Saturday, April 26, 2008

Requiem for a pterygium

Halloween is going to be different this year. In years past when kids would come to the door to threaten us in to giving them candy (saying something on the order of “nice house, I’d hate for something to happen to it”) I would poke my face out, eyeball first, and give them a flash of my pterygium (a.k.a. eyeball jelly growth thing).

Kids were usually not ready for my jelly, so they’d run away leaving me at peace, sometimes even dropping their candy.
    Note from the human decency department at BNB, Inc.: The following paragraph contains links to videos. Don’t click on those links. In the interest of retaining your most-recent meal, DO NOT view those videos. DO NOT. Should you at any time feel the irresistible urge to click a video link choose instead this delightful random video of a cute puppy. You’ve been warned.
But, alas, the pterygium had grown to the point where it was obstructing my vision. So Amy scheduled me for surgery to remove the pterygium and, on the surgeon’s advice, to additionally have a bit of skin removed from one part of that eyeball and grafted to where the jelly-thing started, to prevent it from growing back. I didn’t film my own surgery, but you can see videos of other pterygium surgeries here, here, here, and a whole bunch of them here.
    Second note from BNB Department of Human Decency: You didn't click on the videos did you? You did? Quick, watch puppies, that's the only cure.
Those surgery videos are taken from a different perspective than what I saw. I had an extremely close-up view of the whole thing because I was inside my head looking out. It didn’t hurt much since they’d shot up my entire eye region with lots of painkillers. Before the operation they gave me an IV of about an hours’ worth of anti-anxiety drugs, but the operation ran a little long so for the last twenty minutes or so I wasn’t feeling quite so comfortable and was appreciating my front-row view less and less.

Because I hadn’t been allowed to eat all day, I was very excited that when Amy picked me up she brought a chocolate éclair and a giant burrito.

The surgery was over with. I had lots of yummy food. I looked forward to hanging out with Amy and doing nothing. I was wearing an eye patch and shouting piratey “yarrs” as I ate the burrito. All was well.

And then the painkillers wore off. Oh. My. God. The painkillers wore off!!! The extra-strength Tylenol they recommended did nothing. A leftover vicodin from my last surgery didn’t touch the pain. A second vicodin did nothing. Even pacing, sitting, standing, turning the radio on, turning it off, laying in bed, pacing more, rocking, and grumbling “fuck fuck fuck” did nothing to ease the pain. I became convinced that the surgeon had left a scalpel in my eyeball (even as I was quite sure there had been no actual scalpels used in the surgery). It fucking hurt, get it?!!

So Amy drove me back to the hospital, to the emergency room this time. She tells me that check-in was very quick (because I was still wearing my wrist badge from the operation a few hours early and my paperwork was all still there) but to me it seemed to take forever, and the pain kept getting worse. At one point I learned that “climbing the walls” is not just an idiom, because that’s what I tried to do.

Then a guy took off my eye patch and put in a drop that in one instant stopped all pain. A miracle. Hallelujah! For twenty minutes of pure unadulterated bliss, no pain whatsoever. No feeling can be better than a cessation of pain. Then after twenty minutes the pain quickly returned. “I need another drop of that magic elixir,” I said. “No,” he said, “that stuff will keep your eye from healing.” “Don’t do this to me, man” I said, “I’m jonesing for another drop here,” I said, starting to shake a little like an instant junky, “I gotta have a drop, just one drop.”

They gave me morphine, then some more morphine, but that wasn’t doing much to ease the pain one gets when a part of the eyeball has become raw from having the skin removed, and keeps rubbing against the inside of the eyelid.

At that moment someone in a nearby room had their heart stop, or stopped breathing or something, which was fortunate (for me) because it distracted all the doctors and nurses long enough for Amy to sneak me another drop of magic eyeball pain remover. Thanks, Amy! They weren’t happy to know I’d snuck another drop (“it won’t heal, blah blah blah”), but I didn’t care because by then I was more interested in throwing up my éclair and giant burrito into the nearest receptacle. Morphine isn’t a fan of big meals, I guess.

About this time, as I was ejecting carne asade con frijoles, I had a moment of clarity and realized something. All of the certificates on the wall showed that these doctors had received their degrees from the Guantanamo Bay school of medicine. They weren’t interested in healing me so much as in devising a better torture technique, now that water boarding is frowned upon. I must admit, the technique of removing some skin from the eyeball, countered with the miraculous painkilling eye drop, gives them a good-cop/bad-cop torturing tool that would break anyone. It broke me, anyway, and I told them some things I’m not proud of. Sigh….

We switched from morphine to dilaudid, which worked a little better. I started to tell them I didn’t need to stay at the hospital any lon…. then I threw up some more… then I completed the statement that I was OK and could go him with my tube of dilaudids. I got outside the hospital doors just in time to throw up some more in the parking lot, and then to within a block of home before Amy let me out of the car so I could throw up some more. I’d like to tell you that some of our fancy-pants neighbors saw me then and shouted out there windows “we don’t want no drunks ‘round here” and I yelled back “I’m no alcoholic, it’s opium” but that didn’t happen.

Within a couple of days I was feeling a lot better, and could walk around and do semi-regular stuff, so long as I didn’t move my eyeballs around too much and stayed away from too much light. In fact, as this picture shows, I was looking quite debonair.

Now, a few weeks later, I’m quite all right, the stitches have been removed, and I’m feeling good enough to write it all down, along with a beautiful new poem:
    Requiem for a pterygium

    Goodbye, jelly thing
    You made the old men cringe
    And the young girls cry
Finally, for the sake of my conscience, I must come clean about something. During the torture session they extracted confidential information that good friends had thought was safe with me. To all of you, I’m sorry. Sorry, Pete and Ryan, for telling them about our 3-way. Sorry Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, and Phoebe’s twin from that other show, for telling them about our 5-way. Sorry, Seven of Nine, for talking about our 8-way. Sorry, Ted, for letting it slip that Mr. Hoffa was a second passenger in your car when you went over that bridge. And finally, Amy, sorry most of all to you for letting them know what your natural hair color really is—information I possess because I’m not just your husband, I’m your husband with benefits.


  1. Should we be offended that Matt & I didn't make your list of 3-ways, 5-ways, 7-ways, etc...? What are we, chopped pterygium?

  2. Keisha, I consider the 4-ways Amy & I share with you and Matt to be sacred events. I didn't want to cheapen those ceremonies, which so often bring us all tears of joy, by mentioning them in such a crass and public place as this blog.

  3. And I know you feel the same about our youthful intimate moment.
    But this loving post also brought sacred memories to me for other reasons.

    When I had my eye slashed, scraped & sutured, I felt great.
    So I went home, called my heroin dealer, went to bed, then a few hours l8ter, I called &called &called the hospital to beg them to take me back.
    Once I located my surgeon, who I never actually met, they hospital happily kept me happ while flat on my back for 5 days. Using whatever they poured into my squiggly tubes they kept me hallucinating, alternately from delirium and then from the blow: Shock and pain. The pain hallucinations were the ones I still recall however!
    I had a talking dog that I married in a respectful ceremony. It was tres avant garde... OK I wanna recognize here that my interior life exists in a SciFi plutopian future, not some Furry/breeder creep phantazy.

    and now I wanna back out of this.
    I Care Enuf to Take the Time to self-edit.
    To summarize: Avoid General Practitioners, laugh at dentists and oncologists, but do listen to your Emergency Room personnel and God Bless all eye surgeons kids! and remember, take all yer meds at breakfast. Some of them could save your sight.

  4. Scrabble:
    Did your surgeon give you those vid links? that's rilly rather generous of her.

    Now this one vid, #2, where the eyelashes have lost their springs and just lie on the cornea like a mop?
    to me THAT looks painful.
    HATE eyelash-scrachtchy-eye.

    But I only wish I could scrape 'n crush eyeballs away, all day, with scalpels.
    Thanks for the obsession.

  5. I'm going to have this done in August, now I'm really looking forward to the surgery!

    My sister had this done a few years ago, she said it's worse than child birth (she's 5'2"", thin and gave birth to 10.5lb baby)


  6. Hey I just had my pterygium removed I created a daily blog about post operation daily pictures. Come check me out.

  7. I was considering the surgery until I read this blog. I just feel like puking now...and crying... :(

  8. Even though it wasn't the best of days, if I had to do it again I'd still choose the surgery. Seeing the world clearly is a lot better than viewing it from behind a smeary jelly mess. In fact, since a pterygium has been growing in my other eye, someday I probably will choose to do it again. But this time I'm going to demand more anti-anxiety and stronger pain-killer drugs, and maybe just a chocolate éclair OR a giant burrito--not both.