1/29/09 - 9:25 PM - Post-Surgery Update

I'm sitting at home after surgery, and am frankly amazed at how well everything went...although not without a few bumps...

I showed up at the surgery center at 11:45am, and was escorted in almost immediately. I sat down in a chair and was asked a number of questions to make sure I was who I claimed to be. I guess I passed the test, because they hooked me up to oxygen and an IV. Everyone was very nice and made me feel very comfortable while I was waiting before surgery.

The anesthesiologist came in and gave me something to make me "feel better" - I am assuming it was something like Valium via an IV? He then proceeded to give me a series of injections into my face and eventually into my eye in order to numb the entire area. He asked me a few times if I could feel anything, and I couldn't. They then wheeled me into an operating room and layed me down flat in the chair I was sitting in.

Dr. Rapoza then entered, and told me that they were going to get started. The anesthesiologist then gave me another IV injection which made me feel warm, even more relaxed, and a little more sleepy.

The next part was really surreal. My right eye was closed, but my left eye was held open via some type of device...I don't know what it was. I could see out of my left eye, though it was quite blurry. Dr. Rapoza then proceeded to cut my old cornea out, and lay the new cornea on top of my eye. I was fully awake and talking to the doctors the entire time. When they removed my old cornea, I could not really see anything except light, and very faint shapes. When they put the new cornea on my eye, I could make out a little bit more, although still mostly just blurry.

Dr. Rapoza then proceeded to sew the new cornea into my eye, and let me just tell you, it is pretty weird to see someone stitching up your eye as viewed from that same eye.

On a couple of occasions, Dr. Rapoza asked me to raise my chin, and a few other instructions, but at no time during the operation did I feel any real pain. Near the end, I started to feel a tugging on my eye as he put in one of the stitches, and I asked them if everything was ok. They stopped what they were doing, and gave me some additional numbing drops, and some additional sedation. (I still felt the tugging, but no real pain, and I was calmer from the sedation.)

After the surgery, they wheeled me out of the operating room and into the waiting area. They put a patch and gauze over my eye, sat me up in the chair, and asked me if I wanted anything to eat or drink. Since I hadn't eaten all day, I had a cup of coffee and a banana nut muffin...mmmmm good.

After that they asked my wife Caroline to come in, and gave us some instructions for the night ahead.

One of the things they told us was that if I had anything resembling a severe headache accompanied by vomiting and/or nausea I should call the emergency number, as it could be pressure building up in my eye.

We then left, and I almost immediately started to get a severe headache. I have to say it was one of the worst headaches I've ever had, and I had been given two extra-strength Tylenol, which were supposed to alleviate the pain. Needless to say, we turned the car around and headed back to see Dr. Rapoza.

When I got back to the center, they sat me down and called for a technician. The nurses thought the headache may have been due to low blood sugar because all I had eaten was a muffin and a coffee, so they brought me an apple juice and some crackers... The nurses asked me if I got headaches when I hadn't eaten for some time, and I responded that it almost never happens to me, as I eat pretty regularly. One of the nurses commented that I looked pale. They ended up giving me a percocet for the pain.

A technician came in and tried to get a pressure level on my eye with a hand-held device, but for some reason couldn't get a reading. The nurse thought the difficulty might have been due to the Bacitracin (sp?) in my eye, which is an antibiotic gel-type goo. They then took me upstairs to get a reading on a bigger machine, and the pressure in my eye turned out to be just fine.

While I was upstairs, Dr. Rapoza came to take a look at my eye, and commented that everything looked great. His exact words were, "That's a fine piece of tissue you've got there." He thought the headache might be due to the anesthesia wearing off.

We then proceeded to drive home, and my headache slowly subsided over the next couple of hours. I think the percocet helped a lot.

It is now almost 10pm, and to be honest, I feel really great, all things considered. Although my eye hurts, the bandage is off, and although looking like Igor (how the nurse described my now droopy eye), all in all my eye looks pretty good. (I will post some pictures over the next couple of days, some of which we took tonight.)

My wife Caroline (who is typing what I am saying right now so I don't have to look at the computer screen) got a chance to look at my new cornea through the microscope when Dr. Rapoza re-examined my eye. She commented that what she expected to be a bloody mess actually looked clean and clear, with a tiny thin purple thread stitched around the edges. She was nervous to look, but Dr. Rapoza encouraged her to do so, and she's glad she did. She could see the stitches in the microscope, but can't see them in plain air.

I am about to go to sleep now, and have an appointment tomorrow morning at 9:15am. A very large thank you goes to the 53 year old man who was otherwise in excellent health, who passed away due to a heart attack. This is all I know about the man who donated my new cornea, but I owe him a debt of gratitude. Hopefully I will be able to write a thank you letter to his family to let them know how much his cornea means to me.

I know this sounds strange, and maybe I am crazy, but when I cover up my right eye (the eye with my original cornea) and look out of my transplanted left eye, although the vision is quite blurry, I think it may already be as good as or potentially better than before my transplant... Hopefully this is just day 1 vision, which gets much better over time...


  1. Brent,
    You can write a note to your donor's family and send it to the Eye Bank (ask your surgeon's office for the address) The eye back will forward it to the family for you.

  2. Wow.
    What a tale.
    Glad to hear things went as well as they did.
    I have KC myself, so it's always great when people share their stories.
    If things go as planned, I will be undegoing a Collagen Crosslinking surgery in the spring here in Vancouver.
    Anyway, best of luck in the recovery and thanks again for the blog.


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