Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Eyes - Part 3 (The Transplant List)

[This is a contination of the story of my eyes. Please read "My Eyes - Part 1 (The Diagnosis" and "My Eyes - Part 2 (The Treatment) prior to reading this.]

When the doctor told me I would need a corneal transplant my mind went numb. Because I didn't know much about the surgery I started imagining the worst. And since I like to write fiction stories my imagination went into overdrive.

One of the possibility is your eye could rupture. For me I was picturing a volcano type eruption coming from my eye. Then there was all the science fiction horrors I imagined. Like would I see things the way the donor sees things? Would there be cellular memory in that if I saw the face of someone the donor knew would I think I knew them as well? Let your imagination go wild with the ideas and I probably already thought about them.

But the two worst ideas I ever had took a long time to just come to grips with. I even have my moments now where those old feelings come back and I have to fight off the feelings of inadequacy.

The first feeling was that I would be turned into something less than human after the transplant surgery. On the surface this doesn't make sense because the donor cornea isn't coming from a cow or anything, but another person. Still human. But when I thought of all the crowns and root canals I've had done to my teeth and the moles I've had removed and the bone they filed off from my right heel I started to think that eventually I'd become something less than human. More metal and parts than human.

I've never been one to even consider plastic surgery for breast implants, or butt implants or whatever, but I started to wonder if those people (and I felt I was becoming one of them) are turning themselves into another species all together. And once I had that thought my imagination went wild. Would I have less rights as someone who's "all human"? While this thought is a gold mine for inspiration for writing a science fiction story it's not something you ever want to consider personally.

The second big thought/fear I had was "will I still be me?" It naturally sprang out of the first, "less than human", thought. Now I was thinking I was turning into something or someone other than myself. This surgery was going to alter who I was by hopefully making it easier for me to see, but would that be all it altered?

For the longest time I didn't feel like myself. And that was even before the surgery. Since I wasn't able to wear a contact lens in my left eye I really couldn't see very much from that side. It made driving scary and difficult especially when trying to navigate around the back of an elevator in a parking garage without trying to hit a car from the other direction. $3,000 dollars later in repairs to my car (and all the elevator had to get done was a new paint job) and I just didn't want to drive any more. I couldn't play video games very well. I couldn't read without concentrating so hard I gave myself a headache. And just walking down the hall left me dragging one hand along a wall of cubes so I could keep myself walking straight. I couldn't recognize anyone's face until they were right on me. Some people thought I was being rude not acknowledging them until they were right there when they had waved from far back. That was life for me and I had to live that way until my name came up on the transplant list that they had a donor.

My name went on the list in May of 2004. By October I knew that I should be having my surgery around January or February of 2005. My surgery did happen in February of 2005 and while I was grateful to finally have a date so I could get it over with it was a long time waiting and my imagination had control of my emotions during that whole time. I spent many lunch hours just sitting at my desk crying as quietly as I could so I wouldn't bother anyone around me. When the thought that you might lose your eye comes up and that every hobby you like to do requires you to see like reading, cross stitching and playing video games you do tend to cry . . . a lot.

There was a bit of a hiccup just before my surgery. When my annual benefits enrollment came around I switch health care providers. I wasn't going to stick with an HMO that was going from $50 a paycheck to $150 a paycheck even if I didn't have a surgery coming up. What that meant was that in January when I switched to my new provider I had to run around getting the proper documentation that the surgery I had scheduled in February was something previously planned, medically necessary and that I had been under care for this condition for at least three years. I think we got everything straightened out the third week of January and my surgery was schedule for Feb. 5th.

I think my surgery was schedule for 3:30 in the afternoon. It was going to be his last one of the day. And since I wasn't allowed to eat anything for 12 hours before surgery I didn't have anything after I went to bed the night before. But then again I didn't really sleep that night anyway. That sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know you have to do something horrible just grew and grew all night and day. I might have even cried all morning long. I don't remember much before the surgery. But I do remember the surgery, but I'll save that for the next post.

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