Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Ongoing Occular Adventure

The first of these pictures were taken the Tuesday before Thanksgiving - the day John scheduled to get his second cornea transplant as well as a new artificial lens.  He was MORE than ready to make it happen - as we all knew this had to be "recovered from" before he could ever get back to fully functioning (much less be able to get back to work).  

Because Mikayla had the week prior to Thanksgiving off, she accompanied us (Brayden stayed with the Meyers overnight so he wouldn't have to miss high school).  It was nice to have her company in the waiting room and to assist with John post-surgery.

Checking in went fine.

The doctor came out to see me in the waiting room after only 45 minutes reporting a very successful surgery.  Excellent.  However, things went a little south after that.  (I emphasize a LITTLE...after his cornea nearly fell off of his eye in the past, this doesn't even compare).

It was 90 minutes after the doctor came out to us that we finally got back to see John.  He was in a TREMENDOUS amount of pain.  They had to dial as much as they could into his IV just to be able to discharge him.  (Later, it was suggested they should have done a "block" during surgery....you think?!).  We were told by one of the nurses that we've gotten to know over the visits that it's expected for the successive surgeries to be much more painful than any of the initial surgeries as the eye is already tender and not in full health.  John can definitely attest to that.

We also had to take into consideration the recent diagnosis John had received of "Hypothyroidism".  This means his thyroid is underactive.  HUGE kudos to my doctor, who is now his doctor too, that thought to have that checked and discovered that indeed this is a problem and he'd need medication to compensate for what the thyroid is not doing on its own.  It was decided he'd begun taking the medication after the surgery- and as such, none of the symptoms....low metabolism, weight gain, lethargy, mood swings - would be corrected and thus not at all a help in his immediate recovery.

We ended up spending the night this time around up in Portland.  Mikayla and I enjoyed the hotel's snack store for dinner and the hot tub while poor John slept and religiously took his medication as often as he could to stay on top of the pain.  (I want to emphasize again just how thankful I am to have a history of pain management - to know how important it is to "stay ahead" - to know what side effects to expect, the alternatives, the time it takes to kick in....etc.  I'm not happy for the reasons I have this knowledge, but am indeed grateful my own issues could be of assistance in these circumstances).   

The doctor was very pleased at the post-op appointment the next day with how the eye looked (indeed, it looked better than it had in weeks...not at all "red or pulpy" like before) and made promises with how fast John would feel better.  Yeah, kind of empty promises.

We journeyed back up to Portland nine days later for another check-up.  Again, he liked the look of the eye.  The pressure was great too.  But, of even greater interest to us were answers we got to ongoing questions.  John had been experiencing tremendous light sensitivity - it seemed to him (both the way it felt and how it looked in the mirror) that his eye was permanently dilated.  Well, that's because that is the case.  His pupil was permanently damaged from the earlier eye trauma (after the stitches were removed when the cornea detached) and it doesn't look like it will ever recover.   So, it is hopeful that eventually his brain will compensate for the fact that way too much light is pouring in and John will no longer be affected by the dramatic overexposure and glare he's dealing with now.  If that doesn't happen by his own brain, after a year, they could fit him with a contact lens that could compensate as well.  (Or do another surgery and impant a lens....uh NO!!!).

The other issue was the painfulness of it.  Well, again, we got some new in"sight" about why he's hurting so much.  Apparently, the doctors removed an 8 mm circle of nerve endings in the middle of his eye during surgery - recognizing that without those gone, he would never be able to bear the pain.  That's good, but it might have been important information to have been communicated post-op (instead of 9 days later) as those nerve endings are what helps a person sense if their eye is too dry.  In John's case, his eye was excruciatingly dry, but he couldn't sense that was the cause of pain to do anything about it.  Following this appointment and information, John was instructed to add artificial drops every hour to keep the eye lubricated.  (Eventually, once the eye is done focusing on healing, it will get back to focusing on regular maintenance issues, but for now it needs help).

I suppose we both left the appointment heartened by the information, despite some of it testifying to permanent impairments.  It's always good to know why you are struggling - and be given hope as to how to help alleviate and fix the problem.

John started feeling a little bit better, but it was still slow going.  He and Tyson had agreed that once John was able to function through a day without narcotic painkillers as assistance (that tend to do a number on him) - he could get back to work.  But, it frustrated John that the pain was not dissipating fast enough.   By the first Friday of December, John had had enough.  He ended the Oxycodone and dealt with a horrible 24 hours of nervous system jitters and shakes as a result.  Pretty horrible.  However, once we got past that Friday, we finally started seeing a steady improvement.

By the following Tuesday, exactly SEVEN weeks after last being at work, John returned to Tyson Steele Associates.  He was literally sweating during the drive over (quite a feat given the temps that morning were in the teens!) - nervous as to how he'd get through the day.  Upon arriving, Daniel (one of his best buddies there) commented on how good the eye looked.  John said, "You can see it?" - Because, in the last seven weeks, that eye has been closed 95% of the time....it takes active concentration to keep it open.  Sure enough, God saw to it that that morning it was time for that to change - and John's eye was opened (without huge glare issues either!).

He was kicked out the door by noon by both Tyson and Patty who were not going to have him overdoing it.  He kept up the half time hours all week because of those two.  (Patty threatened to call me if he didn't leave to go home and rest at one point).  Man, we are blessed by that work family. :)

This picture was taken when John returned home after that first day, and honestly, it was like a transformation happened overnight with him.  He looked alive, confident, sharp, capable - and felt like it too.  Talk about answered prayers!

He is definitely not at 100% yet, but is getting closer by the day.  It will be interesting to see what the thyroid blood test determines at the beginning of January - as so much of medicating that disorder is trial and error.  John is still very tired, needing naps every day, so I suspect his dosage will need to be upped, but it's difficult to be objective when you can't determine if this lethargy (and ongoing headaches) is due to his recovery or underactive thyroid.

No matter what, it can definitely be said, "John is back"!  Hallelujah!!!!

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