Hi, my name is Ben.
This is how my two-second mistake has turned into a Lifelong Headache.
Now, if you’ve ever relaxed on the job safety, either to get the job done fast or for any other reason, I hope my misfortune will encourage you to rethink.
The back story.
Finished grade 12, started, and completed, my apprenticeship as a carpenter.
Later upskilled with Certificate 4 in Civil Supervision and now have moved into a Supervisory roll in the Civil Construction and Maintenance field.
I love what I do! I live in hope that my two-second mistake hasn’t changed what I’ve worked over 20 years for.
An eye injury that I thought was fixed but has now returned to cause uncertainty and unknown consequences.
My two-second mistake.
In 2003 I was working as a Carpenter. I was young, carefree and not always concerned with the consequences of my actions.
One day at work I lifted my Sunglasses onto the top of my head. This is the “two seconds” part of my story.
I was working inside and as I was hitting a High Tensile Concrete Nail it shattered and I felt something hit my left eye.
If you’re still reading this, you’ve probably had something in your eye at some stage of your life and had to blink your eye to get it out. If that didn’t work you probably did as I did, grab your eyelid and pull it out and down over your eye in the hope the object in your eye moves. Again, you try to “blink” it out, or wash it out.
I took 5 minutes going through these moves with no luck.
I thought maybe it would clear itself and so I continued to work thinking I was fine.
Now I’m a typical Bloke that hates going to the Doctor unless the bone is hanging out or the bleeding won’t stop. However, I spent the next week driving to work around Sunrise holding my hand over my eye for at least 30 minutes on and off, trying to get my eye to adjust to the light.
After a week I thought enough is enough. I took myself off to the Medical Clinic to get it checked out.
The medical staff couldn’t find anything wrong but to make sure had me go to Emergency at the hospital.
What followed was a round of eye examinations using microscopes, x-rays, eye drops and examinations by more and more people. It seemed like an endless round of waiting and ever more examinations.
Finally, the verdict was in!
They found 4 to 5 tiny shards of metal inside my eye.
I was told that I need to have surgery that night to extract the metal.
What would go through your head at that moment?
I thought for sure I would lose my eye.
The operation needed to take place immediately. The surgeon explained the risks of the surgery and how it had to happen immediately, or the eye would be lost to the foreign object and the associated infection.
I was told to fast (no food or drink for six hours) and to wait for the operation.
I kept reflecting on how stupid that two-second move was when I lifted my sunglasses onto my head.
My beautiful wife was by my side and the nervous wait began.
My mind was full of so many thoughts about the outcomes of the surgery.
Will I be able to drive?
Will I be able to work?
What will I do if this doesn’t work?
At just 21 years of age, it was too young to be having these thoughts but it’s impossible to turn your mind off, especially with the endless waiting.
After 6 or 7 hours dealing with these extreme thoughts, I was called in for Surgery and put under a General Anaesthesia.
The following day found me in a private hospital room with a patch over the eye and no clue of what had happened.
My eye was taped shut and an eye patch placed over it. I had no idea if the operation was successful or not.
Finally, the nurses noticed me gaining consciousness and call the Doctors to come and see me.
From their accounts, the surgery went well. They retrieved five tiny particles of the nail from my eye which they showed me. The tiny pieces, at a guess I’d say less than half a millimetre each, looked like specs of dust. They were sellotaped to a medical chart.
I was told they cut my eye open and used a magnet to remove the metal.
They then stitched my eye closed again.
Can you imagine they can even do this; cut your eye open and then stitch it closed again?
I stayed in the hospital for two days where the endless round of activity resumed. Check-ups on the Microscope, eye drops, waiting, more people looking, drops, waiting again.
I didn’t care!
The entire hospital staff could’ve looked down the Microscope now because I knew I still had my eyesight!
After being released from Hospital there were daily check-ups. They turned to weekly, fortnightly, monthly then six-monthly.
There was a final check-up which revealed no problems and perfect 20/20 eyesight.
All good so I thought;
I was back to work 2 weeks after the operation, and I thought all was well!
The only scar I had on my eye was a cloudy 2-3mm round piece.
It was located where my Iris and Sclera meet at roughly nine o’clock or where the white of the eye and the eye colour meet.
This scar stayed the same for 15 years and I never had any problems.
My eyesight was perfect, no light sensitivity issues and I’d occasionally have to tell the story from time to time when somebody noticed the little scar on my eye.
Every person I’d tell the story to would have watery eyes by the end.
It still blows me away to this day thinking of how if this had happened a few years earlier I’d have lost my eye as the technology was not available.
Now to the Headache!
This is the part of the story where the Lifelong Headache starts.
Fifteen years after the operation while at work one day, I was rubbing my eye.
No dust or foreign objects went into my eye.
I looked in the mirror and was horrified to notice the little scar had doubled in size!
All those terrible thoughts came flooding back.
This time I did not wait.
I went straight to the Emergency Room and told them about the situation.
The endless round began again. eye drops, waiting, microscope, more people looking, more drops, waiting.
I left the Hospital with more drops and was told to come back the next day to the Ophthalmology centre.
There I was told that they had never seen this before and were stumped as to what had caused it. This news from a Doctor is never good right?
So again, I was given more eye drops and told to return in a week.
These check-ups went on and on during which time the scar was getting bigger and was now forming a blister that was growing over my eye and pupil.
The light sensitivity was getting worse and the eye was watery.
My sight was starting to get cloudy, but the eye tests always returned a 20/20 result.
At one check-up I knew something was very wrong.
My infected eye couldn’t read the first line in the eye test and the Doctor informed me he’d need to operate again or within 3 months I’d completely lose sight the sight in my eye.
This time I wasn’t as nervous due to already having the previous operation that went well and the technology has gotten even better since.
Just a quick opp get the cyst out and stitch me up.
I was told I’d be under General Anaesthesia, however, about twenty minutes before the operation, while going through all the questions (height, weight, smoker, how many beers every week, etc.)
I was told I’d be awake! WHAT!!!
The Doctor tells me I’ll have a heavy sedative but will be awake.
The nerves just kicked into high gear again.
I tell myself that this procedure needs to happen so suck it up, Ben.
The procedure was to last about thirty minutes; however, the doctor found another Cyst that the machines couldn’t pick up.
The cyst had formed into three, each joined together.
The Doctor explained that it was like dumbbell weights being joined by the bar.
The operation lasted one hour with me awake the whole time but under the sedative.
I could see four dull reflections from the theatre lights above but near the end of the operation, the sedative had started to wear off.
The Doctor knew I was feeling pain but I was told that the Anaesthetist had already given me two shots of morphine and I couldn’t have any more.
Now, tell me you don’t have watery eyes when I tell you this, but I could feel them pulling, cutting and stitching on my eye. I was half awake and there’s nothing I could do but lay there and take it.
I’m blinking right now telling the story!
I was sent home after the operation and went back the next day for a check-up.
What I didn’t know until now was the Endone, the heavy pain relief, made me go to the toilet – a lot.
Due to fasting the previous day I was severely dehydrated the next morning.
When I awoke, about two hours before my appointment, while sitting at the kitchen table I told my wife I wasn’t feeling so good and I needed to vomit.
That’s when I passed out only coming to when my wife pulled my head back.
I remember thinking that I was leaning back (Huh!)!
By now my wife is freaking out. I had passed out but I’ve got no memory of it.
I told my wife I needed to go lie down. She helped me walk from the table to the bed but we only made two steps before I passed out again.
“I’m calling an Ambulance”, my wife screamed at me with a look of fear and worry that I’d never seen on her ever.
A few minutes later I’m in the Ambulance.
I was dehydrated with low blood pressure. I remember the BP was around 50 when I was normally 110. A drip in the arm delivered 500ml saline and got the blood pressure rising.
They told me they needed to take me to the hospital.
Finally, I got clearance which enabled me to go to my eye appointment which I was now late for.
What a wild eighteen hours!
The resulting eye check-ups went well for the next two weeks and I was able to return to work.
My eyesight was getting better until the third weekly appointment where the Doctor discovered that my eye pressure was too low and that I needed yet another operation!
This isn’t funny anymore!
Back to the hospital the following day and as usual; waiting, fasting, eye drops, more people looking, waiting, eye drops, and then the operation.
This operation was to be a man-made graft to cover the latest procedure, this time 15+ stitches were to be used to sew the graft to the eye. It was a relief to learn that this procedure would be performed under a General Anaesthesia.
Waiting in hospital you have so much time to think. Only sleep stops the “thinking and worrying”.
The next day after the operation, more check-ups reveal the eye isn’t holding pressure again!
Instead of another operation, they decide to try to put a gel in the front of my eye with a needle, all while I’m awake mind you. However, the worst experience is the eye speculum.
This feels like barbed wire holding the eye wide open so you can’t blink while the doctor shines bright lights onto your eye and injects the gel into the front sack of my eye.
All this for two seconds with no safety glasses.
Another 24 hours in the hospital before finding out the results of the latest eye injection.
I try and fight against the many fearful and negative thoughts that keep flooding back as the hours of not knowing what’s happening roll by.
Trying to Google information didn’t help as my case was so unique, I couldn’t find the right path to go down.
I began to contemplate how my life will be if I lost my eye. What about my job performance, driving, attending to daily needs?
I know that many people cope with only 1 eye (and worse) but when you’re faced with this decision yourself it’s a very scary road.
The next day back to the Ophthalmology centre in the hope of some good news. At this stage, I know I need a bit of good news!
Low pressure again!
I wonder how many more times I get bad news before they remove the whole eye.
They try the again gel injections again.
The gel is supposed to last 48 hrs before dissolving but my eye had a leak which they couldn’t find which caused the gel to disappear within 24 hours.
The news this time was that I needed yet another operation, this time with a graft from a donor eye from a deceased person grafted onto my eye.
Again, this blows my mind at the incredible advances in the technology of modern medicine.
I was now willing to try anything and follow the Doctors orders so again, that night, another operation to graft from the Donor’s eye.
You must wonder how much an eye can handle in such a short amount of time.
Eyesight is so complex.
Knowing there’s a good chance of losing the sight if nothing is done makes you decide to follow what the Doctors tell you and to trust their decisions.
I was willing to try anything to get my full sight back.
Tried keeping a brave face and tried to remain confident that all will go right.
My wife was keeping her feelings from me and staying strong around me, but when she had to go home at night, she was a mess. Through all these ups and downs and unknowns I was so glad she was by my side to go through this with me.
It made me realise that workplace accidents have a much wider effect than just the person who is hurt.
After my last operation, I was used to being wheeled around the hospital, getting needles, fasting and waiting.
This time, I was greeted with the news that all went well, but I’d been told this too many times now to get my hopes up too high.
The operation took place around 6 pm on a Friday night. I was under a General Anaesthesia again and woke in my room around 10 pm.
The pain this time was extreme!
Later I found out that during the operation they pumped huge pressure into my eye to make sure there were no leaks again.
It felt like the worst migraine I’ve ever had!
I kept hitting the call button on the bed for the nurses to come and give me more medication.
Every hour on the hour I’d hit the button again and get more pain relief, this went on for 6 hours until 4 am and the medication finally let me sleep the pain off.
That was a rough night, one I hope will never experience again.
After the rough night, it was back to the eye clinic the following day.
Both my wife and I hoped and needed some good news.
This time the eye was holding the high pressure.
The Doctor is confident that this time we’ve solved the problem.
Two days later I was released from the hospital. I was so glad to get away from there. Its soul-crushing being in the hospital for six days with the highs and lows of uncertainty.
At this stage, I’m recovering well. My sight is slowly returning, and the pressure is holding.
I’m taking no chances with recovery.
Not over yet! Cataracts to come.
The Headache from all this is that I’ve been told that I will get a Cataract as a result of all this, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m not sure if it’ll be next week, next year or 15 years down the road again. Knowing that there will be other symptoms and possible complications correcting cataracts later is something I’ll no doubt think about every day.
I just hope that technology keeps improving to get me through that hurdle.
I do believe I’m so lucky to have come through this with my eyesight as good as it is. It’s not perfect but I’ll take it.
All I want from this little story is to make someone realise that P.P.E (Personal Protective Equipment) is the last line of defence, just wear it correctly as it will save you a lot of heartache in the end.
Thanks for making it through this.
P.S. If at some stage your eyes didn’t water, then Google an “Eye Speculum”.