Sunday, October 26, 2008

The story

In case you have a lot of extra time on your hands. . .

It begins in about 1998, when I went to see a new eye doctor. This was my first visit since moving from California to Oregon. Somewhere near the end of the visit, the doctor said, "hmm." He mentioned he saw a little astigmatism in my eye. "We'll have to keep watch on that and see if something's happening."

January of 2000, I noticed my vision blurring. So back to the eye doctor in Gresham. They assigned me a new doctor in their clinic, a young woman who split her time between this clinic and teaching at the optometry school in Forest Grove.

"Hmm," she said, and left the room. When she came back, she told me she had bad news. "You've developed karatoconus in your left eye." And thus we entered into a new world of eye treatment.

However. . .

My new pair of hard lenses came, but the left one didn't fit well. Which is somewhat expected. But then the next didn't fit, and neither did the next. "Hmm," she said. She was somewhat frustrated. One day I was in, and she told me there was a contact specialist in the other room. She wanted him to try and fit me.

He was a little, well, arrogant shall we say? A little patronizing toward the eye doctor. He all but said "I'm going to teach this young woman a thing or two." But after about 15 different attempts, it still wouldn't fit. So he made it my fault. "You rub your eyes a lot, don't you? You're blinking wrong. You squint too much."

Having no luck, they sent me to have a corneal scan done in downtown Portland. I went to the office, sat in the chair, and listened to them explain karatoconus. "In fact," the specialist said, "I'll show you on your scan here, just as soon as it prints. See, the coloring here. . .hmm. That's not normal for karatoconus."

So back I went to my doctor, who promised to keep working with me.

Three weeks later, she called my office. She sounded quiter exuberant. "I've got it!" she said. "I talked to my prof at the school, and he knew exactly what it is! It's called Peluccid Marginal Degeneration, and it's really rare, but we can make a lens to fit it."

[from the experts: Pellucid marginal degeneration (PMD) - is a rare condition whereby the lower cornea becomes thinner and the optic surface of the cornea becomes irregular and the vision becomes blurry. The resulting shape of the cornea is similar to a pregnant belly whereby the lower portion of the cornea protruding forward. PMD is often misdiagnosed as Keratoconus, although similar, the resulting cornea shape can be quite different. PMD often has cornea sizes similar to that of a regular eye but a very steep curve in the bottom of the cornea.]

So I got the new lens, it fit well, and life carried on.

Three months later I moved to Turlock. There were no eye doctors in Turlock, or anywhere nearby, who even knew what PMD was. So for six years, I lived with that lens. Which was often a pain in the dry, dusty air of the San Joaqin Valley. But at least I could see.

In 2000 we move to Lakebay. About that time I noticed the lens wasn't fitting well again. So Karina called around and found the local experts in corneal issues. I made an appointment, and went in and saw Ralph Archer.

He looked at my eye through the eye-looking machine. "Hmm," he said. "A problem?" I asked. "That lens fits like %#$#$"

Which is what began this second phase of eye treatment. It took about 8 trips into Seattle and about 6 different lenses to find the one that finally fit. All along he told me he was confident we could treat it with a lens. But he also kept saying I was one of the worst cases he'd ever seen. "If a typical ophthalmologist saw one or two like this in their lifetime, they'd be lucky." PMD is rare enough, but mine seems to extend even more deeply than most. As my mom always said, I'm "special."

So for a year or so, I lived with this massive lens in my left eye. It popped out all the time. It scratched my eye. In the words of the docter, it "beat up" my eye pretty heavily.

When it broke last spring, I made another visit to fit a replacement. "Hmm" said Ralph. "Are you interested in a graft?"

And after talking at length with Ralph, after consulting with Dr. Rotkis, after talking with others who have had corneal transplants, we made the decision to go ahead and have it done.

Tomorrow, around 3:30, the scalpal will cut and I'll enter phase 3 of this journey. Which, hopefully, will end up being the easiest phase. If all goes well, the cornea will be shaped relatively normally. No more PMD, just typical blurred vision, correctable by normal contacts or glasses. No more hunk of plastic in my eye, no more inability to look to the right, no more beating up of the eye.

I'm ready. It's time to get this done. I'm looking forward to not being "special" any more. Normal is just fine with me.


Beth B said...


"Grace pierces before it heals."

--Ricky Padilla

May the Lord be with you as you have your surgery, and may the experience give you new eyes with which to see his grace.

In Christ,


Brad Boydston said...

We're praying that it goes well.

Ann said...

Hi, Dan! May the peace of the Lord be with you during the procedure, and healing grace be with you in your recovery! Having just trained to be a "designated tissue donation requestor", I can now offer the words, "I know a guy..." ;-)
Ann F-R

I Am & Becoming said...

Hello Dan,
Estamos orando por voce aqui no Brasil.
May the Lord guide the whole process and increase and sharpen your vision in every aspect.
In Jesus' name.
Wainer & Magui and Peter

Kim said...

Prayers coming your way from the East Coast! May God's peace saturate you before, during and after the procedure, which I pray will be safe, routine and complication-free.

Anonymous said...

We're praying for you too, Dan... thanks for the excellent blog.

--Brian Johnson

Anonymous said...

Hi dan,
My jounrey isnt different from your;s :( . I am also a special person like U. we are traveling in the same both.
I am counting my days for the right eye(My left eye is already in serious state).
I would like u give one suggestion, instead of operation.. why dont u try "Boston scleral lens".....

Good Luck
keep blogging mate