Retinal detachment is a disorder of the eye in which the retina peels away from it’s underlying layer of support tissue. Initial detachment may be localized, but without rapid treatment the entire retina may detach, leading to vision loss and blindness. It is a medical emergency. One in 10,000 people have a chance of getting this. There is no reason as to why, it could be hereditary, you could have bumped your head some time ago, weigh too much, or it could have been from the lasik surgery that you had many years ago (which I had) that led to cataract surgery (which I had) and now there is retinal detachment. Who knows and right now I don’t really care why it happened I just know that it happened to me and I have to deal with it!! The best advice I can give is to have some great support from friends and family and to be positive which can be hard at times. A friend gave me some advice - there are enough negative things out there and they will come find you so there is no need to go look for them so stick to the positive stuff!

Right eye - Had to lay on my left side 24x7 for two weeks

Left eye - Had to stay face down in this position for 2 weeks.

Post surgery.

Being carted off to surgery.

I am not here to cry over what happened but just to tell people what happened and how I am now living my life. My whole life changed!!!! Perhaps it should have changed after it happened the first time but I figured that I could go back to a normal life because I still had pretty decent vision in my right eye. I didn’t realize that there was a high degree of it occurring to my right eye once it happened to my left eye. I tried to find information on the internet and did find a lot of sites but they were full of medical terminology and did not really talk about what to do after the surgery or try to humanize it. So this is the reason I am doing this….and also just to write about it so I can get my frustrations out. Hopefully it will also help people in reading about my experiences.

Not sure how best to really describe this event other than it was pure hell!! In my right I lost my vision before I was able to get surgery. The retina was completely detached from the macula, which holds the retina in place, and I had no vision in right eye!! Yes completely black and the vision in my left eye is not that great. The retina was attached to the macula after surgery but the vision in my right is poor and distorted. I cannot read with my right eye and everything beyond several meters becomes blurry, I can only recognize big objects like cars and buildings. People in the distance are blurs and look strange. But at least I could see out of my left eye….and then it happened to my left eye!!! I started to go blind, that darkening like a shade being pulled over my left eye, but it was caught a bit earlier and surgery was able to save it but my vision is slightly distorted sort of like when you watch the widescreen movies where people are elongated and thinner than normal. Also I cannot make out straight lines anymore. Every straight line is distorted and wavy. Reading is okay but all the letters are wavy. People look thin and have small heads or big bodies and are too tall and too thin. This is in the distance, up close around 3 - 4 meters my vision is okay except its like watching a widescreen movie and some slight distortion and no straight lines. I am pretty happy with this as I go to work and function but I need to be careful about what and how I am doing things. Like I said before this is a complete life changing event and my whole mental and physical attitude had to change. It takes a bit more effort to read but as they say in Japan “Gambarimasu”!!!! I can see and I am pretty happy about that!!! I do hope that some of this settles in over the next 6 months, this is, at least, what the doctors say. Driving is out of the question, not that I have a car to drive, but it is still too early to tell, scuba diving is gone forever but I am really hoping that I can cycle again, and completely forget about weight lifting as the max for the next six months will be 10 kilos and basically after that no more weightlifting ever!! Take care of your eyes!!

I visited the doctor yesterday (7/18/12). Yanagida-sensei is supposed to be one of the best surgeons in Japan for this type of thing and I was fortunate to have him as my doctor and have him operate on me. He operated on me the first time as well. It was expensive but it was worth it. Hey it my eyes and I am not ready to go blind!!!! So I saw him and he said that I was healing fine. I am not allowed to do any type of sports or any activity that causes my head to bounce around for the next six months. I was planning on starting to do some swimming next week but that is now out. So no nothing!!! for the next six months which I am okay with. I am in a very conservative mood these days and want to make sure that my eye heals properly. It has only been 3 weeks since my surgery so I need to continue to be careful. Diet is also very important. I have lost over 10 kilos in the last couple of months….5 were at the hospital. And now I am continuing to lose weight. I am thinking of putting together a nutrition page on this site. Yanagida-sensei said that the only thing I could really do was to walk….so now I have been walking everywhere. I picked up pedometer which has calories burned and tracks the number of steps and so on which helps me out quite a bit. Jenny suggested that I try to do 10,000 steps everyday. It’s a good goal which I am trying to meet. So Yanagida-sensei let me out with a clean bill of health. My eye is still red like someone stuck a needle in it…hey wait…someone did stick a needle into my eye!!! :-) Anyways it will take a while before the red goes away but I am on the road to recovery and, as I say to myself everyday, I can see!!!! There are still a few black dots that I can see but these are supposed to go away as well over the next several months. Gambatte!!!!

Below are details my story and over the past year of what I went through and is meant to help people learn. Feel free to contact me with questions.

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My Right Eye

Let me start with it was a painful experience! I started having some problems but did not really notice it until it was too late. This was with my right eye last year. I started to see a lot of black dots and floaters in my eye but thought I was just tired. I did make an appointment to see the eye doctor the following week. Later in the week my it started to get darker and darker as if a curtain was being drawn over my eye. By the time I got to the doctor about 75% of my vision was gone. The doctor said this was a medical emergency and shipped me off to a hospital about 2 hours away from Tokyo where they specialize in retina detachments. I did not know that it was a retina detachment as the doctors were speaking to me in japanese and I did not know the medical translations for these new and exciting words!!! I went out to Kitasato hospital and the doctor saw me and told me that they wanted to operate on me ASAP which meant monday. Doctors do not usually work on weekends in Japan, even in the case of an emergency. They did want me to stay in the hospital over the weekend, it was friday, but the only reason that they could give me was that they just wanted to monitor me. I preferred to stay at home for the weekend and come back on monday. After some discussion I ended up going home. On hindsight I should have stayed in the hospital. Actually when my left eye happened recently I found out why they allowed me to go home. It was because the retina had detached completely from the macula. I was basically blind in my right eye and scared out of my mind. At this point there was no gaurantee regarding my vision. For retinal detachments, if caught early enough, vision can be recovered. My situation was a bit different as I had full detachment. On top of all of this I had to deal with the Japanese language with it’s medical terminology. It was unbelievably scary and stressful but the situation had to be dealt with. I had a lot of great support from family and friends to get me through it.

The surgery was scheduled for around 8pm and took 2-3 hours. I had no idea how long it took. They put me out under general anesthesia and I was back around 11pm. The procedure that they used on me is called vitrectomy in which they extract all the vitreous gel from inside the eye, the freeze the eye so that they can attach the retina to the macula and then insert a gas bubble into the eye to hold the retina in place. It takes about 2 weeks for the gas bubble to be absorbed into the body while new vitreous liquid is generated by the body fills the eye. For that two week period you have to lay on your stomach with your head facing down and trying to keep your eyes looking straight down. The only time I could get up was to eat or go to the bathroom and even then I had to keep my head facing down. It was really tough. After the second day the doctors said that the attachment was not working very well and they wanted me lay on my left side. I thought this was great as I could turn but it ended up being worse than laying on my stomach. You try laying on one side 24x7 for 2 weeks….sheer pain after a while….but it had to be done!!! I had pillows shoved up all around me so I could not roll one way or the other. It was a nightmare. My side hurt so much and try eating with your head tilted to one side. I ended up listening to audiobooks night and day as no TV or computers were allowed until the gas bubble was gone. You need to stay positive as there is no sense in getting depressed. I listened to audiobooks and enjoyed the company of friends who stopped by.

But at least the doctors felt this was working and after the first week it was going well. My vision seemed to coming back and I could start making out objects. It was like looking through glass of water where you are just seeing things at the waterline. Half above and half below. I went home after 10 days and it took another 4 days for the bubble to completely disappear. My vision in my right eye was very strange. I could see things up close, maybe up to a meter or so but after that things got blurry and objects began to become highly distorted. People looked odd. People with thin bodies and large heads or really fat bodies and little tiny heads. Faces were mashed in and it felt like I was walking through a land of ogres or some fantasy land. All very odd. I went back to the doctor and he said that it would take 3-6 months for the vision to stabilize. But after three months that had been no change in my right eye, and now after 9 months there is still no change so I expect it will remain this way for good. I now have a high degree of distortion and can only make things out that are up close. Everything after a few meters is distorted and difficult to make out. This is of course when I am looking through my right eye only. I was very happy to have my good left eye.

My Left Eye

So now I was living my life and dealing with my right eye. I still had my left eye so things seemed okay. The vision in my right is not that great. I can only make things out clearly when they are a meter or so near me. Reading is nearly impossible with just my right eye. It needs to be a really big font size. A lot of this had to do with the fact that the retina was detached completely from the macula. I am always thanking Apple and Steve Jobs for the ability to stretch out the screen on iphones and ipads. Things that are more than a couple of meters away are just a blur. The doctors said that my vision would improve in after 3 months, than after 6 months, and now they say after 1 year but it has stayed pretty much the same. About a month after I got out of the hospital I started to return to my normal life. I now feel that this is way too early! The doctors said it was okay to return to my "normal" schedule. Working long hours, getting up early to go to the gym and rowing for 60 minutes, weight-lifting heavy weights, cycling 100 km or more on the weekends, eating whatever I felt like and still could drive if I needed to. I even did my Hiroshima to Kyoto cycle ride during this period. I think I just wanted to be my normal self and feel that I was still able to do everything that I had always did. Perhaps this level of activity accelerated my the detachment in my left eye. It seems that there is a higher likely hood that if you have a detachment in one eye you are most certainly at a higher risk to have it with the other eye. There is still no evidence that my "normal" activities caused the detachment to happen faster in my left eye but it happened. I really have not been able to find a specific root cause to the problem in my research on the internet or talking to various doctors. The biggest trigger seems to be that I had cataract surgery but the jury is still out on that. Who knows? It was frustrating not knowing the cause so I could try to address it but there was nothing so I just had to deal with the fact that I was visually impaired in right eye.

I was seeing my eye doctor on a monthly basis to make sure everything was healing properly and was encouraged when they repeatedly told me all was well. My right eye vision was not that great but the retina was healing nicely and I was not completely blind so I was, and am, thankful for that. The doctors also checked my left eye and said that there were no issues. They suggested that my monthly visits turn into 3 month visits. This was good as the hospital I was going to was about 2 hours away in total transit time from my apartment. I went back to my local doctor for checkups in between. So between both doctors I was still getting checkups every couple of months as I was still worried. In the end these regular checkups are what saved the vision in my left eye.

I was at a management training course for 4 days about 7 month after the detachment in my right eye. The course was with about 20 other people from my company and lasted from 8 in the morning until around 9 or 10 in the evening. It was very intense and somewhere during this course I started to notice a lot of black dots appearing in the vision of my left eye. It looked like a flock of birds in the distance flying around. I had a eye exam schedule for the following week so I finished out the training course. I went to the doctor after I got back and they gave me the news....I had three holes in my retina. My first thought was "SHIT!!!" then I started to deal with the situation and told the doctor I did not want to go through surgery again and wanted to know what options I had. He told me that the holes were not as bad as a tear or detachment and that he could perform laser surgery to seal the holes to which I immediately responded “Lets do it now!!!”. Unfortunately he checked with the senior doctor and she said that I should go to kitasato and see the doctor who did the operation on my right eye, Yanagida-sensei. The only problem was the they could not get me in until the following week to see my doctor. The doctor that I was talking to told me that this was not as serious as a detachment and that he would speak to Yanagida-sensei to see if he could perform the laser surgery. I could do nothing but carry on and went to work that day. The next day we called the doctor and he said that Yanagida-sensei said it was no problem to do the laser surgery in the office. He felt it was not serious at the time and the holes could be repaired by laser so I should come in later in the week. It was Wednesday and I said I would come in on Friday morning.

I spent that evening and the next day reading about the laser procedure in detail. Every site that I read said it was painless and that after the surgery you could return to your normal activities the next day. The success rate is very high with laser when it is caught early enough. So Friday morning I came to the doctors office and they put a bunch of eye drops in me. About an hour later the nurse had me sit down in front of the "machine". The doctor came over and started to look at my eye telling me not to move. The laser basically burns around the retinal tear, and the scarring that results usually "welds" the retina to the underlying tissue. These burns produce scars that seal the edges of the tear and prevent fluid from passing through and collecting under the retina. After that...BOOM...all good to go!!! Simple! The procedure is done by a doctor holding a contact lens up against your eye and then directing the laser through it to the area around the holes. For the next hour I saw hundreds green flashes from the argon laser flashing at me and the doctor jamming the lens against my eye and telling me to look up or look left or look down. The painful part was the lens jammed up against my eye. And it was painful!!! So after the laser surgery I was informed that I could go to work and resume my normal activities and to come back next week. So I did. I went to work and took it easy on Saturday, did a short workout on sunday, monday back to the gym and work. The problem was that I started seeing the slight darkness come across my eye again. It was a small dark area starting from the right side of my left eye. By the time I got to the doctors office the next day I could not see my nose. I mentally prepared for the worst and got it. The doctor told me the laser surgery had not work and that my retina was in the process of detaching. It was about 30%-40% detached and that I needed to get to Kitasato hospital right away. They wrote me an introductory letter to get into the hospital - in Japan having this type of letter is critical even if the receiving hospital knows you. As soon as I got the letter I shot out of there and headed for the nearest train station for my 2 hour commute.

It was Friday afternoon when I arrived at Kitasato hospital and they examined me and said that I had a detached retina. It was about 60% detached and I needed surgery ASAP. Yanagida-sensei would come in later as he was at another hospital and see me in the evening with his other patients. They wanted me to spend the weekend before the surgery on monday. The time would be determined by Yangida-sensei. I wanted to go back home for the weekend like last time but they said no and were quite forceful this time. This was because last time I had a full detachment and this time it was a "only" a partial detachment. So I agreed to stay the weekend...thinking about the spiraling costs....but wanting to get this over with ASAP. I saw Yanagida-sansei around 8pm and he told me that the process would be the same as before. Put me under, stick two needles in my eye, extract eye gel, repair tear and attach retina to macula, insert gas bubble, wake up, lay with my head down for two weeks….seemed so normal to me now. There were of course no guarantee on quality of vision but better chance than before. Routine. He did say that I would schedule me to be first on the list monday morning which was very good. Jenny had a lot to do with that. She was great and stuck with me throughout the operation (like last time) but I think she is very annoyed with these annual vacations to the I am. Over the weekend I had numerous people come by to visit and provide encouragement and felt fortunate that people took the time to travel all the way out to the hospital to visit. Matt brought me a mp3 player with some audibooks on is as I would not be able to watch TV or use the computer for the next several weeks. Great stuff and Thanks you to everyone!!!

Monday morning I was prepped for surgery. Went into the surgery room and was put under. Woke up 4 hours later with tremendous pain. I guess this is what happens when someone sticks a needle in your eye. WARNING: Don't try this at home kiddies. The pain went away, mostly, the next day and I started the process of recovery and boredom. Head down on the bed 24x7. Day after Day. I was able to listen to audiobooks which as good. I went through all the Jules Verne books, a lot of Mark Twain, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (thanks Matt) and Oh! China by Henry Kissinger which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in China, global politics, Asian History and not to mention Kissinger. The food was rice, miso soup and fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I lost about 5 kilos. In that laying down position I could not really sleep at night as my back would start hurting after a few hours. So my sleeping pattern was to sleep only a few hours at a time. What I was waiting for was to see what my vision was going to be like.

Over the next couple of days the gas bubble started to be absorbed into my body so I started to see things again. It was tough with only my right eye, even going to the bathroom was a bit of a pain. I started to see through the clear part again where vitreous liquid was coming back. So the upper part of my vision was somewhat clear but the lower part was like looking through a glass of water. Same as before. As I continued to see more and more I noticed that it was not as bad as my right eye. When I was allowed to sit up, usually to take my eye drops which was when i was allowed to remove my bandages, and take a look. Things were a bit wavy but at least it was clear. I was still pretty worried and was trying to figure out how I could function if my vision ended up like my right eye. After a week I was allowed to return home but had to stay in the down facing position and no TV or computers. I had become very conservative so I followed all the rules given by the doctors. As the bubble got smaller I could see more and more but it was still difficult as there was a lot of light reflecting off the upper edge of the bubble. After two weeks I woke up in the morning and the bubble was gone.

My vision was pretty strange. It was very bright and I had to wear sunglasses inside, I still have to wear sunglasses inside in a brightly lit room. The vision seemed okay but it was not. Something was not exactly correct and I realized that everything was slightly smushed together. Things in the distance, about 3 meters or more, were slightly elongated and thin like in the old widescreen movies. I could see everything and read which was GREAT!!!! but there was the slight oddness to everything. People looked a little strange and then I noticed that I could not see straight lines. Everything has a wavy edge to it. My doctors say that in 3-6 months it would most likely get better but I will need to be very careful about what I do. Same line as before but I am very hopeful as my retina was not fully detached this time.

Sorry for the long summary but it is more for me to get it out. My whole life has changed about what I can do. I am losing weight and will put up a page on how I am doing it to keep myself motivated. Right now everything is about keeping my blood pressure down and manageable and weight plays a big part with that. I have lost about 12 kilos so far and am looking to lose more. I need to stay positive and calm regardless of the situation. There is enough negative stuff that will find you without you having to go look for it so stick to the positive stuff. I have started to do a lot of low impact workouts like walking and yoga. And most importantly having a good group of friends, family and colleagues who support me . This is really important and I thank everyone who helped me out.

I still have a long way to go with my vision but as I tell myself every morning when I look in the mirror - and don't quite see me but some guy with a slightly lobsided head...or that is me and I never noticed - that I am fortunate to be able to see. I am happy that I can go to work everyday with no issues and laugh with friends. All good stuff!!!

More updates will be coming but they will be at the top of this page and will be brief.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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