Friday, May 27, 2011

Small Improvements

When the doctors first realized my vision had been severely altered I was reassured multiple times that my vision would return fully, in 3-6 weeks, or when the fluids behind my eyes receded. None of these proclamations came from ophthalmologists these were uttered by the surgeon, internist, and various residents who were responsible for my care. Of my body. Not my eyes. Although I should have known better, I believed them.

And my vision did improve. But as the fluid had receded and my eye pressures returned to normal, and six, then eight, weeks passed, and my vision didn't go back to "normal," I knew I was in trouble.

During my fourth and final hospital stay I requested a consult with a retinal specialist. I was at U of M after all. The Kellogg Eye Center is renowned and I would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to get another opinion while in such close proximity. I was referred to one of the few doctors in Michigan who not only heard of Purtscher's Retinopathy, but had researched, AND published papers on its correlation with childbirth. Unfortunately, experts such as Dr. J. don't usually have large gaps in their schedules waiting for potential patients to schedule an appointment. There was good news however, after meeting with one of Dr. J's interns and a fellow, strings had been pulled and I had an appointment. In six weeks.

At the time, this was an eternity. It had already been 8 weeks since I lost my vision, if something could be done to cure my eyes it had to be done now. How was I supposed to function for the next 6 weeks knowing that help might be out there, but it was "impossible" to arrange an appointment sooner? (How I managed is a whole other story.)
He was worth the wait. As I've mentioned before, Dr. J was the first doctor to speak candidly about my condition. His honesty, supported by empathy was grounding. Ever since our first appointment, I've learned to be grateful for every improvement, not matter how small, that occurs. And improve I have. 

The changes in my vision have developed slowly, but when I look back on this year it is remarkable how far I have come. Over the last 365 days I have gone from seeing shadows, with streaks of light, to light and dark, to large shapes, to colors, (I was so happy to see color again!) to minor detail, to letters, to words, to more distinct detail. My vision is such that if you aren't paying close attention you may not even realize that I am legally blind, unless of course we are in a low-lit restaurant, then it becomes pretty obvious, especially when I am required to read a menu.

I saw Dr. J for the third time since August of 2010 on Thursday, May 26, 2010. 364 days from the day my vision changed. As always, Dr. J and his staff were patient, kind, and got right to the point. Just the way I like my medical professionals. Carefully choosing his words after my exam, Dr. J said that in the nine months since I became his patient, my vision has improved beyond his initial expectations. He also said, without the slightest bit of irony, "That we can expect changes, until we no longer can." Translation: as long as my eyes keep healing and getting stronger, then there is no reason to expect that they won't continue to do so. There isn't a time limit on progress. Being that there is nothing to do to speed up any recovery, time is the only thing that will determine where my vision will end up. A year ago, this would have driven me crazy. "What do you mean, you don't know?!?" I can imagine myself shrieking. Now, I am thankful for the lack of ceiling and the tether to reality. I wake each morning thinking that this is as good as it is going to get and eternally grateful that I can see the wide grin and smirking eyes on Emy's face. I am prepared to see the way I see right now, forever. I like knowing that I can hope and dream, but I am relieved that I no longer expect change. My vision has exceeded my own expectations too, and any improvement from here on out is a bonus. I'll take it. Either way.

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