Laura Purdy

Laura Purdy

I first noticed my floaters after my “refractive lens replacement surgery.” This surgery is almost identical to cataract surgery, except that I did not have cataracts. I elected to have this surgery because my prescription had become so high that I was no longer able to get spectacles I was happy with (aesthetically they were really thick and distorting…but furthermore…my vision was no longer being corrected comfortably.) My prescription before surgery was +8 sphere and -5 cylinder…add +2.5 for reading. I contacted TLC (The Laser Eye Clinic) and they told me I was not a candidate for laser surgery (because of my farsightedness) but I was a good candidate for Refractive Lens Replacement. At a cost of $3,500 per eye, I decided to proceed with the surgery. The surgeon was able to correct all of my farsightedness (amazing!) and almost all of my astigmatism (amazing also.) I soon acquired lens opacification, which I had corrected with a YAG laser treatment (they cut a whole in the lens capsule…very common procedure) My vision improved after this, but I noticed all the floaters around this time.

I went back to the surgeon and he told me to wait…floaters would subside or “my brain would adapt.” I had such a hard time working (especially computer work) and driving…they were magnified when driving. They never subsided and my brain did not adapt. Driving was scary because I was so distracted by them, swooping and bouncing constantly across my eyes; it felt like “chaos” in my eyes. I went to see several optometrists in desperation, they always checked my retina and assured me that everything was fine. They checked my vision on the Snellen chart and assured me that I was seeing well. I begged to be sent back to the specialist because I wasn’t coping with this so-called “normal condition.”

I went back to the surgeon who did the original surgery. He said “yes” I had floaters, but nothing to be concerned about. Most people can live with them. I told him I could not seem to live with them. He said he could send me to a retinal surgeon (Dr. S.) I said ‘yes’ please send me. In the mean time, there was quite a lengthy wait of 2.5 months to see the retinal surgeon. When I finally visited the retinal surgeon he was quite dismissive, telling me that I was “type A personality” and he virtually scoffed at my inability to deal with the floaters. I told him I was having trouble driving and working. He said “No, you’re not.” I asked “why do you say that?” He said, “because you’re seeing perfectly on the chart.” I said “but I can’t concentrate on anything.” He shook his head and walked away. Then he turned around and said: “Look, I can see how distressed you are. If you want me to do a vitrectomy, I will It’s a simple operation on my part…but you need to be aware of the risks.” I asked, “well, what are the risks?” He said, “infection, hemorrhage” I asked, “are the risks any greater than what I entailed with the cataract surgery?” He said, “well, not really, no…they’re about the same.”

I left that appointment feeling so ashamed and conflicted. I felt like a horrible person who was complaining about nothing. However, since I was so desperate, and he actually agreed to do the surgery, I booked it. I knew he was a reputable surgeon in a very reputable hospital.

In the meantime, I went to another retinal surgeon in Toronto, just for a second opinion, and maybe a more sympathetic response. Well, I felt even more dismissed with only three minutes in the chair. He said “yes, you have floaters, your retina is fine though.” I asked about the possibility of a vitrectomy and he said “absolutely not…30% chance of blindness.” He said: “I know people who are debilitated by floaters and I would never recommend a vitrectomy.” I said, “well, I heard the risks are about the same as with a cataract operation.” He said, well I don’t know where you heard that. Good bye and good luck.”

So there I was, left with the decision whether to go ahead with the surgery (with the reluctant surgeon who agreed to it) or to try to live with this condition. I ended up cancelling the surgery two days before the scheduled date, because I felt so uncomfortable, guilty and afraid.

I lived with the floaters for another six months before I went back to the original surgeon (who did the refractive lens exchange) and I said “look, I appreciate what you did for me…it is amazing how accurate you were with correcting my vision…I truly am grateful….however, I have not been able to enjoy my new vision yet, because of these floaters. I told him about my experience with Dr. S. I said: ” I am telling the truth. I can’t get used to them.” He looked at me and truly listened this time. He said, “well, I can certainly send you to another retinal surgeon, for a second opinion.” I said “yes, please.” He said he would send me to Dr. G. I was happy, because I had heard good things about Dr. G.

Well, finally I got to see Dr. G. His office did all the usual tests, he confirmed that my retina was good, pressures good, etc. He asked me what was the problem. I said “I am extremely disturbed by these floaters…I can’t relax, I can’t concentrate.” He looked again and told me that he really didn’t see anything major, but yes, I did have floaters and…”we can certainly take them out if they are really bothering you… There is some risk but not much.” He was very calm, non-judgmental, matter of fact. I asked, well…”which eye is worse…which eye should I have done first…?” He said, “hmmm…they are about the same.” He said, “you think about it, and let my office know.” I asked about the risks….I specifically asked if the risks were greater than with cataract surgery. He said, “no, not really.” I asked: “what is the main risk?” He said, “well, with any type of surgery, the main risk is infection.”

This time, I decided to go through with it. I knew that I could not keep living a compromised life. I knew how much mental energy I had spent dealing with these floaters, trying to ignore them, feeling guilty, questioning myself, dreading waking up starting another day….I knew I had to go through with the surgery and hope for the best. It’s not like I hadn’t done a ton of research, and checked out the surgeon’s reputation.

With much support from my family, and from a wonderful optometrist who just happens to go to my church and know Dr. G. personally…and who knows other people who had had their floaters removed by him (at least 2 of her patients…whom I talked to before my surgery)…anyway…on July 26th, 2014 I had a vitrectomy done on my left eye!

On the day of the surgery I was terrified, but my support network urged me on. The longest part was all the pre-op procedures. The actual procedure was comfortable, not scary, and pain-free. I was semi-awake. They gave me some amazing anesthetic. The experience was almost pleasant. After the surgery, my left eye was patched, I was wheeled out into recovery, and after having a drink of juice and resting for 1/2 hour, I was walking to the hospital cafeteria for lunch, feeling just fine. 3 hours later, the surgeon came to check my eye. He checked my retina, pressures, vision on the chart….he said it was all good. My eye was definitely bloody looking, and I had double vision (up and down double vision.) He said that was because my left eye had been clamped open and it was now out of alignment with my right. That would change and go back to normal soon. I had slight discomfort a few hours later, for which I took some Tylenol. I had to wear the patch until the next morning. The next morning I took the patch off (with much anticipation!) and my vision was perfectly fine…clear, no double vision, and…..NO FLOATERS!!!

It has been about 10 days since my surgery. I am deliriously happy. I feel like I have been let out of prison and I have my life back. I feel confident and relaxed again. I have hope. I am driving and working at the computer with so much less effort. I will say, my right eye is definitely full of floaters and is not ideal, but, I think I chose the correct eye to have done first…the left eye was the worst and was causing me the most distraction. It is SO much easier to deal with life and do all the things I need to do with one floater-free eye. I cannot tell you what a difference I feel now. The eye is just slightly red now, getting better every day. Still taking the drops. I’ll have my 2-week follow up app’t with Dr. G. on Thursday (August 7th.) Hopefully, I’ll get a good report….and I’ll be able to book surgery for the right eye.

If I had to do it all over again, knowing what I do now, I would do it without hesitation. I have heard, and now believe, that the safety and efficacy of this procedure has improved drastically in the last few years…with the new instrumentation that is available. I don’t know why it isn’t more accepted in the health-care community to do this for floaters. It’s such a strange gap in the system. This is something that is going to change…with advocacy from groups like this (One Clear Vision) and people who suffer from this affliction….I believe it must and will change.