Brian doesn’t like it when I get on WebMD as I tend to overreact (noooo), even though I diagnosed myself correctly last time around. But I was worried. When it didn’t clear up on Sunday, I looked up ‘floaters’ and ‘snow’ and ‘vision’ and scared myself to death. The phrase “retinal detachment” does not inspire hope. Stories of blindness and horrible-sounding surgeries with long recovery times are everywhere. Brian made me stop looking at the computer; just call your doctor he says. Except it’s Sunday.
A bit of medical background… I am extremely near-sighted and have already had 3 different eye surgeries: PRK (to correct astigmatism) and then IOL (intraocular lens implant) to correct the near-sightedness (-17 diopter), both with perfect results. I had saved up thousands of dollars and waited years for this type of surgery to be perfected for someone of my bad vision. I could finally read my alarm clock 2 feet away and recognize immediately that it truly was my husband waking me up after a night flight. I was ecstatically contacts-free…for a year.
Then, a double whammy: my vision gradually blurred and I was diagnosed with minor cataracts in both eyes. That put me squarely in the 3% category of folks who have had IOL and get early-onset cataracts as a result. Boooo. So I had cataract surgery last year, 30 years before the normal age of 73-75. So let’s just say I’ve had more eye exams and surgeries than most people ever even dream of; I’m also a bit leery of problems. Bad vision and actually glass eyes, run in our family; not good odds.
So that Sunday, I got the number for the on-call ophthalmologist - busy, busy, busy. So Monday, we decide to attend our Spanish class anyway. It’s not like I am in pain, and I AM paying for these classes (yes we are taking Spanish classes, more on that later). Plus I have to wait ‘til offices open to call anyway. I already scoped out a local ophthalmologist online, Dr. Fausto Lechuga Ortiz. During the morning break I called to make an appointment. The receptionist spoke no English, all I got out of her was that I could see him on Thursday at 11. Well, not too bad but I wish it was sooner.
Then I call my Dr. in San Diego. I should have done that first but honestly, I didn't think I'd get through to my doctor as he is constantly in surgery. After passing me to several people I get his assistant on the line who remembered me and she tells me to make them see me right away, like right now. Now I am panicking. Tears in my eyes I can barely write down what she tells me to tell them: possible beginnings of retinal detachment. My eyes, being abnormally long, are susceptible to this more than most.
What is the best thing about being in a Spanish school when you need to get across to a Spanish-only person that this is an emergency and you can only hablo un poco? Spanish teachers who can blabber away like there is no tomorrow. I grab my Spanish teacher Marcela who has lived here her entire life and ask her to speak to the receptionist for me. She recognizes the doctors name and reassures me this guy is good (another plus), then starts in with the receptionist. She gets her to let me come in right now, even if I have to be seen between patients.
While we are getting ready to leave I speak with the owner of Se Habla La Paz who has actually had cataract surgery by this doctor and highly recommends him. Another instructor volunteered to drive us to the office and on top of that, went in with us to make sure they understood why I was there. Unbelievable. I cannot more highly recommend Se Habla La Paz for having gone above and beyond to help me. SO thankful.
I get to the office around 11am and wait only about an hour to be seen, get dilated, and by noon I have my diagnosis. Doc says in perfect English ‘good news, it’s a tear’. Wait, what? That’s good news? Yes, because it not detachment. It’s only a tear, easy to fix. Just zap, zap, zap with a laser and that’s it… like sewing a round patch over a U-shaped tear. But he wants to do it today, literally in 2 hours… don’t waste time and let it get worse. Tears become bigger with delay and will eventually become a detachment, which is much harder to fix and with decreased vision definitely possible, if not probable.
OK decision-time. Do I have it done here, in a foreign country with a doc I don’t know, right now, and get it fixed so there isn’t any chance of tearing further? Or get a flight back to SD. Problem is flights to SD from La Paz are not direct, so I’d have to take a 3hr bus to Cabo, get on a plane and get a car, etc. Logistics would take us the rest of the day, then I’d spend all day traveling the next day, then maybe I’d see my American doc by Wednesday, if I’m lucky. I have already heard good things about this doctor from several people. We met another American couple in the waiting room who live in La Paz and have each had several successful procedures there. She even knew what I meant by seeing “snow” and reassured me it would be fine. Mostly, I am afraid to let it go much longer (it’s already been 2-3 days) and to aggravate it by traveling. Decision made. Let’s do it now. Cross your fingers.
TO BE CONTINUED...PROBABLY TOMORROW