Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Free Cycle > Guinea Pig > Eye Surgery

Free Cycle > Guinea Pig > Eye Surgery

It is funny how things progress sometimes. I belong to a Free Cycle group. This is a yahoo group that is global and people give things away to others that they no longer want. Others can make requests of what they need. It is a wonderful group and I have recommended it a number of times. They site is . But lest I digress too much, one of the members posted a message that she was looking for volunteers with amblyopia or commonly known as lazy eye.

Well I have this condition, so I wrote her, but stated that I did not speak Hungarian. She wrote back and said she speaks English if I would consider testing for her research. I agreed and we set an appointment for today. I explained to her that I had surgery for this when I was about 14 years old and as a result, I had permanent double vision. I have lived with this for more years than I care to recall, but at the age of 23, I had a second surgery to try to correct the condition. It did not and so for the last *& years, I have learned to adapt. The greatest adaptation was the depth perception. It is difficult to judge when you are seeing two of everything. I learned that by tilting my head backward, I could correct the double vision and see singly, but when I became tired, this did not help either. Yes, I have been driving since I was 16 years old and have never had an accident due to my vision, an icy road once and once when the motor mount dropped out of the car, but those are different stories.

The Hungarian doctor is a young woman who happened to be very pregnant. She is part of the medical university that has an excellent reputation. There are people coming from all over Europe to study here and all the curriculum is in English. She did all of the usual eye exams, but kept saying she could not understand how I could have double vision from these surgeries. As I looked at her, I was thinking to myself that the last surgery was probably before she was even born, so in the dark ages anything was possible that is not conceivable today.

After the usual exams, she had me sit in front of a laptop with a special program on it. There was a large box on the screen and in the large box there were 12 little dark squares. She explained that as I had one eye covered, I would see four random squares highlighted with a white border for four seconds, and then I had to follow the movement of these four squares until they stopped after 12 seconds. At that time, each square would have a number in it and I had to tell her which of the 12 squares had been highlighted with a border originally. She would type the numbers into the computer. There were three speed levels for each eye. This sounded simple enough and actually reminded me of the game Pong. My brother had this game when it first came out and was an immediate champion. I was already in much older being seven and a half years older, so I did not play it that much or get close to amateur status.

The testing started and my left eye was covered with a pirate’s patch. The four squares lit up and the other eight stayed dark. Then they all became dark and started roaming about this large box on the screen. I was just getting cocky thinking this is a piece of cake, when they started building momentum. They as they hit the wall of the square or each other like little bumper cars, they would bounce all over the screen. Within minutes, I felt like I was a shepherd for a herd of cats. These spastic little things were all over the place. Twelve seconds felt like twelve minutes until they stopped and revealed their numbers. I called out four numbers. The doctor typed them in. I was amazed that I normally scored 75% most of the time with the right eye. The left eye was not so good.

Each progression was faster than the last. By the end it was like the little dudes, they could no longer be called squares, were at a rave party with really good drugs. They were flying all over the screen and bouncing off of each other like Christmas shoppers at the day after Thanksgiving sales. Vooooom, bang, shoosh off into a new direction. By the time the test ended, I was physically and emotionally depleted. My sense of competition was deflated, but I did my part for science. I made a contribution in my host country, so I felt good about that part of it.

The doctor then told me that she could perform out-patient surgery to correct my double vision. This would not correct my eyesight, but would undo the years of having to look at life with my head tilted backward. She explained that my Hungarian insurance would pay for it, it is done under a local anesthesia, and I would have vision again within an hour. I never thought I would see normally again. The last ophthalmologist I went to see in CA wanted $3,000 for his fee not counting the hospital costs and my insurance covered nothing. He even said there was no guarantee it would work. I am going for it. I have to wait for this doctor to give birth, but she said she thinks she will be performing surgery again by September. She is a researcher and professor at the medical university, so I think I am in good hands. My good deed turned into a blessing.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you

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