We get inquiries now and then, folks wondering how my (Keith’s) eye issues have resolved, and rather than fielding the same basic question every few days, it seems a short blog post on the subject is in order. Granted it’s not really boating related, but it’s a proven facts that stuff happens, even when you’re cruising, so bear with me.
By way of review, here’s what happened.
I suffered (with fair grace) a detached retina in the right eye back on October 1st 2016, while Sionna and crew were pinned behind the north end of Assatigue Island at Ocean City, Maryland by a 3-day norther. What began as a very small blind spot on the edge of vision (NEVER ignore a blind spot, folks!) gradually spread, and by the time we arrived in Hampton Roads, VA following a 20-hour passage in the Atlantic, I was 80% blind in that eye.
A quick Google search found a surgeon nearby, the initial laser repair was accomplished on October 5th, and we left Hampton on the 21st following a good report and release from the surgeon. As part of the after-care, it was discovered that my left eye also showed weakening retinal attachment, so a preventative laser procedure was performed to avoid a future crisis.
But unfortunately that wasn’t the end. My vision at first cleared gradually, but then stabilized before beginning to deteriorate again, and a follow-up appointment with a surgeon in Charleston, SC confirmed my assessment – the retina had begun to detach again. A second surgury was required.
The second surgury took place on November 15th, and was a more aggressive and invasive style, including the implantation of a band (called a “buckle”) around the circumference of the eye to relieve tension on the retina, and the injection of a silicone oil into the eye to act as a bandage, holding the retina in place as it heals.
As of this writing (January 7th, 2017) the second surgery appears to have been successful. I say “appears” because – being extremely nearsighted and unable to wear a contact lens or glasses over my right eye until the oil is removed – I’m still functionally blind on that side. In addition, passing a laser beam through the eye’s lense causes cataracts in short order, and my follow-up appointment with yet a third surgeon in December confirmed that I now have cataracts forming in both eyes, with a vision loss of 20% in the left and 40% in the right.
This is, as they say, a bummer.
But there are bright notes.
First, we’re still cruising,(though I sometimes lament the visual detail I’m unable to see) and have reached the warmth and sun of Florida’s Gulf coast. Score!
Second, when we return to Maine in May we’ll be back “in-network” for our health insurance, and should be able to have the cataracts corrected – as well as a good portion of my near-sightedness. A bonus!
And speaking of insurance….
You’ve heard of the Affordable Care Act? Some folks call it Obama Care – often in a derogatory way, which I’ve never understood, but for us, it’s been the difference between living life and bankruptcy. The total bill for these eye issues has been nearly $30,000, but our insurance has paid over 3/4ths of that. We never had health insurance before the ACA, and won’t have it in future if the program is stolen from us. Yes, we’re broke again – but at least we’re still solvent. Thank you, President Obama – you done good.
Oh dear, I suppose I’ve crossed some line there, injecting politics into a sailing blog?
But hey – that’s life.
At least I’m not blind.