As I look back through my previous almost two years worth of travel blog posts, it would certainly appear that this lifestyle is all fun & games. It certainly is most of the time, and I would not trade it for for any other style of living. However, there definitely are times where the challenges outweigh the fun & games, and these past several weeks, and the weeks to come fall into those categories. Though I’m supposed to be at my next port of call by now, I had to extend my stay here in Portland, TX for an additional month. So, let’s get into why that was.
From The Beginning
In order to fully understand my current situation, I need to go back in time a bit. Towards the end of 2015, I had an eye injury known as a CRVO – or a Central Retina Vein Occlusion. In english, I blew a hole in the main vein that furnished my retina with blood. Pictured right is the aftermath of the event. In case it is not obvious, the eye on the left in the picture (actually my right eye) is the healthy one, and the one pictured to the right (my left eye) is the not so good one. At the time, there was no pain or anything, it was just that my vision had gotten blurred and hazy in that eye. Soon thereafter, I saw an Ophthalmologist who referred me to a retina specialist. The prognosis for the return of my normal vision was not good. But we tried a series of eye injections about every 4-6 weeks alternating between two drugs that have been known to help improve vision in CRVO patients. After about two years of that treatment, we determined that the vision was about as good as it was going to get. Usually vision is measured using the Snellen chart which gives results like 20/20, 20/40, etc. My vision in the left eye is rated as “CF” – or Counting Fingers. I don’t have enough focus and clarity in that eye to even see the giant letter E on the chart. But, I can can see how many fingers you are holding up.
So the treatment had been stopped for about 6 months now, and I had made a routine appointment with the Ophthalmologist to have a regular eye exam and to get my prescription updated so I could get new glasses. During that exam, he found that the IOP (inner ocular pressure) was high in my left eye. Having high eye pressure is also know as glaucoma. He prescribed some eye drops and told me to come back in a week. Just so happened that I also had a final follow-up appoint with my retina specialist the following week. He said bah humbug to the drops, gave me a shot, and within an hour the pressure was down. Turns out, I had the beginning of Neovascular Glaucoma. The vessels in my eye were producing new vessels to generate more blood flow to replace that which was lost to the CRVO. But in doing so, it wreaks havoc on the eye including blocking the natural pathways that allows for the outflow of fluids. Hence, increased pressure. The eye injection that was given is a product called Avastin, and almost immediately causes all the newly formed blood vessels to disappear like magic. Interestingly, Avastin is actually a cancer treating drug, but is widely used by eye docs in sort of an off-label form to treat things like Neovascular Glaucoma.
Game Of Cat And Mouse
So, now I retire and am about to hit the road full time in my RV, traveling around the country. What the hell am I supposed to do about my eye? The advise of my retina specialist was to get checked every couple of months and where necessary, get an updated Avastin shot. That seemed like a reasonable approach at the time. What I did not know was how difficult it is to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist, let alone a retina specialist, directly – without first seeing an optometrist. It’s definitely a racket! And that, coupled with the fact that many times I was only going to be in a single location for 1-2 weeks, certainly added to the complexity of seeing an eye doc. Despite the fact that it was a pain in my butt to get these appointments, I did my best, seeing a doc whenever I could, getting shots along the way thinking I was doing the right thing. Unfortunately for me, there were a few runs there of maybe 6 months where I was not able to see anyone. My eye didn’t hurt or bother me, so I figured all was good. Well, that turned out to be wrong too!
It All Comes To A Head
When I was in Michigan in the summer of 2019, I had my first high pressure event. It was very uncomfortable and painful. I got in to see a doc on a somewhat emergency basis, got a shot of Avastin, and by the next day was much better. I swore then that I needed to get this taken care of once and for all. My next long term stay would be later in the winter in Portland, TX where I’d be for 2 months. Certainly that would be enough time. Between Michigan and Portland, I had another high pressure event. This time, in addition to the shot, this doc put me on eye drops from samples she had in her office, and suggested that I see a specialist to permanently get on drops. So, when I arrived in Portland, I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. I told him my history, he did a work up, and did in fact prescribe some eye drops. I thought I was home free! Now I have a prescription for drops for the next year, and this should take care of the pressure.
Time For A Specialist
Well, not so fast there buckeroo. I had a followup with the Portland eye doc who prescribed the drops four weeks later. At about the three week mark, I knew something was wrong and they were not working. Pressure built, my eye was throbbing, and hurt like hell. I called his office and got in early to see him. He checked my pressure, and sure enough it was dangerously high. He immediately put in a bunch of other drops, then gave me a diuretic – all of which should get things under control. He also got me in to see a glaucoma specialist two days later. When I arrived to see him, the pressure was down, but his thorough workup uncovered that my natural drainage ducts were fully and permanently clogged with vessel growth. So, I needed two things – surgery to create a new drainage system, and also laser treatments to stop the continued growth of the vessels to prevent the new drainage system from also getting clogged. He put me on his surgery schedule for 6 days later, and got me an appointment with a laser specialist the next day. Next day, I see the laser specialist, he give me a shot of Avastin to clear up the current growth, then schedules me for next day laser. Well, that didn’t go well. I showed up, but my pressure was way up again, and was so bad it made my eye cloudy and he was unable to do the laser work. Instead, he performed a tap – which is where he inserts a long needle into the eye and removes some of the fluid that is causing the pressure. The relief was virtually immediate, so that went well.
Going Under The Knife
Fast forward a few days, and it’s surgery time – Jan 28th. I could not drive after surgery, so I took an Uber there so that I could then take one back. The pre-surgery work up was fairly normal, blood pressure check, temperature check, outfitting with a sexy gown, then the best part – getting some happy pills. In retrospect, I would have liked to have had a few more happy pills, or some Nitrous Oxide, or something else to help make me not care. I was a bit too aware and too uncomfortable throughout the roughly 45 min procedure. I had what is called a Molteno implanted in my eye. Sadly, it does not give me any new bionic capabilities, but hopefully, it will keep the pressure at a steady state. For those of you who are truly curious, and also have a very strong constitution, HERE is a YouTube video representation of the procedure that I had.
So after surgery, they patch you all up, and send you home, along with a handful of new prescriptions. My surgery was mid afternoon, so after I got back to the RV, I rested for a bit, watched a bit of Netflix, then slept as best I could. One of the many rules for the first week of recovery is to NOT sleep on the side you had surgery. I’m a side switcher – moving from my right side to the left side throughout the night. So, staying on my right side only was kinda hard. I had to get up early the next morning to grab yet another Uber (or in this case Lyft since Uber didn’t have any available drivers in the area at the time) back to the doc so they can remove the patch and check on progress. After removing the patch and squirting numerous drops in the eye, he began to poke, prod, and I think even cut into the eye as it really hurt. Anyway, he eventually stopped and said all looked good and sent me on my way. I need to go back in a week to see him again.
Well, The day after surgery was actually my birthday. One hell of a way to celebrate if you ask me! Actually, if this surgery goes well, and the pressure and vessel growth is under control, then this will ultimately be a wonderful birthday gift. I won’t have to be scrambling to see eye docs as I travel, no more eye injections, and no more emergency pressure problems. Instead, I’ll have more time to enjoy the sites of where I happen to be at the time, and to otherwise go back to the Fun & Games aspect of this nomadic lifestyle.
I write this blog to show you the other side of full-time RV living. There will be things that happen, things that required you to change plans. That is inevitable, and you just gotta go with the flow. My recovery is actually going well. Despite how it looks, the eye does not hurt, and I’m mostly nighttime sleeping and taking daytime cat naps as those seem the best for healing. I’m disappointed that I won’t be spending my month in Bourne as planned, but instead only a week there, and only a week in Abilene in order to make up the time lost here in Portland, and to get back on my schedule. But, in the end, I’m confident it will have been time well spent on something that was long overdue. Besides, the weather here has been in the high 60s and low 70s, so as far as being stuck in a place, this is not a bad place to be stuck. I hope my next blog will be back filled with more Fun & Games. Till then, safe travels everyone.