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How do you spell STRABISMUS?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Now that was strange!

When I walked through the garden this morning, it was like walking through a pop-up book.  Everything seemed to be in super 3-d.  The shrubs stood way out against the fence.  The pathway meandered in a way I never saw before.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if a giant bug had lumbered up and bumped me.

And I wasn’t wearing 3-d glasses.

In fact, I’ve tried 3-d glasses and I’ve never understood what all the fuss is about.  Now, I’ll have to try them again.

I had eye surgery a few days ago.  Seems that in my five decades of looking and seeing, I’ve not been seeing quite right.  A nerve that controls a muscle in my right eye wasn’t talking to that muscle the way it should have been.

I was clued into a problem about 15 years ago.  I went for an eye exam and the eye doc spent an inordinately long time asking me to look down and up and all around.  I was wondering what was going on when he stunned me by asking “Do you get seasick?”

Seasick!??  When I was working on my PhD in marine science, I spent weeks at a time out on research cruises (sounds far more glamorous than it was). Everything swam before my eyes. I threw up over and over again. Nothing helped.  Not looking at the horizon, not those purple pills you buy over the counter, not the scopolamine patches (they made me hallucinate).

It was pretty discouraging, not to mention humiliating.

And here, more than a decade later, a doctor was asking me about seasickness.  Why?
The way he explained it, each of my eyes saw in a different plane – one up and one straight ahead.  It wasn’t obvious when you looked at me, and my brain had long ago convinced my eyes that they saw absolutely correctly.  But, they didn’t.

The solution, he said, was a pair of glasses with prisms in the lenses.  Each lens changed my angle of vision slightly to bring them into the same plane.

That was fine until about a year ago, when I realized that I was seeing double when I looked down.  It made walking downstairs a bit challenging – I wasn’t sure exactly where the steps were.  The food on my plate didn’t come into focus very well.  And when I read, I held the book straight out rather than resting it in my lap, and I instinctively closed one eye.  Not real comfortable.

I mentioned my frustration to the ophthalmologist when I went in for my annual check up this year.  He fiddled around with his equipment, fiddled with my eyes, then sent me to a specialist.

The specialist fiddled with his equipment, fiddled with my eyes, then told me that I’d been misdiagnosed.  What I had, he said, sounded like stomboli. Or bismuth.  Or something Latin. As a botanist, I do Latin pretty well but I certainly didn’t understand what he was talking about.  Then he explained the whole nerve/muscle miscommunication thing.  Prismatic glasses are the wrong solution, he said.  He could fix my double vision with a simple (to him), 15 minute surgery!

“How soon can you do it?” I asked.

So, after doing my due diligence, I made an appointment and away we went.  That was last Tuesday.

Doc had warned me (again and again and again) that after the surgery, I would see double for a while – a few days, a few weeks perhaps – but that was part of the process.  Seems that my brain had integrated the mismatch so well for so long, that it would take time for it to unlearn the bad information and re-wire with the good information.
How cool is that!

After the surgery I was pretty wiped out.  The next day was Thanksgiving so I was totally consumed with cooking and company.  The third day, however, I woke with a pretty solid case of vertigo.  That was my brain hard at work trying to figure this whole thing out.
The vertigo was mostly gone by the fourth day, but I noticed that while my double vision had resolved in the near field, I still saw two when I looked into the distance.  “Come for a walk with me,” I said to my husband, “I have to get my eyes and my brain looking far away if I am going ever see straight again.”

I seem to be standing differently, too.  Eye doc told me that I had been tilting my head slightly to the right to compensate for my kooky vision.  “That will change,” he said, “but it will take a while for your neck muscles to readjust.”  Sounded odd, but today, I realized my posture is straighter and taller.  And the muscles at the base of my neck hurt.
Could this be the readjustment he was referring to?

This morning, when I walked down into the garden, I had that 3-d experience.  It was strange, but oddly thrilling.  Makes me wonder how my new vision will change the way I design gardens!

Walking is strange too, though driving is absolutely fine.  I seem to be walking more on the inside of my left foot now. The outer part of that foot feels like it is walking on a pillow. And I have the constant sense that I am listing to port.

Eye doc told me that fixing my eyes would fix other things too. I should no longer be so sensitive to bright lights (that will make my husband happy) and, I should be more photogenic.

That’s all great but I have to wonder –  will I also lose 20 pounds and be able to dance the samba?