Cataract Surgery Needed Because of Vitrectomy

One of the common side effects of the gas bubble used to hold the retina in place after vitrectomy and retina repair is damage to the lens. The surgeon said it was due to the lens not getting enough nutrients as the gas expanded and touched it. I’ve also read that the gas itself may damage the lens. Either way, my lens had some damage and was not as clear as it should be and was getting worse, so I needed cataract surgery in that eye.

The surgery went very well, and was quick and effective. The picture below shows me right after the surgery.



In the surgery, the doctor broke up and sucked out my old lens and inserted a new corrective artificial lens in the eye. Recovery has been good so far. I had to wear the shield until the follow-up appointment the next day as well as every night for a week or so. I’m on three expensive drops to fight inflammation and the possibility of infection. I’m back at work and no problems have appeared.

Because of the corrective lens in the eye, I can, to some extent, see well out of that eye. It isn’t corrected completely, and due to the retina problems and macular hole, I will not be able to get the fine detail vision back most likely, but overall, I can see surprisingly well with that eye. The lens in my glasses was totally inappropriate for the eye now, so I took it out and can see okay without it. Because glasses lenses make everything a little smaller, without that lens, everything looks a little larger (well, normal, but the other eye still has the glasses lens to make things look smaller).

So hopefully this will end the saga of my eye. I will make another post sometime with some hints and ideas for others having to deal with retina detachment and its aftermath.

Daytime Survival After Vitrectomy Surgery

While sleeping was tough after the vitrectomy surgery, the days weren’t too bad. Somehow, the days flew by and merged into each other so I almost lost track of time. I can’t exactly explain it, but perhaps it was because everything took so much longer that doing just a few things took up the whole day. Also, the regimen of 12 applications of eye drops or ointment to my eye took quite a bit of time and effort each day.

Eating was slow, and I had to eat things that weren’t fiddly and could easily be stuffed into my mouth as I faced straight down. Foods like taquitos and sausages worked well, for example. Drinking was also a pain, because I needed to use a straw for everything. Drinking coffee through a straw is unusual, but I learned to get used to it. I had a fair number of Boost drinks in the first few days, as they were very easy for breakfast, and some of them taste darn good!

During the days, I needed a cot to lay on as I tried to keep myself amused. Before the surgery, I bought a cot from Amazon that has a face hole and pillow and is 18 inches off the floor. It is the Ergo Lounger OH Therapeutic Face Down Lounger (link valid as of the date of this article). Of course, this cot was comfortable for an hour, then became torture, so we had to fix it. First we added a couple of yoga mats for extra padding and support, followed by a padded mattress cover and a sheet to make it soft and smooth. That still wasn’t enough for the metal supports that quickly dug into me, so we slit some pool noodles lengthwise and wrapped them around the metal frame under me. In the end, it was comfortable enough for me to spend the better part of nearly 7 weeks on, as of this writing (yes, I was told 2 weeks, but the bubble is still in my eye, so I’m still mostly face down – more in a future post).

resting on cot

The pictures above are of me resting on the cot. You can see various U-shaped face pillows in the top image, because different ones are needed for different tasks. For example, only one of the pillows was flexible enough to be useful when I was wearing my glasses. Yes, really, all these things that are designed for people to put their faces into aren’t meant for those of us that wear glasses. You can also see the handy tissue box nearby. That’s critical, because when you’re face down, surprising amounts of stuff come out of your nose and mouth, particularly during naps!

ipad and laptopTo keep myself occupied, I could use my iPad or laptop. Luckily, my HP laptop screen opens up fully flat, unlike my MacBook Pro. This is important, as you need it to be flat and in front of your face to be useful. When the screen was in front of my face, the keyboard was hard to use, so anything involving lots of typing or even games that use the keyboard were problematic. That being said, I did manage to get a bit of work done after the first week. I could modify and develop code on the laptop and sent it to the lab for testing. I also bought a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad, but it turned out to be less than useful for the same reason. For some reason, I had a very hard time focusing on fine details using my good eye for the first week after surgery. I was unable to read for long, so mostly watched TV, as described below. After a week, though, I read lots on my iPad and Kindle Fire.


I also had a Dell 22″ monitor that I could slide in front of my face. It was hooked up to my entertainment system, so I could watch TV shows from the DVR or play games on the PS3 and XBox360. Here I am trying Burnout Paradise early on, when I was trying to figure out how well my “good” eye could focus. I would say that the 22″ monitor was a little larger than I should have had to keep my eye still. I think perhaps an 18″ one would have been better.

With this face-down entertainment center, I was able to keep myself from being bored, read a bunch of e-books, catch up on TV shows that have been on the DVR since February, and finish Halo 4. So daytime was a lot better, more comfortable, and productive than nighttime.

Suggestions to Survive the Nights After Vitrectomy Surgery

The first post on this subject is here.

After my vitrectomy surgery I had to remain face down 24 hours a day. The only exception was the 12 times a day when my wife was putting drops or ointment into my eye. Therefore, I had to come up with equipment and settings to help me sleep at night and survive in a prone position during the day. This post is about the night situation, so I will cover the daytime setup later.

The surgeon’s staff gave me a brochure for a company that would rent vitrecomy recovery gear by the week, but I decided to try to solve the problem myself, because I am so tall that I guessed none of the rental stuff would work for me. For example, their sleeping arrangement consisted of a large wedge pillow that raises your body off the bed (so far, so good) and a U-shaped pillow mount that holds your head flat. The problems for me were: a) your head is facing down over, but not too far from, the bed, thus I think it could get hot and stuffy in that little pocket; and b) if I set it up that way, my feet would be way off the end of the bed, which would be quite uncomfortable.

I ended up finding an Earthlite Home Massage Kit on (link valid as of 8/16/2013) that is an extremely flexible U-shaped pillow mounting system. I mounted it between my mattress and box spring at the foot of the bed and ended up sleeping the opposite way from usual (so I didn’t have to mess with the headboard). The result is shown below.

bed side bed down in bed

That first night after the surgery was pretty bad. I had a terrible time sleeping on my face, so I got up and rearranged the Earthlite kit to it would support me over the kitchen table, so I slept there for a while. The picture makes it look like the pillow wasn’t quite flat, but I think I managed to adjust it so my face was parallel to the table.


I dreaded going to bed, because the surgeon instructed me to keep wearing a plastic shield at night. This particular torture device was fitted to me after surgery to protect the eye from me clawing at it. Because it fits on the face, it digs into the face when said face is pressed into a U-shaped pillow for sleeping. My wife tried various things, including putting tape and eventually gauze under the spots it was digging into.


The Earthlite Home Massage Kit is very adjustable, which important for face-down sleeping. If the head is too low, all the blood rushes there and I had lots of swelling around the eye. So I used a couple of pillows to raise my torso above the level of my legs and feet. I also put a pillow under my ankles to help keep my feet comfortable. It is important to raise the U-shaped face pillow enough that the weight of the head is distributed among the forehead and cheeks (too low, and all the weight is on your forehead). If the pillow is too high, however, you’ll be supporting some of your body weight with your face, which is also a bad idea.

No matter how comfortable the pillow seems, it will feel like cement on your forehead after a couple hours, though it will probably be really sweaty, too. This makes sleeping tough. I ended up buying two memory foam replacement pillows for the Earthlite unit as well as a couple of extra covers for them (so some can be washed while the pillows are still in use). I highly recommend getting the memory foam pillows, even though they cost as much as the original unit itself. The original pillow is good, but not good enough for sleeping all night.

My surgeon has given me permission to not wear the shield about 4 weeks after surgery, so that has significantly improved my sleep. I no longer dread going to bed.

How to Survive Vitrectomy Surgery to Re-attach the Retina

I recently had surgery to fix a detached retina and, as of this writing, I am still recovering from it. This is the first of several posts where I will discuss the surgery and, primarily, the recovery. The recovery is quite an ordeal, but at the moment, it seems to be going well, and the retina seems to be in place.

I’ve had a tear in my retina for years, but it somehow stopped itself with a ring of scar tissue. It went unchanged for years, but apparently decided to give way recently. I didn’t have the flashing or the gray curtain that so many people report when their retinas detach. Instead, things looked a little funny in my center vision, with straight lines not being exactly straight. It also seemed that things weren’t exactly where they should have been, which, I presume, was a sign that the whole retina had detached and the focal point was in the wrong spot. The other telling feature was a something that looked like a bubble on the lower right side of my vision. My ophthalmologist took a picture of the retina, and that area looked like curtains, so it had really lost its shape. It was still sensitive to light, so the retina was still alive and could possibly be repaired. My wife and I were hustled over to a retina specialist to get him to take a look and schedule surgery. Since things don’t just go bad a little, it turned out I also had a tear in the macula, which is the focus of detailed vision, so it was a challenging case.

The surgery apparently involved micro-scale instruments being inserted into the eye so the surgeon can place the retina and then use lasers (in my case) to tack it down. It is called a vitrectomy, because the vitreous jelly that fills the eye is removed. In my case, a gas bubble was then put in to keep the retina in place during the healing process. The gas bubble floats, and the retina is at the back of the eye, so, if you are good at mentally visualizing that situation, you can guess why the recovery period is so unpleasant. I have to remain face down all the time, except when I’m getting drops put into the eye. All the time! I was initially told 2 weeks, but when the 2 weeks were nearly up, I was given 2 more weeks. I’m not done with those two weeks as of this writing, but I expect more face down time. Future posts will cover the setup I used to make my recovery as comfortable as possible.

Initially, I was supposed to be partly awake for the surgery, which sounded kinda cool, but also horrifying. It turned out that I started snoring in the twilight sleep they put me in, so the anesthesiologist decided to put me all the way under so my snoring didn’t vibrate my head and mess up the surgeon. The surgery apparently went well, though my vision will be messed up for quite a while, so I won’t know the final outcome for a while. The surgeon did close the macular hole and the bubble is holding it in place, so fingers are crossed for a good outcome.

Next post in the series: Night