May 022016

Having had a closed head injury type of brain injury aka concussion, I didn’t go through the in-hospital and surgical experiences those with skull breakage do. Although I’ve had scans, sat for hours in waiting rooms to see umpteen specialists, I haven’t had an invasive or surgical procedure since my brain injury.

I will soon.

I’m a tad nervous.

Because of my wonky heart and brain injury, I had a pre-op consult with the anesthetist. The take-a-number and wait forever part was familiar. And the are-you-related-to – yes, he’s my Dad – part was too. And the wait-and-wait-and-wait for a blood test was too. Even the ECG and inadequate blood lab staffing was familiar, only the surroundings were new: tired, old, cramped, in need of all that ego money that goes into shiny new buildings with rich men’s names on them instead of into services that serve patients, services like cleaning hospital bathrooms more than once a day or staffing ORs or blood labs or having enough specialists to serve the brain-injured population. But then who would know how generous you were with your millions if you can’t proclaim it in metres-high letters on the side of tall, glistening edifices? But I digress.

The surgery is on my eye with the scarred retina; it is to finish the job my brain injury weirdly began.

When I was tiny and living in Bombay, I had a bad case of the measles and had to be put in a dark room to protect my eyes. Yes, folks, the measles can blind you not just give you a bad case of the spots. I came out the other side with one eye having a scarred retina and a damaged or distorted macula. Whether it was the measles or coincidental, I don’t know. I saw eye doctors. My earliest memory of Canada is walking down a long hallway in the old Bell Wing, my hand in my Dad’s hand, to see the ophthamologist. The kind, talk doctor recommended eye patching to force me to use my scarred eye. The pain was intense; the vision like that of a darkened dream. I taught myself to use my hand and touch as a guide while I complained increasingly louder about the pain. The patch idea was discarded. Eventually, I got used to seeing only colours and shapes out of that eye, to not be able to count the fingers on one hand or maybe somewhat after cocking my head this way and that to get the fingers into the view of my functioning retina.

So you can imagine my shock when one day during acupuncture after my brain injury, I was lying face down, staring through the head support, and suddenly realizing I could see the tiles on the floor with my bad eye.

Um, say what? I blinked.

I eagerly anticipated my next acupuncture appointment to see if that was an hallucination. Nope. Fairly quickly over the months, I began to recognize the shapes as identifiable objects. Within a year, I had peripheral vision on that side. It made walking a jumpy affair. For years I had walked blithely unaware of things on one side of me; suddenly people, cars, squirrels began jumping into view. A bit unnerving. It took me years to get used to it.

After a long while, the light levels in that eye rose to match the normal light level of the other eye. Brighter vision makes seeing easier. I have no idea why everything was darker in that eye or why suddenly it was like a darkened lens had been removed, but it was … interesting.

And then one day, for a moment, my two eyes worked together, giving me true binocular vision and one heck of a surprise.

I had always assumed that through the magic of my brain, I could see 3D. I suck at estimating distance and size, I can’t perceive optical illusions, but I can tell when things are farther or closer or wider or smaller. And then that day when my eyes said, hey, lets work together, suddenly what I was looking at got fatter, showed more of itself, and popped out at me.

Whoa! This must be what it’s like for people when they watch a 3D movie. Neat!

I began manually able to do it myself. What I saw was clearer yet kind of vaguer. I guess that’s what happens when the brain overlays the sight from a cobwebby retina over an intact one; but as it happened spontaneously more and more and for longer periods, my brain, I think, filled in the holes, so it’s not quite as vague looking but more solid.

In the way of these things, the doctors couldn’t care less. Oh yeah, that’s interesting, they said, but beyond that – yawn. The biggest response I got was from my mother and neurodoc. And the eye docs’ Twitter account.


My neurodoc felt that the clearer, sharper, truer binocular vision I had when both eyes saw together would help me with my reading. Would surgery to get my scarred eye to track with my good eye in such a way to have permanent binocular vision and not rely on the sporadic-when-I’m-not-fatigued timings, help me read easier, physically speaking? Maybe it would cut down on my headaches during reading.

With heroic efforts on his part and my eye doc’s, I finally saw a surgeon, who said he could test it out with a prism. If it worked, he could do the surgery, but the benefit to reading was entirely my bailiwick.

It worked. And so I will go in for day surgery. The anesthetist will take a couple of extra precautions because of my brain injury, etc. It will be like Star Trek – I’ll have a process EEG! The electrodes will monitor my brainwaves so that they can precisely titrate the general anesthetic. It will also tell them if I’m aware (so will if I move as they won’t be giving me a muscle relaxant). That’s reassuring!

Recovery for a normal person is no big deal, they intimated. Nausea will be the worst part because of working on the eyeball. But I haz a brain injury. My brain doesn’t have normal resources; fatigue is going to be a big problem. I’m resting up for several days before and will after too. And I’ve stocked my freezer, but I wish I had homecare. Oh well. If I have no energy to even nuke something, I can always chew on chocolate!