10 March 2017

Ptop Ptips for dealing with a Pterygium

First things first - a pterygium* is a growth on the eye. (*Warning: do not click on that link if you are in any way squeamish, especially about eye related things. Also FYI it's pronounced ter-ridge-eeum...) Science-y types are not completely certain what causes them, but they are associated with excessive exposure to sand, wind and sunlight. They are apparently pretty common in Australia, a country known for its abundant UV rays. 

I had no idea they existed, until I visited an optometrist a few years back and was told I had one in my right eye. The optometrist said to monitor it, and to consider getting it removed at some point - if they encroach on your pupil they can impact vision. Since then, my pterygium has been going from strength to strength so recently I had to have it removed. Yay. 

Now, most eye surgery - especially laser surgery - is apparently a breeze, a Summer's stroll in the park, a warm evening watching the sunset on a deserted beach. But removing pterygiums? Apparently that's a bitch. Every, single person you encounter along the fun path to pterygium removal surgery will, with a grimace, tell you how painful the recovery is. They'll tell you that you'll feel like you've got grit in your eye for a month; that there's a darn good reason *they* still have their own pterygiums intact; that you should take a week off work (ha!). 

I had my surgery last Tuesday, and whilst it's not the most fun, it's definitely not the worst either. In case you're facing your own eye growth removal, here's a few more thoughts: 

1) Waiting for the thing is most definitely worse than the thing. Just the thought of having someone touch my eye, heck no! And then surgery and anaesthetic, most definitely heck no! (I'm very lucky that I've had pretty limited dealings with hospitals and medical procedures. I always wonder about the people who have to deal with this s**t day in, day out. How tough and strong and just getting-it-done they must be.) 

In the days leading up to the surgery I tried not to think about it, but when I did it'd set off a mild panic. But then it happened and it was okay. Surreal, but okay. Everyone was lovely and clearly knew what they were doing. The anaesthesiologist knocked me out efficiently and effectively - it was the best five minute nap of my life - and then while I was under numbed my right eyeball and half my face. During the operation you're awake but you can't really see what's going on; one eye is covered by a blue sheet, the other one has been knocked out so whilst you can kind of see shapes and light and dark you're not getting a visual of the scalpel, needle or thread. Thank goodness. 

2) Give yourself a day doing nothing afterwards. Anaesthetic really knocks you about, even a little of it. And your eye will be all puffy and swollen and exhausting to open. I basically spent the day after lying in bed, with my eyes closed, which is not something I ever normally do. But it was necessary. Also I can highly recommend a loyal dachshund if you're looking for a daytime snoozing pal. 

3) Have a pain killer ready for about twelve hours post-op when the local anaesthetic really wears off. And make it a strong one.

4) Get your hands on one of those gel ice packs, so good for the swelling and pain in the first few days. Highly recommended.

5) Buy a big bottle of saline solution (you know the stuff people use to clean contact lenses?). Then when your eye is gummed up with gunk you can squirt some on a tissue, clean it all off and feel vaguely human again.

6) If you're like me you'll draft yourself an overly ambitious to do list of all the things you'll get done while you're not at work. Awesome. Just don't have reading your way through your book pile or binge watching Netflix on there. Not until day three anyway. You just had eye surgery, remember? 

7) Get someone to send you flowers, even if that's you. My Mum sent me some little flowers, so sweet! 

8) Tell the world and get as much sympathy as you can. I'm not sick very often, at all, so I kind of had to milk it. Plus someone took a scalpel to my eye, I deserve a little sympathy! (I should clarify - I want sympathy from afar. If you're sharing a house with me then get the feck away with your sympathy and  questions and just leave me alone as much as possible, are we clear?) 

9) It's not nearly as bad as everyone kept telling me it was going to be. It's only early days but I've hardly touched the painkillers. My eye looks a little red and gooey and gross, and it is fairly irritating, but I'm not writhing around in pain. Maybe all those people telling me to expect the worst was a good thing, because the reality can't be nearly as bad as the expectation? A bit like watching Finding Dory?

Long story short - I'd definitely prefer not to be managing three different types of eye drops or wearing sunglasses to dinner so as not to shock my fellow diners right now. So, protect your eyes people! Whether your biking, hiking or skiing, wear sunglasses, wear goggles! Whatever you do look after those eye balls, and then hopefully you'll never have to learn to how to spell pterygium...

Looking nervous pre-surgery.
(Note giant arrow so anaesthesiologist sticks
giant needle into the correct eye.)

Looking relieved post surgery.