Occhio, Oeil, Ojo, 眼, глаз, عين


Who among us — the myopics — knew that we walk around with elongated eyeballs whose vitreous can dissolve or liquefy, and in so doing pull down blood vessels to which it might be adhered or even tear at the retina itself causing a hemorrhage, a flooding of the eye cavity on the inside even while the eye on the outside is looking out the window, its host body sitting in the passenger seat of a car, headed to a nearby park to go on a hike on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? This is what happened to me, and while I am grateful that my retina is not detached, I must have surgery on Thursday morning to address any possible tears or rips. My capacity to learn new words never ceases to astonish me — or not “my capacity” but rather the capacity — retinal detachment, retinal specialist, vitreous, vitrectomy, vitreous humor gel, endolaser, gas-fluid exchange.

Vitrectomy Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure undertaken by a specialist where the vitreous humor gel that fills the eye cavity is removed to provide better access to the retina. This allows for a variety of repairs, including the removal of scar tissue, laser repair of retinal detachments and treatment of macular holes. Once surgery is complete, saline, a gas bubble or silicone oil may be injected into the vitreous gel to help hold the retina in position.

One moment I was chatting with Carl in the car and the next I was bombarded with the strangest visuals I’ve ever encountered — black squiggles and threads, hair-like dashes that I reached up to brush out of the way even as I realized, almost simultaneously that something was happening, something is happening, Carl, to me, something is happening, something is wrong, I’m scared and the black slashes and threads came rolling in from the left and got bigger and bigger like splotches like ink blots like what blood looks like in that scene from The Shining splashing up the elevator at the end of the hall and I knew that something was wrong but I felt fine, I had no headache, there was no tingling, was it a stroke or women, you know, have atypical symptoms for heart attack and by then Carl had pulled over and told me to breathe, do your breathing, your meditation and so I did but by then a curtain had descended over my left eye, a thick opaque beige thing the black splotches behind it and thankfully, when I closed my eye it stopped and my blessed right eye carried on looking out the windshield through the glass at the hood of the car a streetlight up and into the blue sky.

We went to the emergency room which was weirdly deserted, and when it was determined that I felt fine but couldn’t see (how many fingers, how many now, how about now, etc. etc.), I was put in “the eye room” — a narrow old room with some “eye supplies and machines,” a whiteboard with a tongue-in-cheek Covid cartoon clearly meant for employees only — my eyes were dilated and I sat, alone, an ophthalmologist was called in, there was a sonogram and then an examination and then a referral to a retinal specialist the next day. I don’t want you to panic, the ophthalmologist assured me when he left. I can’t tell you how weird and vulnerable it is to be near-sighted to begin with, but this took that strange and customary vulnerability to a different place and I was, if not panicked, freaked out. I kept my eye closed. Darkness was preferable, my “good” eye open and alert, strained.

In short, the retinal specialist determined that my retina was not detached, but he determined that surgery was necessary as there was so much blood in my eye cavity that he couldn’t see if there were any tears. That’s tares not tears, of course, although I could go off even now on a tangent to explore the source of tears, of welling up, of my limitless capacity for them especially now especially now especially now. My eyes are open, I guess, to the fact that at any moment the vitreous can give way, can pull on what keeps it in, that blood can pour into that cavity (and be reabsorbed back into the body), subject my vision to something near-hallucinatory and nightmarish, that it isn’t the lack of seeing or chance of impending blindness that throws me off but the thought that those black shapes, that curtain or veil that in-between the liminal not visible to someone looking at me is actually in me, looking out seeing nothing but