A few months ago I was referred to an ophthalmologist due to an eye irritation.
Dr. John Welling at Medical Eye Center in Medford quickly identified the cause as a virus and prescribed the appropriate medication. He also noticed something that needed to be addressed immediately. He said I needed to dot my eyes.
Apparently there is a channel that separates the iris (the colored part of the eye) from the sclera (the white part of the eye). This channel allows fluid to escape from behind the iris. Both of my parents had glaucoma, putting me at high risk of having pressure issues. Apparently, my drainage channel is narrowing on both eyes. I was updated on the details of my situation, and the recommended course of action would be an iridotomy.
An iridotomy is a surgical procedure that utilizes a laser to drill a tiny hole in the iris in order to provide a drainage path for fluids, preventing a dangerous buildup of pressure that can lead to permanent optic nerve damage. In other words, Dr. Welling wanted to dot my eyes.
I was reassured that there is very little to no pain or discomfort and that the procedure takes only 90 to 120 seconds.
I was immediately concerned. I hate having my eyes touched or probed, I never could do contacts, and simple eye drops can be challenging. Two procedures were scheduled, one for each eye, to be done a week apart, followed by a third appointment for a post-op follow up.
It was a good thing I took a happy pill an hour before the first procedure. Without that pill, when they called my name I probably would have lifted myself out of the chair and walked right out of the building instead of following the nurse. She took me to the procedure room and administered various eye drops, some for numbing and others to constrict my pupil.
With my head in place and my eye lids held open by a special type of contact lens that helps focus the laser energy, I sat waiting, anticipating the laser assault on my eye. When Dr. Welling asked me if I was ready, my mouth said yes, but every fiber of my being was screaming no!
My nervous sense of humor came to the surface when Dr. Welling instructed me to not move. “You do realize that I have Parkinson’s, right?” Together we chuckled.
Zap, the first burst penetrated my iris causing me to jump. The nurse was behind me, holding my head, preventing it from moving. As each pulse found its target, I was amazed at how little I felt. A minute and a half after we started, we were done.
The procedure on my other eye went as quickly as the first, but this time half of the beams delivered a sting, like being hit in the eye by a snapping rubber band. My happy pill got me through it.
Now my glaucoma risks have been greatly reduced and all it took was to have a modern technology intervention. I was glad it was over. I left the eye center beaming (pun intended). Now I see clearly, looking toward all of my tomorrows, thankful that Dr. Welling could so easily dot my eyes.
Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.