There's gotta be a first time.

I registered for a race happening tomorrow.  I'll admit to being nervous but not for usual pre-race reasons. I had eye surgery six weeks ago. No, not lasik. I had strabismus surgery. It was my 4th surgery; my last surgery was when I was 5. I was born with strabismus. I could get into all the technical terms but I'll spare you. Prior to my three surgeries my left eye was turned into my nose. The third surgery for the most part corrected that, but it left me not being able to look right with my left eye.
After the third surgery at age 5 my left eye was reasonably centered. As I got older it gradually moved to the corner of my left eye. Sometimes it bothered me sometimes it didn't. However about 9 months ago I don't know what changed, but I was having some visual issues I'd never experienced before. If I looked out of my left eye I would get, for lack of a better word, tired.
I should probably explain that I look out of one eye at a time. I can see out of both, but pick one to look and focus out of. My brain picked my right eye because it could move left to right whereas my left eye could only move center to the left. I will never have depth perception.
Prior to this latest surgery I had a blind spot but I could also practically see behind my head on the left side. My peripheral vision was awesome. My vision was sort of a huge landscape (which I kinda miss).
Anyway, I went to see an optometrist to see what I could do. He recommended surgery. He feared that my inside muscle of my left eye had possibly fallen off, worst case. I scheduled the procedure for about a month later and waited.
Most people experience this surgery in twilight sedation. I had to be put completely under because he thought he'd have to go digging for that muscle. I don't really remember surgery as a child, but I don't think I had the leg booties that inflate and deflate.
I woke up in a room with John stoned out of my mind. It felt like I was out for days. I asked him how long, he replied, "an hour".  They cut the muscles on the left side and the right side muscle hadn't fallen off but he said it was like an overstretched rubber band just hanging there. 4-6 weeks recovery time and I'd definitely fall into the longer category because of my prior surgeries.
The first day wasn't such a good time. I was dizzy and was seeing double. It was also a little more painful than I was expecting. Though not terrible enough to where I felt like I needed major painkillers.
I felt like the anesthesia stayed with me for a long time.
The next few days I was seeing completely double. Watching the Blackhawks in the playoffs I was literally watching two televisions. It was so hard to track the puck. The next few days I had a major distortion going on, like I'd see two sidewalks, one would be straight and the other would be on an angle. This was worse almost. It's also when I kept walking into walls. I thought I broke my toe one afternoon from slamming right into one.
For weeks I had to walk with my hands out to the side, kind of like feelers. I obviously couldn't drive. I had awful balance and I couldn't concentrate. I also had a non-stop headache.
My brain was re-learning how to process images (still is). For years it saw one image straight ahead and then another off to the side. Now my eyes were looking in the same spot. The brain is amazing, though I think it was giving me the finger for the first 4 weeks.
One day I decided I had to ride my bike. Probably the worst idea ever.  A number of things happened on that ride that should have made me go back home, but I'm super dumb when it comes to riding, so I didn't. Remember when I said I could practically see behind me on my left side? Well that's usually where cars come from. I about pissed my pants the first time a car passed me. It was like where the hell did that come from!? I also was super dizzy on the bike. I felt like I was gonna vomit and a few times I felt as if I were going to tip over. At the same time it was the best day since surgery.
It took me a long time to even attempt off road.
A lot of things have been weird. One that really sticks out is when walking across this bridge at the mesa I used to only see one foot walking, now I see them both. Last week was the first time I was able to get on a bridge and ride.
It's six weeks later. I still have some redness on the inside of my eye. I can't look left while focusing with that eye without getting "tired", but I can tell it gets better with time even still. I have some minor spatial issues. I still have issues riding at speed, "skinnies", and riding between trees. And I'm way out of shape, fitness wise and just body wise.

almost weekly. first one stoned from anesthesia, far right- if i looked up like tha prior to surgery my left eye had a pulling sensation. bottom one from tonight. it's been 35 years since my left eye could turn that way.

I have so much more to say about it but this is long enough.

So... I'm looking forward to tomorrow sort of, but also real nervous. I think it's good to get out of your comfort zone once in awhile.


Kim said...

this post made me feel queasy/curious/empathetic and mostly hopeful that you experience a good, safe race.
All these years (?!), I've been reading your blog and marvelling at what a badass mtb racer/rider/mom you are and didn't know about your vision issues. Fascinating stuff, especially given the fact that I take for granted my spatial awareness/depth perception every time I get on my bike. Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

Unknown said...

Thanks Kim! I've lived with no depth perception my whole life so I don't know any different. Luckily the worst seems to be behind me. I'm glad I decided to race.