I’ve had a scare. I noticed something odd in my eyes last Wednesday, but only as I prepared for bed on Thursday did I realize that I had a distinct shadow over the peripheral vision of my left eye. The next morning I had emergency surgery for a detached retina. Right now I have a patch on my left eye, which is more or less useless. My doctor is optimistic that I’ll regain sight, but it will be weeks or even months before regular vision returns.
Your retina is a thin, light-sensing membrane lining the inside of your eyeball. When it tears, it can also detach itself from the eyeball, ballooning inward. That’s what happened to me. (It was hard to recognize because my right eye “filled in” the shadow, and if I tried to “look at it” with my left eye, the eyeball rotated and the peripheral blockage disappeared. Only when I covered up my right eye and looked straight ahead could I see that my peripheral vision was blocked.)
Ah, modern medicine. The surgery used lasers to stitch up the tear and attach the retina to its proper place, while removing the clear gel from my eyeball and replacing it with a bubble of gas. That gas bubble pushed the retina back into place.. My vision will return as the gas is slowly absorbed into my system.
So I’m in a very weird state. When I view the world with my right eye, the usual detailed, bright, colorful world leaps into my brain. If I close my right eye and look with my left, it reminds me of early adventures with a microscope: I can see something, but it’s blurry and distorted, as though refracted through jello. If I hold my hand close to my eye I can make out fingers and the gleam of my wedding ring. But if I extend the hand out, I can’t see it at all. I’m clearly looking through a semi-transparent gel, which quivers and shakes if I move my head. And at the very top of my vision is the top (actually the bottom, because everything is reversed) of the bubble, a meniscus that I can see shifting as I move my head. The outside world is there, and I can see it a bit—but it’s almost useless to me.
Now I recognize as I never have before that sight is not automatic. It depends on a remarkable mechanism embedded in my face. One half of that mechanism is broken. The other half could break too. The vulnerability frightens me.
I depend on my eyes, on my ears, on my nose, on my touch to connect me to the world I live in. If these mechanisms break down, I become isolated and alone. The mechanical aptitude of my body includes the brain, of course: when that breaks down, I stop functioning altogether.
Yet it’s impossible to imagine that “I” stop. No more than the world ceases to be when I can’t see it, do “I” stop existing when I am cut off because my mechanisms break down. I depend on the mechanisms, but I am not just them. God can restore the mechanisms to me. He will. That is what resurrection means.
Tags: detached retina