There’s always something to howl about

The Blindsided Realtor

On January 31st I had a catastrohic retinal detachment in my left eye that rendered me blind (black, nada) for two days.  Two days later I had retinal surgery to repair the detachment.  This included injecting and filling my eye with silicone oil to keep the retina in place and the intraocular pressures where they needed to be.   In a followup visit four days later I had additional laser surgery to tack down the areas of the retina that needed it.  I was told during this time to lie face down 24 hours a day to keep the silicone oil pressing against the back of the eye.

Then, one week after the surgery I began to see a black shade covering my eye once again.  The retina had detached once more, and so for a few more days I was not just legally blind (the effect you get with silicone oil and the regular run of the mill retinal detachment surgery), but black, dark and very disturbingly blind.  It seems that the retina had not only detached, but there had been formation of retinal scar tissue in the wrong place.  This is a very serious condition called proliferative vitreal retinopathy (PVR), and if left uncorrected almost always results in permanent blindness.

Well, you’re saying, this is a real estate blog; not a Jerry Springer show or even an Oprah event.  And you all know that I’m writing this because I’ve had some sort of epiphany…right?

In truth, there hasn’t been an epiphany yet, and there might not be one.  I started off asking myself if there were any other “blind” Realtors functioning in America.  Turns out there’s a quite successful, totally blind, real estate agent in La Jolla.  So my hopes of being important because I couldn’t see just simply faded to grey like in a bad B-movie.  And any hopes I had for this being just a good story that I could share around the water cooler died this past week.

I was sent to USC Doheny Eye Center in Los Angeles by my surgeon here in La Jolla.  Was told his group was the “best of the best.”  Beth and I drove up, saw four doctors, including the big cheese himself, and came away with a plan.  Fluid had built up behind my retina, but there was a slight possibility that I could go home, stay face down for four more days, and by then hope that the retina was doing well enough to just “add laser” to keep it attached. 

Not to be.  I was able to stop my black shadow blindness, but the retinal fluid remained, scar tissue was still forming, and another operation was needed. 

I’ve had lots of opportunities to be afraid.  Sailing alone one “dark and stormy night” from the Channel Islands to San Diego I went up to check a sail and was knocked into the water.  I had the tiller tied off (the boat was sailing itself), and so when I went over if I had failed to find the boat and get back in I’d be left in the middle of the Pacific right in the path of the commercial vessels that traverse the coast.   Well, more likely that I would have died from exposure since the water temp was only in the low 50’s.  And I’ve also literally flown off the side of a mountain in West Virginia in my motorcycle, landing face down, removing just about all the tissue possible, and burning the h*** out of my leg and arms.  And more stories…but the point is….I wasn’t afraid.  I simply was not afraid.

But on Tuesday I’m going to have another surgery, and if you permit me, I want to let you know I’m afraid.  That’s certainly not an epiphany.  It’s not even newsworthy.  It’s a reflection of how I was blindsided by the reality of how a precious and unbelievable gift could be snatched away so quickly. Just reflect a bit with me.

The sensitivity range of the eye, which gives us excellent vision in bright sunlight as well as in the dimmest moonlight, far surpasses any film. The eye adjusts to 10 billion-fold changes in brightness.
Its neural circuitry enables the eye to automatically enhance contrast.
Its color-analysis system enables the eye to distinguish millions of shades of color and quickly adjust to lighting conditions (incandescent, fluorescent, underwater, or sunlight) that would require a photographer to change filters, films, and housings.
The eye-brain combination produces depth perception that is beyond the range of any camera. Engineers have yet to design a system that will, e.g., calculate the exact force required for an athlete to sink a basket, on the run, from 25 feet away, in a split-second glance.
Consider the combination of nerves, sensory cells, muscles, and lens tissue in the eye.
Light passes through the cornea, which has the greatest effect on focus. It is the cornea that determines whether someone is nearsighted, or has astigmatism. This is the part of the eye corrected by Lasik surgery.
The cornea is alive, one cell layer thick, getting its food and oxygen from tears. The tear gland not only feeds and lubricates the eye, but also packs enzymes into the tears that kill bacteria.
Then light passes through the iris, the aperture. People had no idea how intricate irises are until we started making biometric scanners for identification purposes. Whereas each human fingerprint has 35 measurable characteristics, each iris has 266. The chance that two people will have matching irises is one in 1078.
Passing through the lens, the light is further focused, a fine-tuning. Then it strikes the pigmented retina.
The retina has 127 million photovoltaic receptors – only 7 million of which provide color awareness and fine detail. The information of these 127 million receptors is converted from light to electricity and transmitted along one million nerve fibers to the 1% of the cortex of the brain.
As little as one photon can trigger a photoelectric cell; a flashlight, eg, fires 1018 photons per second. On a clear dark night, the eye can see a solitary candle flame from 30 miles away.
Think in terms of Polaroid Instamatic cameras that printed out photos rapidly, and compare. The retina never stops “shooting” pictures, and each fiber of the optic nerve processes one hundred “photos” each second. Each of those individual photos would be represented mathematically by 50,000 nonlinear differential equations, to be solved simultaneously. Considering both eyes, and allowing only five synapses (connections) to other nerves from the retina to the brain cortex, a 1983 Cray supercomputer would require one hundred years to process the information that your eye transmits every hundredth of a second.

Pretty impressive piece of equipment we all were given, yes?  I understand that 85% of everything we learn and know comes to us by way of our eyes.  If you will think about how you take in what you know, who you know, and how what you’re doing right now is made possible by the eye you’ll feel a little bit of what I’m afraid of losing.

Yet who among you has not suffered?  Just in the writings and musings in this one place we see mothers holding their daughters up for miracles, reputations bludgeoned and regained, the heavy hand of debilitating disease holding court in good men and women’s lives, friends in the throes of grief from the sudden or sometimes drawn out process of family members and friends, and doers of both great and small tasks in Haiti and other parts of our world.  

No epiphany.  Just wanted to share.  If you are a man or woman of faith, then ask God to do what will be best for me in His eyes.  If you are a 60’s hippie, take a hit and wish me good karma.  But no matter what your philosophical bent, ask yourself if you’re using your eyes, your time, and the wonder that goes with those gifts the best you possibly can. 

It’s no epiphany, but it’s a fact that how and what we see are miracles to those of us who are given the opportunity to reflect on a life without.  And thanks for giving me a Sue Silvester moment to talk with those of you with whom I share the bond of friendship.  I’m less afraid now.


21 Comments so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Real Estate Feeds and Real Estate Ninja, My REALTY. My REALTY said: The Blindsided Realtor: On January 31st I had a catastrohic retinal detachment in my left eye that rendered me b… […]

  2. Julie Burks February 19th, 2011 7:54 pm

    Hi Don,

    I, for one, will keep you in my prayers. I don’t claim to have a lot of pull with the guy upstairs, but ever the salesperson, I’m trained to “ask for the order”, so I’ll see what I can do.

    As someone who has poorly managed glaucoma in both eyes, I share some of your fears. My hope is that your surgery is successful and that you are back online soon, posting about your experience.

    Godspeed, my friend. I look forward to reading your future posts.

  3. Sean Purcell February 19th, 2011 10:40 pm

    Thank you for sharing your pain and your fear Don. I can only speak for myself, but it’s in the extremes of joy and despair that I am most dearly aware of how connected we all are.

    My thoughts are with you, of course. But in the end Don, my wish for you is this: with sight or without, your vision never falters.

  4. ralph berry February 20th, 2011 7:47 am

    I very much understand what you have and are experiencing. I have had diabetes for 60 years and have lost sight in both my eyes from retinopathy and poor management of my health. With laser surgery and fine medical help and finally deciding to manage my life style I can now see. Sight is sure a blessing. God speed and health.

  5. Greg Swann February 20th, 2011 9:34 am

    May god speed you to a full recovery of your sight, Don. Meanwhile, I think this is the best writing I’ve ever seen you do. Life is always a gift if you focus on what it brings to you and not on what it takes away.

  6. Teri Lussier February 20th, 2011 10:42 am

    God be with you, Don. Whatever the outcome, may the strength of spirit that resides so abundantly within you, keep you strong and moving forward.

  7. Don Reedy February 20th, 2011 1:04 pm

    Through tears I say to all of you simply thanks for holding my hand, helping me see, and giving me parts of yourselves you could have held for only yourselves.

  8. jeffrey gordon February 20th, 2011 3:12 pm

    Don, sounds like you are as prepared as one can be, the Pros from Dover running the show and family with your back. Personally falling off that sailboat sounds even scarier to me!


  9. Dan Connolly February 20th, 2011 3:50 pm

    I will offer a prayer for a full recovery.

  10. Charles Richey February 20th, 2011 7:51 pm

    I can relate. A few weeks before my 38th birthday I ended up paralyzed. For 3 days I didn’t know the cause or if they could fix it. We do tend to take things for granted. You’ll be in my thoughts. GET WELL SOON.

  11. Jim Klein February 20th, 2011 10:18 pm

    What a lousy story, Don…a lot of people are scared right along with you, and you’ll be in my thoughts this week. Just remember that you’re blessed with the really important things in life, and they’re all gonna be there Wednesday, no matter what. Get well soon!

  12. Barry Bevis February 21st, 2011 6:43 am

    Don, there is a Realtor at my board who is blind. He owns a ton of rental property and is always buying a new one, fixing it up and reselling them!

    Will be praying for you and a quick recovery!

  13. Steve Norris February 21st, 2011 3:38 pm

    Don I will absolutely keep you in my prayers. If it would help, even though it’s been thirty years, I’d take the hit, too. Fair winds and following seas.

  14. Chris Johnson February 21st, 2011 5:27 pm

    Man, bless you. I hope that all things go well.

  15. Cheryl Johnson February 21st, 2011 7:22 pm

    I’m sending my good wishes too for hope, strength, and healing.

  16. Don Reedy February 22nd, 2011 7:59 am

    Last post for a while. Beth and I are on our way to LA for surgery. Your prayers and thoughts have lifted me in ways I would like to express….but later.

    “See” to it that you enjoy each and every moment of this day

  17. Greg Swann February 22nd, 2011 8:49 am

    Hoping for the best…

  18. Ida Hyuji February 22nd, 2011 9:18 pm

    God be with you, Don. Whatever the outcome, may the strength of spirit that resides so abundantly within you, keep you strong and moving forward.

  19. Thomas A B Johnson February 23rd, 2011 10:31 am

    Don: I am praying for your speedy recovery-whatever the future holds. Godspeed.

  20. Teri Lussier February 24th, 2011 2:06 pm

    Thinking of you, Don!

  21. Mark Green March 9th, 2011 9:16 am

    Don, you will be in my thoughts and prayers. Get better soon man.