do need more surgery, I’m definitely going to make sure they knock me out!