Tuesday 21 June 2022

My Blind Spot

It started on a Friday morning, when I had a lingering afterimage in my left eye. Like I'd looked at a camera flash the night before and it hung around to annoy me the next day.

So I took myself to an Optometrist to get checked out. He did this to me.

With my pupil the size of a saucepan lid, he could see a problem with my retina and recommended an Opthalmologist. The Opthalmologist said I had a blood vessel blockage in my retina and sent me straight to the Royal Hobart Hospital, as this sort of thing is sometimes caused by potentially fatal issues in your carotid artery.

After a CT scan, I'm told my arteries are fine, so I'm left with the original problem.

It turns out that your retina is actually a part of your brain. So I have had a stroke. In my eye. Weird but true. This is what it looks like in there.

Close up photo of Joel's retina

The yellow part is where the blood supply has been cut off. It may recover, partially or wholly, but probably not.

So I have a literal blind spot now. I can hold my hand there and it's like someone photoshopped it out of my vision. There's still a fuzzy background, as my brain stitches together the image around the problem area, but I can't actually see anything positioned there.

To give me the best chance of recovery, I'm doing hyperbaric treatments.

Joel wearing pyjamas and a special helmet in the hyperbaric chamber

A hyperbaric chamber is airtight and can be pressurised by pumping more air into it. It's like going 18 metres under the water, so for the first ten minutes you have to hold your nose and blow to equalise the pressure in your ears.

Once you're down to pressure, they put a 1950s style space helmet on you and pipe pure oxygen into it.

The idea is that they are hyper-saturating you with oxygen, which assists in healing for all sorts of injuries. In my case it is literally feeding oxygen in through the front of my eye, giving those retinal tissues the best chance of survival and regrowth.

It's been a pretty stressful weekend, as you might imagine. Losing some of your visual field isn't great. But I keep coming back to feeling grateful.

If this blockage had been 5mm to the right, I would be effectively blind in my left eye. If it had been a centimetre or two back, it might have killed me outright. It could have been so much worse.

And here I am living in Australia, where a dozen medical specialists have worked on my case and most of it hasn't cost me a cent.

And by the way, the most likely culprit for causing this mess is cholesterol. So please, ask your GP to check on yours!

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