Some experiences are so particular -- sui generis, unlike any other you've known -- that the memory of them is hard to hold onto. Already my first treatment seems like an hallucination: my right eyeball numbed, the prod of a stylus marking a spot on the lower right hand corner -- no pain, just the odd feeling of a bit of pressure on the eye, the surface bouncing back as the point is removed. Then I'm told to look way up to the right, so as not to see the needle approach. What sounds more horrific than a needle in the eye? Though in fact it doesn't hurt at all, just a curious sensation of having been punctured or entered, and then -- seemingly in seconds, a bit of the vitreous gel from within my eye's extracted to lower the pressure, and -- swoosh, though of course there isn't and sound -- a bubble of gas is injected in its place.
There are cloths covering my face, only the right eye open to the right open to the various lights that are coming and going, and with the advent of the bubble follows the most extraordinary lightshow: the bubble, refracting light, goes flying up to the top of my eye, pushing back dark floaters and bits of stray gelatinous matter, all that darkish flotsam receding, and suddenly the view goes simply blank, all white, as though I'm looking at the screen of a crashed computer. Then, as though that train of thought has generated the visuals that come next, appear little squares of color -- hot pink, black, chartreuse, gray, flicking on and off, rearranging patterns, like some kind of animated composition illustrating, what, jazz? It's pleasurable, this show, and then it's gone, and in its place a bright sky half blue and half golden yellow, bits of weather moving through, and it fades to the dark bulk of the opthamologist's head, and the miner's lamp on his forehead.
Bend over, he says, put your face between your legs. And I do. In a while there's a resident on his back, on the floor, looking up into my open eye, and ah-ing, and then there's another. They are so pleased and proud of their work! My eye is indeed far more clear, and floating in the enter of my vision is a round blue bubble, bobbing a little, for all the world like a contact lens on the surface of a swimming pool.
The ten minute procedure took two hours, though indeed most of that time involved dilating, being eyed (so to speak) by many residents, and the overall general happiness about the procedure. Instructions for recovery: keep your head face down for the next two weeks. Ninety per cent of the time. My immediate response is: impossible. More or less impossible. And come back in two days for laser treatment to seal the tear; meanwhile the bubble will be holding my ripped-open retina (which I'm imagining as a frail, iridescent film, something like fish scales but more delicate) in place.
(more to come)