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te-ridge-e-um ???

An eyedea.....

by Hamish

Early Daze

Being an outdoorsy / yachtie kind of a guy, I know too well the importance of being "sun-smart". I always wear a hat and plenty of good sunscreen. Also on particularly sunny days I usually set off wearing some good quality 100%UV sunglasses.

All very well if you are sailing your son's Opti or if you are one of thirty five sitting on the rail of someone's grandmother's "water caravan", but any a-cat sailor will tell you that this boat has a tendency to go quite fast and doesn't even let the presence of mere waves slow it down, hence at times there can be quite a bit of spray. Scientific studies have determined that 73.8% of this spray will end up spraying directly at your sunglasses which will harden immediately into an opaque salty crust, leaving only your ability to smell fear as to navigate the next obstruction. Ok maybe their research wasn't that credible but it never took long for my sunnies to come off the old mug and into the jacket pocket.

Turns out that this possibly wasn't the best option though, as I am now learning that its not just too much time spent doing something else that might make you go blind! Quite a few years ago I noticed a messy red bloodshot looking tissue growth on the surface of my eyes in the corners closest to my nose. Being quite concerned I immediately put this on my "I should mention this to my family doctor one day if I get round to remembering who he is and if he is still alive/practising" list.

I like to shave and brush my teeth while in the shower to save precious time so don't have much cause to use the bathroom mirror too often, and these strange little growths weren't effecting my vision so I never really noticed that they were ever so slowly getting bigger and bigger. Over time they started getting so big that friends started noticing the redness and asked what I had been smoking and why I wasn't sharing. Pretty soon after this I noticed that protest forms were getting harder to read and the girls at the yacht club were becoming slightly more attractive. Wow my eyesight is definitely degrading!

Time to do something about this I thought, time to enlist the help of Doctor Google! So I sat down at the PC, increased the font size a couple of clicks, and away I went.


Two things I learned that day; 1) there is more to the internet than just porn and Youtube and 2) I'm not quite as weird as I thought I was as these things are reasonably common.

“te-ridge-e-um” is what they call it, when they write it down its pterygium. I found this on the Southern Cross website

A pterygium is a benign growth of tissue on the surface of the eye.  It starts as redness and thickening in the corner of the eye – usually the corner closest to the nose. The growth can extend across the surface of the eye towards the iris (the coloured part of the eye). This growth is often triangular in shape and, if left untreated, can extend across the pupil obscuring vision, or causing the surface of the eye to alter shape and “warp” resulting in blurring of the vision.

Exposure to excessive amounts of ultra-violet light is thought to be the most significant factor in the development of a pterygium.  Pterygia are more common in people living in sunny areas and in people whose jobs expose them to ultra-violet light (eg: farmers, arc welders).

Other factors that may play a role in the development of pterygia include environmental irritants (eg: wind, chemicals, air pollution) and hereditary factors.

Well that all sounds familiar. I even found pictures too.....


  click to enlarge if you like

Yep thats them all right, now lets see what can be done about them..... Good old faithful Youtube.....

WARNING you may not really want to watch this

Well that's enough of that....... for another six months at least!

What Happened Next

After watching the video above I decided that surgery wouldn't really be necessary as long as I always wear sunglasses and possibly eat a few more carrots. After all, the problems with my vision could just be part of the natural deterioration brought on by the aging process. Hey just about everyone needs reading glasses eventually. Simple, I will just have to slip away from the mates with the drinking glasses and have a quiet word to the mates with the reading glasses, and even possibly test drive a couple of pairs.

Unfortunately nothing helped, no matter what the prescription, there was no difference. A pterygium can actually distort the shape of your lens which has some quite major effects on the way we see things. This can be sorted with the correct glasses however the bloodshot murkiness which will eventually completely cover your whole pupil wont become see through with even the flashest pair of lenses. Then to add insult to the injury, the deterioration of my eyesight seemed to be accelerating exponentially.....    The girls at the yacht club are all looking stunning..... I do have to get this fixed..... Damn that video on Youtube!

Where To From Here

Well I bit the bullet and got the wife to make me a doctors appointment and draw me a little map of where to go. In I went and down I sat before giving my doctor a full run down on what it was, how it was spelt, and what was involved in surgically removing it. He then jumped on his PC and filled out a quick referral to a specialist, thanked me for the information and my visit, then handed me a bill for $38.00

That was the 10th of November, so the little boy waits.... Hopefully my name will pop up in the public health system while I can still see well enough to find the hospital.

Watch this space and I will let you know how it all goes!

In the mean time, go out and buy yourself some sunglasses and put them on your head and leave them there till its dark!

Further Information

Check out the Southern Cross website www.southerncross.co.nz , they sum it all up quite nicely.

UPDATE - Monday 8th February

Even though its rather blurry, there appears to be light at the end of this tunnel! My name seems to have finally popped up in the system and I have received an appointment to see the specialist / surgeon in a weeks time at the hospital outpatients department. Quite a surprise really... I've heard all the horror stories of public hospital waiting lists, and its only been 3 months since the referral from my GP!

UPDATE - Monday 15th February

Its a lovely summers day so its on with the sunnies and my co-pilot/seeing eye person/wife and I are off for a leisurely 30 minute drive to the hospital. I wonder if I should really be driving? Although reading a car licence plate is way beyond me these days, the cars themselves (although a little blurry) can still be made out so I should be ok. Turns out to be a good call as we arrive at out destination without incident (hardly even saw another car on the journey... ;-).

In we stroll to the nice new reception area of the nice new outpatients department and I hand my paper work to the rather attractive receptionist behind the main desk. (anyone sounding feminine looks attractive these days). We then retire to nice new waiting area and sit our selves down on the nice new and very comfortable chairs. As we were a few minutes ahead of my appointment time and expecting to be sitting there for a while we started debating who's turn it was to buy a dose of caffeine from the espresso bar we passed on the way in. I was barely half way through my opening argument when a door opens and an older but still attractive** nurse (**see above) walks out and reads out my name. After scanning the room to make sure there wasn't someone else with the same name that had been waiting all day, I got up from my chair and followed he to one of the nice new examination rooms.

First up was an eye test... hold this over your right eye and with your left eye read as far down the chart as you can. First row, no problem.... Second row, not too hard.... Third row, getting tricky, struggling a wee bit.... Fourth row.... forget it. Now swap eyes. First row, no problem.... Second row getting tricky.... Who blurred out the third row? This is when the nurse asked if I was driving "at the moment"? To which I replied no. (I wasn't driving "at the moment", I was sitting in an exam room) That's good she said as legally speaking you shouldn't be..... Oops!

Then it was a short hop across the hallway and into yet another nice new exam room to meet the surgeon. This time a masculine voice (and therefore unattractive.... see above) introduced himself and asked me to sit in his special chair and place my chin on the rest of what looked like a nice new version of an ancient torture device. Light shone in my eyes followed by the comment "Yep, they're gonna have to come off". However it was his next couple of sentences that really got me excited. "We can only do one eye at a time as it hurts too much to do them both" (yay!) and "There is a one in eight chance that they will grow back soon after the surgery" (double and possibly triple yay!) this was followed by a slightly more comforting "Its a relatively simple 20 minute procedure and we do it in the room right next door..... Well the first time anyway". He then handed me a piece of paper and said to give it to the lady at reception and she would give me an appointment date for the surgery.

Fearing my luck with how quickly things were progressing was about to run out, I asked if there was anything I could do to temporarily improve my vision? I detected a slightly more excited tone in his voice as he told me that some form of reading glasses may help and that he had a new highly technical machine that scanned your eyes and worked out the appropriate prescription. He then led me to yet another nice new exam room containing what looked like a set of super long range binoculars from one of the Star Wars movies. Again I placed my chin on the appropriate rest shortly before hearing in a somewhat less excited tone "Your eyes are quite bad... the machine cant even take a reading!" Well at least I now knew where I stood!

On the way back out to reception, Lisa quietly commented that she thought the Doctors "bedside manner" was very blunt and cold however I had to disagree. When it comes to ones health I would rather a straight cut, no bulls*#t approach rather than some sensitive new age fairy dancing around painting supposedly pretty pictures. Anyways I was  soon to (hopefully) see just how straight cutting this guy was.

Upon reaching reception I smiled shyly, handed the lady my file and asked in my politest sweet puppy dog voice how quickly they could slot me in? After a few taps on her computer keyboard amongst series of "oooh's" arrrrh's and "that's no good's" muttered under her breath, she apologisingly stated the quickest she could possibly get me in was in 3 weeks time! I turned to Lisa and winked as I high fived-myself in my head before thanking her for her efforts and heading for the exit.

UPDATE - Monday 8th March

Three weeks rolled by pretty quick as time has a habit of doing these days and on the eve of my big day, with my font size enlarged to barely fit three words on my 27 inch monitor, I was happily checking out a selection of web pages when I heard the muffled sound of someone dry reaching behind me. I turned to find Lisa in the middle of a very bold attempt to watch the entire YouTube video of what I would soon to be experiencing first hand. Thankfully she then began explaining some of the better details of the procedure that she had read about earlier. Details like how they dose you up on Sodium Pentothal (truth serum) which keeps the patient relaxed and care-free for the entire procedure (they do this as the patient must remain awake for the entire procedure therefore they can only use a local anaesthetic and not knock you out with a general). Other details about how they now use a special glue to attach the graft over the bit they remove which only causes a slight discomfort for a couple of days rather than the obsolete technique which involved two to three weeks of waiting for an eye full of stitches to slowly soften and dissolve. Following all this, a recovery period severely tamed by the use of powerful prescription painkillers......

This should all be a breeze! What did that doctor mean by "It hurts too much"? He must just be a bit soft...... the big blouse!

The big day arrives so off we go... Yep I'm still driving.... Hey I made it there last time! Again we arrive safely and get whisked away to the surgery preparation area after a minimal wait.

Time for another quick eye test... The two or so hours of nervous sleep the night before did me no favours there either. Then back to the doctors exam room where I foolishly enquired about the gluing procedure only to learn "We don't do that here, we use stitches" GULP! The lovely nurse from the previous visit then arrived and administered a couple of drops of local anaesthetic into my eye and handed me a tissue before joining the doctor in quizzing other staff members as to the exact location of the microscope required for the upcoming event. It can't have been far away as only a couple of minutes had passed before I was ushered into "the room" and asked to lie on the table. At this stage I couldn't help but think "I hope this truth serum stuff works because I doubt those drops have been in there long enough to make much of a difference". The doctor then attached a green handy towel with a hole in it to my face with some kind of double sided tape before clamping my eyelid open and directing every light in the whole hospital straight into my eye. Wow this guy is going to fix the front of my eye but set fire to my retina in the process. Roll on the Sodium Pentothal!

WAIT! Always time for one more disappointment..... Turns out the Public Health System don't use this either, instead I received the comforting words "Hold your eye perfectly still. You are going to feel a bit of a prick" as he emptied half a syringe of local anaesthetic straight into my eyeball. I couldn't even look the other way.....

Did I mention that I never really liked Mondays?

Although it was completely painless, the next twenty minutes were the longest of my life. Time seemed to stand still as I was instructed to look up to the left, then down to the right, then over here, then over there.... THESE LIGHTS ARE SOOOO BRIGHT! He then emptied small a tube of goo into my eye, slapped on a patch, handed Lisa a prescription for my post-op pain relief and disappeared through the door way. I then turned to Lisa as her face was overcome with a look of complete and utter disbelief... PANADEINE... YOU'RE F#$K'N JOKING? Unfortunately not!

Well that didn't exactly go to plan. Time to get the hell out of here, I want to be in my bed before this anaesthetic wears off. I even did the sensible thing and let the wife drive us home. Lisa drives a little slower and more cautiously than me, probably due to the fact that she can still see all the potential hazards. She did a great job though and got me home in record time, just as the anaesthetic numbness was loosing its hold and being rapidly replaced by a taste of what I was in for. As I walked in the front door I gobbled down a couple of good strong sleeping pills that I had been saving for a special occasion, laid down on my pillow and went out for the count.

UPDATE - Tuesday 9th March

Woke up sometime that morning, pulled off the patch as per the doctors instructions.... goo everywhere.... cant even open the eye....

Up till now I believed things that had happened during my life had given me pretty good idea of what pain truly was. I was wrong.... so so wrong!

A handful of neurofen every 4 hours on the dot. Only two sleeping pills left.... I'll save one for tonight and one for tomorrow....

UPDATE - Wednesday 10th March

Woke up, pretty hard to tell what time of day.... Nurse/wife Lisa is doing a great job of keeping the house in complete darkness.... Can open my eye a few millimetres, not much point though, cant see a damn thing out of it.... Still hurts like you wouldn't believe.... More handfuls of neurofen.

At some stage of the day I manage to get myself together enough to make the decision that I wont get the other eye done. I will let this eye heal and just let the other eye go blind. You don't really NEED two eyes do you? Even more handfuls of neurofen....

UPDATE - Thursday 11th March

Woke up again.... Doesn't seem quite as painful today.... Cut the neurofen dosages right down to the recommended daily maximums.... In the dark I can open my eye about halfway.... Its too bright outside even with eye shut and dark glasses on.... All sorts of goo is continuously weeping out.... can see a little but everything very blurry.... 

UPDATE - Friday 12th March

Another day, more improvement.... Still pretty sore.... keep up with the four hourly neurofen.... As the day progresses the pain subsides a little more and eventually looses out to a feeling of horrible irritation. It feels like I have an eye full of stitches.... Funny that! In between droplets of goo I start getting moments of incredibly clear vision.... Perhaps this was all worth it. Bored out of my brains.... There seems to be a shortage of interesting things to do in the dark with your eyes shut! One good thing comes to mind (I must be getting better), but then what do you do for the other twenty three hours and fifty seven minutes?

UPDATE - Saturday 12th March

Yet another day, yet more improvement.... More irritating than sore now even getting to the point of feeling itchy. Surely that's a good sign. No neurofen at all today (the local chemist has enough of my money). Eye is pretty much fully open and swelling has gone down heaps.

My vision through the eye is so good that it is taking a bit of getting used to. Its actually making me feel a little nauseous, almost like a form of motion sickness. With dark sunglasses on I can even see outside! I manage morning stroll to the letterbox, there's a letter from the hospital. I open it and read it (did you get that? I READ IT!) Its my post-op appointment and surprise surprise, its on a Monday. By the time evening rolls round I feel so good I even manage to drive my son up to the video shop to return his overdue DVD's.

UPDATE - Monday 29th March

Its been three weeks today since the surgery. My vision is as good as I ever remember it being. The eye still feels a little dry some days and is still stuck shut with dried goo most mornings but apart from that feels great. Its still quite bloodshot but that can take up to six months to clear and may even remain slightly bloodshot in the corner permanently.

Went to my follow up appointment this morning. Was greeted by my usual nurse, although she definitely wasn't as attractive as I thought, she was still lovely! Her first comment was "It was painful wasn't it" I could tell she knew exactly what I had been through. She was quite impressed when I flawlessly read her the bottom row of the eye chart.

The doctor had a look and was also pleased with the progress. I was shocked when he told me that most of the stitches still hadn't dissolved. I was sure they had all gone already but have obviously become accustomed to them being there. Quite scary really!

He then filled out the paper work to start going through the process with my other eye.

Isn't it amazing how quickly you can put bad times behind you.

A few days pain but so much to gain!

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