As it’s Thursday, it’s now two weeks since I had a corneal graft, and thought I’d just do a bit of a quick update on what’s happened since. Headlines – it’s going well. There’s a bit of improvement so far and more to come over the next year!
The actual surgery itself takes about two hours under general anaesthetic, and that’s probably the most anxious part for me. I’ve had a couple of anaesthetics for other things, and always find it quite stressful but the anaesthetist was absolutely lovely, really reassuring and warm and friendly, which is such a great help! I was also really pleased I was first on the surgery list. We did all the getting changed into the gown and stockings (to prevent blood clots, nothing kinky!), injection to thin the blood, and checking medical history – and asking about twenty times which eye we’re working on! I also had to draw an arrow over my eye, just to be sure.
I woke up with a massive bandage and plastic patch on my right eye (thank goodness the arrow worked!) and, as ever with a general, struggled to wake up properly. Still, it takes the time it takes, and you gradually feel better. Then you’re allowed to sit up properly, have tea and toast, and get dressed. There was quite a lot of instruction as well, so definitely a good thing Dan was there to listen to most of it, as well as it being written down.
We were home by about five, which I thought was great. I couldn’t wear glasses, as the bandaged eye was too bulky, so couldn’t really see anything but I was very tired anyway so mostly just lay on the sofa listening to the tv until it was time for bed!
Pain was far less than I feared it would be. They’d given me a local anaesthetic to reduce pain, and also inserted a contact lens which acts as a barrier between the stitches and the eyelid to give a bit more protection for the first week or so.
The next day, I had to take off the bandages and clean the eye, which made me a bit nervous but was fairly straightforward, just boiled water and some cotton wool, and a very careful hand! There’s medication to take for the first three days to reduce pressure behind the eye, and drops to take every four and two hours for four weeks. Easier to keep up with when you’re not at work and getting into something and realise you’ve missed a drops window!
The first few days, my eye was very red and bloodshot, and very sensitive to light – grateful that when we redid the living room before Christmas we installed dimmers on all the lights! Avoiding bright screens or sunlight for too long was also necessary.
Three days after surgery
A brief visit to the hospital to check pressure – all fine – and see that the swelling/bruising in the eye is already starting to go down. The lens will stay in a little longer.
The first week, I was pretty tired but not in much pain (I will keep harping on about this because I’m so relieved!) because I had some very decent painkillers, and the bandage contact really did its job. It more often feels like there’s sand in your eye, which obviously you can’t rub away. Mostly, it was keeping on top of the drops and not pushing myself too much. Definitely noticed if that had happened in the day.
It’s also surprising how much requires bending down or lifting – both banned! Even things like loading the dishwasher or reaching to the bottom kitchen cupboards.
One week after surgery
A further check-up – am now allowed to drive, which is very helpful. Everything still seems fine, the stitches look good and pressure is low, which is important. They took the contact lens out, which frustratingly has increased the irritation again – I suppose because the lens was stopping the stitches rubbing against the eyelid. With keratoconus, rubbing or rolling your eyes can often relieve the soreness of your eyes – obviously you’re not supposed to do that before but you really can’t do it after.
It’s also weird but kind of cool how you can see the outline and the stitches:
Vision is also definitely improving, which is exciting! Driving home at night (Dan driving, not me yet!) there was very little glare and gaoling around the lights, which for the last couple of years have made night0time driving very stressful and difficult. And when I went to the check up I could read two lines on the sight chart! Also amazing – the time I went before the op, I couldn’t even see the sight chart. It’s still up and down so some days it’s less than that, but some days it’s more, as the cornea settles and flattens.
Two weeks after surgery now, and the irritation is starting to diminish more. The drops are working better to lubricate it, I think, and I’m definitely feeling more like I can be a bit more active. Still no lifting / strenuous activity or leaning down, but normal day-to day stuff is fine.
I find it incredible, that they’ve been able to do this – literally take a piece of me out that wasn’t working properly and replace it with a bit that is. It’s fantastic, and weird, and awesome. The stitches will stay in for another year or so, and I’ll be taking anti-rejection steroid drops for about nine months. The vision will continue to improve over the next year – I’ll probably get a new glasses prescription in a couple of months when it’s settled a little more. I’ll still need glasses – if nothing else, my left eye’s short-sighted, but the blurriness is already less, my vision’s improving, and it’s just brilliant!