A Vision Quest – My Experience With Retinal Detachment

After emerging victorious after a fun and refreshing bodyboard session at Ocean Beach yesterday, I turned to watch my husband, Mark, catch some more waves. As I stared out at the surf zone which was strangely gray and foggy, even as the beach was bathed in sunshine, I noticed that my vision was filled with small black dots. When I blinked and the dots did not disappear, a fear rose up in me. I turned to look at sunbathers on the sand, and the dots seemed to dimish; but they were really stark and obvious when I again turned towards the fog.

I've had floaters in my eyes for years, and have paid visits to the eye doctor because of them. He has said they are something I'll just have to live with, and explained how as we age, the viscous gels in our eyeballs get thinner and more liquidy; thus, the floaters are more noticeable. I've gotten used to the floaters and try not to concentrate on them, or they simply drive me crazy. A deep blue sky unfettered with clouds is like a canvas for the various shapes – like dust particles – that live within my eyeballs.

Well, these small black dots were nothing like the floaters I to which I had grown accustomed. This was something else. I thought about what could have caused it, and realized that I'd been rattled pretty good by a major wave that broke right over my head. I decided to relax and let the dots subside.

Later in the evening, when night fell and I walked outside, I noticed a slight flash that seemed to occur every time I blinked my left eye. With that cold fear once again gripping my heart, like one of those squeeze balls, I went on the Internet and googled "eye black dots flashes". After reading that these are all symptoms of a detached retina, and that ignoring the problem could lead to blindness, I resolved to call my eye doctor first thing in the morning.

Dr. Newman got right on the phone with me, and suggested that I see a retinal specialist immediately.

About an hour later, I stood on the first floor of the medical building waiting for an elevator. Quite a crowd had gathered, as two of the elevators were out of order. Finally, the middle one descended, opened, and we all crowded in, after a large man wheeling a woman in a wheelchair. When we arrived at the third floor, a woman in the back wanted to get out, so a few of us moved aside to let her through. She said in a panic-stricken voice, "I need to get off on this floor!" It seemed like the man wheeling the woman was trying to hem her in and not let her get off; she stood there, a little cowed by him. He said, "Have some patience. There are more of us who need to get off here." She stepped off, and then he followed with the woman in the wheelchair saying, "Although there are those who feel they're more privileged than others, it appears."

There was a man in green scrubs who looked at me as the elevator doors shut. "Well, look who's talking! That seemed like the pot calling the kettle black, did not it?" The look on his face was so classic, and his timing was so brilliant, I broke up laughing until tears came to my eyes. We both got off on the fifth floor, and I told him, "Thanks, I really needed a laugh." Then we both went our separate ways.

I was called into the exam room almost immediately where a female technician asked me some background questions and applied eye drops.

And then, the doctor entered. It was none other than the man in green scrubs who had made me laugh on the elevator. When I saw him, I knew everything was going to be all right.

As he examined my eyes, he said that the retina was not yet detached, but that it was poised to, so if I could lay off any jostling activities for the next six weeks, and let this trauma settle down, I'd be okay . He said, "Give peace a chance."

Apparently the symptom of floating black dots is something that occurs in many people as they – ahem – get older. So heads up, everyone. Keep your eyes open (pun intended) for such symptoms, and then if and when they occur, pay a visit to your friendly ophthalmologist.