Ed the Limo Driver and Reasons to be Thankful Today

I’m pretty thankful tonight. For some time, a friend, his wife, and his doctor feared that high PSA numbers were evidence of prostate cancer. His extensive biopsy results from Monday came in today — there is NO cancer. None.

Lots of prayers were said. I absolutely do believe in prayer, God, and the power of Faith. I believe that prayers were answered. Had the report not been so wonderful, my faith says that God would have provided strength and wisdom for my friends to get through what they needed to. I praise God for that.

About four months ago, I became completely blind in one eye. I won’t pretend I flung myself on the Lord’s mercy and begged him for my sight to be restored. Actually, I was not really happy with God. (Yeah, like my retinal problems were a direct result of Him zapping me for amusement.) I had a “Really? God? Me? What next?” kind of moment.

In spite of that inward prayerful tantrum, God responded graciously.  His voice and message were clear.  Strangely enough, the response came during a conversation with a limo driver named Ed…a Vietnam vet.

Ed said, “I tell those fellows in the Wounded Warrior program, ‘Yes…why not you? If you feel sorry for yourself, you will be the only one who does, no one else gives a $h1t, buddy. And, it CAN get worse; so get up, get moving and do what you can with what you’ve got, because in the long game, the day-to-day is up to you. You can be happy, or you can be pissed off…if you are pissed off, you are going to be pretty darn lonely.’ “

I refuse to say, “It’s h3ll getting old!” I like to think that I am blessed because I lived long enough to have age appropriate ailments and because medical science, while not perfect, has progressed to the point where almost every condition is curable or a person can usually be made more comfortable while enduring a health problem.

Today is a good day. If this was 50 years ago, my friend would have few alternatives to be cured of cancer. It would be terrifying. I’ll bet that he feels younger than he has in years. I know I did after my retinal reattachment was successful. My life was back on track…a slower track, but at least I can see the track!

Today, I know that I am very blessed. 50 years ago I would be completely blind in one eye and living in fear of the second eye following suit. I don’t have to fear that. My retina specialist is monitoring my left eye closely.

Today, I can look forward to seeing another doctor who will set up a date for a second surgery in June that will restore more of the sight that I have lost. Scar tissue (a cataract) will be removed. It won’t be perfect, but it’s going to be better.

Age is only a number. Like my friends Kelly & Jim say, “These are good years. They are more carefree…like college days…but, with more money.”

Yep…I wouldn’t know about it being “h3ll to get old.” I just know that while I can somewhat better afford to have enough fun to kill myself, I am almost smart enough not to do it. God is wise. He slows us down and makes hangovers really, really painful after 50 when being a bit carefree might be a license to have too much fun.

I believe that I will celebrate with an early bedtime and an episode of Fargo.

50+ Kids: Take care of your retinas!

In January, my sight was fine; I wore mono vision contact lenses and no cheaters.  Today, I struggle with significantly diminished sight in my right eye; my left eye is now officially under watch for retinal detachment.  As my doctor says, I am “prone” to the condition.

Current condition

Although seeing anything at arm’s length is still difficult, I am so much better!  My right eye took care of the “arm’s length” stuff and right now it is covered with a thick cataract.  I can see little with it.

My left eye is my distance eye.  I wear very strong contact lenses and very strong cheaters to do close up work.  But,  anything more than a foot away from my face is blurry with my cheaters on.  Without cheaters, I can see distance like nobody’s business (with my left eye) but nothing from my face to three or four feet away.

The good news is…

-With my new 27” HP monitors that the boss at work allowed me to purchase, I can see to work at my desk for long hours.  Without them, I could not work for more than a few hours a day.

-I can now drive fairly comfortably relying on my left eye.

-I will have scar tissue (cataract) in my right eye removed in June; that should restore a great deal of my sight in that eye. (But, I have permanently lost a significant amount of sight; how much remains to be seen.)

-My right eye looks normal again. (I am vain. I admit it.)

-I am under the care of a retinal specialist.  That means I can be proactive against having a complete retinal detachment in my left eye.

What I want all of you 50+ people to do

Go to an ophthalmologist and have a check up.  Find out what he or she knows about retinal problems.  Ask your ophthalmologist if you should have a retinal emergency, what steps he would recommend that you take.

My problems happened on January 31, a Friday, at 1:00 pm. I started trying to get help. That day I was in two emergency rooms, had an ambulance ride to Houston, and still did not get help.  On February 2, I went to a great ophthalmologist, but he could not help me.  He could not even help me get in to see the local retina specialist because said specialist would not take me as a patient until I appeared IN PERSON (having to ask a friend to take me) with my insurance documentation.  Once I did that, I could not see the retina specialist for three weeks.  Before that appointment, my retina completely detached.  I called the retina specialist on the day my retina detached and he wasn’t available.

Don’t be without the right medical contacts should that happen to you.

Here is what happened to my right eye…

As we age, we all experience vitreous detachment.  Think of the vitreous as a bowl of Jello.  When you put Jello in the fridge, it full of water.  When probed with a spoon, the Jello slips away from the bowl leaving no residue.  If the Jello sits in the fridge for a month, it dries up, gets sticky, and it takes use more effort to separate it from the side of the bowl.

Aged vitreous WILL detach.  We will still see, but it happens to everyone, usually in their sixties or seventies.  I am quite myopic.  Therefore, my eyes are shaped like footballs.  The vitreous is detaching early from the elongated ends of my eyeballs (for lack of better words) and the vitreous is “tacky.” It will not slide away from surface of “the bowl” like fresh Jello would.

In January, my vitreous detached and caused tears in my eye.  Bleeding started.  I lost sight from the blood, and the blood flowed for days around and under the retina.  It loosened the retina and it detached.  Scar tissue formed in my eye during the 18 days it took for me to get competent medical treatment. Fortunately, I found a great surgeon, who, in spite of the fact that he looks like he is 15, cares about his patients and knows how to fix these things.

Once the retina detaches, the likelihood of repairing it to perfection is impossible.  I was aware of this and prepared by my doctor that there could be the possibility of a complete hole in my vision, but I do not have that.  I have lost clear vision, but at least I have vision that is useful in many areas. It will be better when the cataract is removed, maybe even good enough to drive in the daylight hours in familiar areas.  But, it will not be enough to cross stitch, read a normal book, or see many things within my arms length, even with corrective lenses.

Left eye problems

The vitreous in my left eye has started to detach.  I have experienced a few new floaters and a few flashes of light.   I went to my son’s house on Sunday, April 27.  Gramercy Hospital is closed on Sundays, but a doctor on call met me there and examined my eyes to make sure my left retina was intact.

Vitreous detachment has started in that eye.  I followed up on Friday, May 2.  My doctor scanned my retina and said that we are now going to need to watch it every three to four weeks until the vitreous completes its detachment. If I see excessive floaters or more flashing lights, bleeding may be next.  The problem will be fixed at that time. I should not lose any sight at all.

The vitreous should complete its detachment in another six months.  If I make it through that without tearing, I should be home free.