Retina Recovery Blog

Our goal is to help you answer some questions about your vitrectomy surgery and facedown recovery from our experience and the experiences of hundreds of others.
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My Facedown (Vitrectomy) Recovery Timeline

steve-timeline-for-vitrectomy-recovery

As I work with renters of our facedown recovery equipment I get many questions regarding the timeline of my vitrectomy recovery from the retinal detachment. Keep in mind that this is my experience with my surgeon. You have to be careful not to compare yourself to others. Each surgeon provides a slightly different protocol that is specific to you. This recovery protocol may be different if gas is used during the surgical procedure or oil is used in its place. Additionally, the reason for the vitrectomy (retinal detachment vs. macular hole repair) may also factor into your recovery timeline.

Recovery Timeline:

Retinal Detachment

  • May 2014 – I began seeing flashes in my left eye.If it was during the evening hours it was quite evident.It looked to me like someone had a flash camera they were using but I was the only one who saw the flashes.After a week of this I visited my optometrist, was examined and told that everything was stable.
  • July 12, 2014 - Spot on my Eye – Saturday at about 7:40pm.We were in the middle of a bathroom renovation and I had just finished washing out a bucket of drywall compound.When I returned to the bathroom I sat down on a stool and as I was discussing the next step with Tracy, a black spot appeared on my eye. I thought that maybe some compound had adhered to my eye.r text here ...

The Journey to Surgery

  • July 13, 2014 - Went to Emergency – Sunday evening, I decided it was time to visit Hamilton General Hospital to have my eye examined.  Despite the dilation of my eye the issue was not determined.
  • July 14, 2014 - Referral to Surgeon – Monday afternoon. On arrival at the Hamilton Regional Eye Institute I awaited my appointment anxiously unsure of what lay ahead.  By 5pm I was being ushered into Dr. Varun Chaudhary's exam room and told that this is serious and that for the next 10 days/nights after surgery I would need to have my head facedown (top eye lid, bottom eye lid parallel to the ground).  I was overwhelmed and scared about my future. 
  • July 15, 2014 - Emergency Surgery – Tuesday morning: I believe I arrived around 9:30am for my 11:30am surgery.  My surgery was around 60 minutes in length.  I didn't experience any pain nor did remember the surgery.  I know I was exhausted going into surgery and that no doubt helped knock me out.

Facedown Recovery (10 Day Protocol)

  • July 15, 2014 – Tuesday afternoon:  On release from the hospital we were told to look for equipment to assist in being facedown.  While Tracy made unsuccessful phone calls in the Hamilton and Toronto areas I tried to find a comfortable position facedown.  I transitioned from a camping pad to a foam mattress but was unable to support my head.  Several hours later we were able to find through a friend equipment to help in the recovery.  The facedown recovery journey had begun.  
  • July 16, 2014 – Wednesday Morning - Follow-up Appointment – My Ophthalmologist could not see my retina on this visit.  I learned later that the retina was blocked by blood.  The blood began to clear by 4 days after the surgery.  
  • July 16, 2014 - Eye Drop Prescriptions given.  Some people get their prescription list in advance. 
  • July 20, 2014 - Back for Follow-up Appointment – I was able to see a little bit of light at my appointment.  It definitely wasn't much. 
  • July 25, 2014 - Follow-up Appointment – I was definitely beginning to see more but I was still looking through the gas bubble.  Many people describe this as looking through an aquarium.  As long as nothing is swimming in the aquarium I knew I was fine.

** During my facedown recovery time I didn't experience any pain nor did I need a pain killer for a headache.Those who do are often dealing with a pressure issue and should have this assessed as soon as possible as many times it is a pressure issue.

Doing Nothing until Week 10

  • August 2014 – Gas bubble is fully absorbed at the 6.5 week mark.
  • August 2014 – I remember exclaiming to Tracy at about week 4 that I thought I was depressed.  I was watching the summer disappear and I was unable to much of anything … and wisely, I did nothing.  Looking back on my facedown time I have no regrets!  I have my site and post cataract surgery I'm thankful for 20/20 vision. 
  • August 2014 – During this time period I felt like I had sand in my eye.  I would generally experience this when in between eye drops.  I did call the office to describe the sensation and was told that it was likely a stitch that I was feeling. 
  • September 2014 – follow-up appointment – I remember asking whether I could walk my daughter to the bus stop.  There was some hesitation from my Ophthalmologist in his answer but I was given permission to walk the 200m to the bus stop and back.  Caution was always offered in any interaction with Dr. Chaudhary.

Returning to Life as Normal

  • October – follow-up appointment – I made an appointment after I discovered I couldn't see my hand in the 6 to 9 o'clock area  of my left eye.  The area was not black. It was not grey.  It was simply not there.  I was told that I would lose some vision at the outset but I was definitely scared with the possibility that my retina had detached again.  All was good though.  Despite losing some vision in that area of my eye I function very well.

Driving – About the second week of October, I began driving again.It had been over 2 months since I had positioned myself behind the wheel of a vehicle.I survived and so did others with me.

Exercise – I was scared and worried about returning to some of my favourite activities of running and cycling.Since it was late in the season, I opted to wait until the spring of 2015 before pushing myself again.Motivation was at play and I didn't have much of it for this type of activity.

Returning to Life as Normal

  • November 2014 – Since my eye had stabilized I was told it was OK to go and see my optometrist for a new prescription.
  • December 2014 - Optometrist for new glasses - If I recall currently, I was given what they call a slab lens in my surgery eye.  The goal of the slab is to prefent any potential double vision that could arise from the difference between my left and right eyes. The slab lens was like a bi-focal except  the difference between the upper and bottom part of the lens was 1) separated by a a very distinct line and 2) the prescription was very different. I tried to use the new prescription for a month or two before asking for a full lens.  I found that I was always looking at the line.  A few short weeks later I received the new lens … ah, relief!  My brother-in-law also experienced the same issue.
Questions to Ask Your Surgeon after a Vitrectomy
6 Steps to Successful Eye Surgery (Facedown) Recov...
 

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