Having Patience as a Patient With a Little Help From My Cats

This is an older photo, but it gives you a sense of me at home on Tuesday prior to surgery.

Tuesday, June 26th was a hectic day. I was squeezing every last thing I could possibly jam into my life prior to 12:30 p.m., the designated time Dan was going to drive me to my scheduled vitrectomy surgery to remove a macular pucker that had developed my left eye after I had emergency laser surgery in January to repair a tear in my retina.  I did laundry. I cleaned my office. I paid my bills and like a mad lunatic, I sent about a dozen emails to various people at my day job, outlining projects they were already fully aware of what needed to be done with.

Being distracted kept me from thinking about the reality of what was going to be happening to me in a couple hours. When it was time to go, I grabbed my bag that I had packed with slipper socks, my iPhone, and my post-surgery medication. I wasn’t allowed to wear jewelry or makeup and the only food I was allowed was a piece of dry toast and a cup of black coffee prior to 7:00 a.m. I said goodbye to the cats as cheerfully as I could, photographing the image of each of them in my mind, as it started to sink in that I had no guarantees I would ever see them again as I did now.

When we arrived at the facility, reality set in and my nerves started to slowly unravel. I thought to myself, I was already handling living in a hazy world with the constant 24/7 companion of wafting wisps of what looked like grey smoke strands joined by occasional Doppler weather map black dots with yellow and red centers floating over my left eye. It was annoying and distracting, but I was coping. I also felt like my eyesight was getting better and so I wanted my eye examined again before I went into surgery, silently praying the doctor would tell me I was right and that I could go home.

After an examination, my doctor’s assistant confirmed my thoughts. My eyesight was better. She had me go back into the waiting room and told me my doctor would come out to talk to me. When he did, he didn’t share the same optimism I did. He said it was marginally better at best and he continued to recommend I have the surgery. He wasn’t unkind and he wasn’t pressuring me, but at this point, it was too late. I was in full-blown panic mode and all I wanted to do was leave.

The thing is, since birth, my right eye has never had full vision. If something serious happened to my left eye, I didn’t know what I’d do. And the vitrectomy wasn’t being done to improve my vision – that’s not the purpose of the surgery – it was being done to remove the distortion in my eye and the floaters. The surgery could actually make my eyesight worse. He had no guarantees for me and I knew that. The decision was ultimately only mine to make, which, of course, caused me even more anxiety.

I went outside for some fresh air and a few minutes later I was surrounded by Dan and the nurse who was waiting to assist with the surgery, which was now running late because of me. She talked me down from the cliff I was on and I began to stabilize my thoughts. I had no qualms about the proficiency of my doctor – he was offering me a chance at what he truly believed would be a better quality of life for me. I made the decision to go through with it, and once I did, it was surprisingly easy to let the nurse walk me into the surgery room without reservation.

Her name was Kathy and she was a cat lover. She had actually adopted a kitten several years ago that had been cruelly thrown out the window of a moving car by someone who clearly had no heart or soul. The cat was traumatized, but she said he is now more trusting of people and is a lovely and sweet cat. During our cat chatter, she put an IV into me for local anesthesia with some sleepy time relaxant and the next thing I knew, I was awake and being asked to get dressed to go home. 

Me after waking up from surgery. Ironically, prior to the surgery, despite my nerves, my blood pressure and heart-rate were surprisingly normal. I also don’t remember doing this “thumbs up” thing!

Coming home was a blur. My eye was heavily bandaged and I was groggy. I immediately settled on the couch and I vaguely recall Dan making me something to eat for dinner. I was quickly covered in a blanket of caring cats and per doctor’s orders, I had to sleep sitting up. The next morning I went back to the doctor to have the bandage removed and for a checkup. Even with the swelling and severe blurriness as a consequence of a gas bubble he had to insert into my eye which serves to press the retina back into its normal position and hold it until the eye heals, he could see improvement in my eye.

Me on the couch when I got home from surgery. Instant cat magnet – sharing the space with me is Zee and Zoey. I think by nights end, all of them ended up with, or near me.

And further good news, while certainly not fun by any stretch of the imagination, I had to sit, stand, and sleep in an upright position until the gas bubble dissipated, rather than in a head down position which would have required a special chair apparatus for recovery. He felt it would take about two weeks for the bubble to disappear and he was right.

In the beginning, the bubble is like having a gigantic carpenter’s leveler tool in your eye. You know the tool – the one you use to hang picture frames straight by leveling the liquid bubble to a straight line. The gas bubble in my eye had a huge black line going across it and it was nearly impossible to see anything. I also had to take 12 eye drops a day as well as a greasy ointment, so that distorted things as well.

Last Tuesday things began to change. The massive bubble turned into a silver dollar sized ball of filmy grey matter with a black ring around it. It covered my eye entirely and then on Wednesday it was about the size of a half dollar and it was moving downward, rather than covering my whole eye. Thursday it was the size of a quarter, Friday it was a dime, Saturday morning it was a pea and at approximately 8:00 p.m. that night, just like that, it was gone.

It’s a relief to have that part over with. My eyesight is still blurry – it could be for a couple more months – and I don’t know yet where my vision stands until I visit the doctor again on July 23rd. What I do know is that the floaters and distortions are gone. I’m able to drive and will be going back to work today for the first time since the surgery. Time will tell – I’ll probably have to have cataract surgery sometime in the next few years, but until then, I am blessed and grateful. I do believe my vitrectomy was done for my better good.

I can’t lie, however. It was excruciatingly difficult not being able to jump into the everyday routine of my life. My day job, the Cat Writers’ Association, blogging, social postings, cooking dinner, scooping cat litter, gardening, cleaning the house and more – all of that temporarily had to stop. I’m a multi-tasking, can’t sit down kind of person who constantly works at full speed. Now my life consisted of me and my cats living on the couch, watching endless hours of HGTV, the Hallmark Channel, Family Feud, the Young and the Restless, the Price is Right, Ellen, and the Talk.

Dan did his best to take care of me – I’m both claustrophobic, not doing well with close proximity assistance, and fiercely independent, so relying on others is not easy for me, even when I’m not extra-grumpy from trying to sleep in an upright position. But, I did it. And the company I shared with the cats was priceless to me. Without exaggeration, there has not been a single moment one or more of them hasn’t been by my side, providing me with purrs and comfort.  

The day after surgery – watching TV with Peanut, Mia, Zoey, Jazmine, and Zee.

I had my iPhone next to me at all times so I could snap memories of my recovery. This is Jazmine insisting she is a tiny kitten who can fit under my TV tray!

I had my laptop thinking I’d be able to go on the Internet, but it was too blurry and difficult for me to do, so I napped with Zee and Jazmine instead.

This picture was from Friday when my gas bubble was the size of a dime. With the help of my glasses, I was finally able to read a bit and really enjoyed the peace and quiet with Zoey and Mia as I dug into a book.

Sunday morning with Jazmine. My last day of solitude before going back to the hustle and bustle of work. I’m going to miss this aspect of my life tremendously.

Yes, I’ll be glad to get back to the minutia of my hectic life, but I also know I’ll be missing those blissfully peaceful moments I was able to share with them. I do hope I’ll remember to slow down more. My surgery taught me that all those things I thought I had to have complete control over, really aren’t that important in the scheme of things. What’s most important is my well-being. I’m grateful for my sight and I’m grateful for all of you – the prayers, emails, and comments of love and support from you all has touched my heart deeply.

I received so many well-wishes from friends and family. This fruit bouquet came from my co-workers and I’m certain Jazmine thinks it was sent to her.

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  1. Brian Frum says:

    I sure am glad all went well and you sure had a wonderfully furry nursing staff to help you out.

  2. Ingrid King says:

    I had been anxiously waiting for an update. I’m so glad to hear that things are better, but I can’t even imagine just how frightening this whole experience had to have been. I’m continuing to send lots of healing energy and purrs your way!

  3. Deb, I’m so glad to see you are on the other side of this surgery. It always sounds so easy–oh, I had eye surgery. But I can imagine, especially reading your account of it, how stressful and scary it is to actually confront. You had a skillful surgeon and that makes all the difference.
    The kitties sure do know that you needed their constant care. Overlooking the circumstances, I’d say this truly was a special time that you were able to spend with them and as the pain and the disabling factors of the event fade (well, let’s say I hope they fade) what will remain are those moments, those hours and that stretch of time you were able to devote to just being. Surrounded by so much love!
    Hoping that each day you see and feel improvements. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Kitties Blue says:

    Any surgery is scary, and I wanted to bolt a couple of times before my many surgeries. But facing the possibility of losing your sight had to be unthinkable. I am so happy surgery was a success and your life is getting back to normal. Also being someone who likes to have my finger in every pie and be in control, I can truly understand the frustration of being laid up. I went through 26 weeks of that in 2011 after a severely fractured leg. Having your clowder of furbabies and Dan to nurse you back to health was a blessing. I wish you all the best going forward, especially as president of the CWA. I know you will do great things. Hugs, Janet and XOCK, angel Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, angel Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth, Calista Jo, Cooper Murphy and Sawyer

  5. We’re sending our best purrs and lots of good thoughts that you continue to heal. Kisses to your kitties who obviously, are the BEST Healers in the World!

  6. da tabbies o trout towne says:


    I ‘m glad you’re getting back into the swing of things; give YOURSELF a round of applause
    and a pat on the back; and high fives and kudos, and all things we do to show appreciation..
    for someone////some thing….ya did great !!
    this post had me freaked and I wasn’t going into the operating room…scary stuff but I’m
    happy for you it’s over and I hope on the 23rd they say you can now see through walls 😉


  7. Carol Roe says:

    So glad your surgery was successful. It is scary when you need eye surgery. I had a detached retina and was in a lot of pain before surgery and pain free after. The sitting up while sleeping was hard for me. Having a pet nursing staff was the best part for me. Best Wishes and hope things just get better and better for you.

  8. We’re glad to hear everything went well. You have the best nurses (including Dan) ; we send you tons of healing purrs, and wish you a good and quick recovery. Purrs

  9. Mary McNeil says:

    SO SO glad that all went well ! Purrayers & POTP contuing for complete healing !

  10. We’re glad all went well with your eye surgery. You had excellent in home care…and lots of purr therapy.

  11. Wow, that’s some wild surgery! I’ve had a few eye surgeries in my life, as a child and young adult. So, I empathize with you there, and also having to rely on others when one is fiercely independent! My recent broken hand taught me about relaxing, and accepting help. Sending hugs and purrs for continued improvement!

  12. I’m so glad the surgery went well and you are on the road to recovery. Purr therapy is the best therapy.

  13. jmuhj says:

    As I wrote some time ago, I have gone through a lot of what you have endured, as well, and I say a Prayer of gratitude frequently for my amazing opthalmologist and his team, without whom I don’t know where I’d be and what I’d be doing.

    As for the surgeries you may face down the road, have them with confidence. You won’t believe the improvement! and after those operations you have already had, those will be very much less inconvencing to you. You have my email address in case you want any additional information or just to talk about the experience. We’re members of a fairly select “club”, aren’t we? >^^<

  14. oh that had to be scary!!! And….you couldn’t even see the premier of Big Brother!!! (you know I had to make a joke out of it), in all seriousness, I am so glad you are recovering well but feel awful you had to go through this! NOT fun!! Hoping each day is better and better!

  15. Ellen Pilch says:

    I am glad you are doing well and that your cats took such good care of you- Dan too 🙂

  16. Bernadette says:

    I’m just getting to comment on this, though I read it last week just to be sure you were okay. I’m really glad you had that enforced change to your life, frightening though the reason–but sometimes that’s what it takes to force us to give up control of things and only then find the ones most important. I’ll bet your cats purring all over you hastened your healing too, and I hope you have some years of freedom from more eye treatments and surgeries.