Since the actual original bike accident on 1 May 2011, I have been under full anesthesia for more than 25 hours. That is a lot.
I had extreme misgivings about this last surgery, now 10 days ago. I have not been in a very good mood, and there is a lot of stuff that would be better to be doing. The ophthalmologic surgeon insisted that this was, like, the last chance to save the left eye, that it’s too busted up and nothing else has worked in terms of less drastic repairs. So even though, once I considered the alternative — of just having a fake eye that was an exciting color like violet or orange and different from the remaining eye and that eyes from the future like in Mona Lisa Overdrive will probably be invented soon — in my subdued state I agreed to this sort of new surgery where they graft some part of your good eye into your bad eye.
Unfortunately, until the moment the anesthesiologist told me what was going to happen I failed to realize that this would entail both eyes being totally patched for some number of days, and I was not very happy (as in extremely surprised and unhappy)* when I did realize it. But maybe I had been meaning to listen to the audio book of The Pale King anyway.
The trauma of surgery for me is normally the anesthesia…I am really kind of used to not being able wear my glasses, or see perfectly. This time I was out from about 10:30 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m. — quite a spell. In the recovery area I had some very vivid dreams and memories during which the nurse kept interrupting me from telling me to breathe…. I remembered so clearly a particularly sharp cold day in the hautes fagnes seeing a herd of deer emerge from the dense fog. A few years I looked up into the eyes of an acquaintance and discovered that instead of the blue I has always assumed they were these eyes were actually a sparkling golden hazel with flecks of green and black, like a lynx or a cheetah. I was so amazed I lost track of what the person was saying and just stared at them. This moment seemed to go on and on although it took only a second. Everything I imagined or remembered had to do vividly with animals or seeing or both so even in being partially aware that this was partially a synthetic effect of synapses snapping to Versed and Dilaudid this was an exceedingly intriguing state, and alluring.
I contemplated stopping breathing, as dolphins do, and find out what would happen. In this different dream I could see again so clearly relaxing in the warm ocean; the sun dapples on my white shirt fainter and more shadowy as I floated downward. It was very quiet, embracing without grabbing, soft and black like space without the stars. And then something touched me. A fork… A wineglass… things smaller, more streamlined but greater in density than a falling body. I opened my eyes and was in the midst of a cascade of debris. And then I woke up really to my friend coming to pick me up and the nurse worrying “when the Dilaudid wears off you are going to be in a lot of pain.”
Today when I could see again well enough to look at the book my friend had sent me I saw that as a joke there was a huge colorful Titanic bookmark tucked in the pages.
Anyway as you can see from this photo the graft is actually a very old-school Frankenstein type of mechanical function in which the new tissue is sutured and pressed to the old and presumably grows healthily. (The “harvest” site is not quite as messed up.)
As predicted the post-operative pain was truly baroque. In fact the pressure required to keep the graft in place, plus the eyelids being sutured shut, is pretty much like what what happened to Mark Smeaton from The Tudors. OK, not exactly like that, but, still. After being relatively stoic about the preceding procedures, this one just broke me, in terms of pain. I think having already lost so much weight since August and being rather frail was not a good way to hit this, and I was drenched and feverish for a few days and generally writhing. Sensory deprivation does not allay anxiety.
So, bike accidents: not recommended. Hopefully I have fully chronicled this misadventure for the last time.
*This passage by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas always makes me burst into tears on behalf of Ruby, as stories where animals (and people) are deprived of that most essential raison d’être, hope, and find out things are not going to go as planned, usually do. It is about Marshall Thomas’s experience on New England public television program during which animals available for adoption were given an appearance:
[Ruby] was overjoyed to be out of her and in the room with us. Smiling, she immediately sat down and opened her hind legs to show us her belly. … anyone could see she was a polite dog who wanted us to like her. Obviously she was trying her best to charm us with her pleasant ways as quickly as she could, as if she realized that she wouldn’t have much time to do it.
…When the program was over and one of the producers took her leash to lead her from the room, she gave herself to him in ecstasy, rejoicing with graceful, dancing leaps and little yells of pleasure. Clearly she though he wanted her and would be her new owner. Since he was actually taking her back to her cage, everyone felt a bit sorry for her. She may have noticed our expressions, but she didn’t know what they meant until she saw for herself where she was going. And then, as if a light went out, her joy vanished, and she began to cry.
Actually, everything turns out fine for Ruby – she is adopted by the Marshall Thomas family and it is in fact Ruby, not the beloved Pearl, with whom Marshall Thomas shares something of a telepathic connection. But I always think about how Ruby felt in that sad shocking second.
 Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Social Lives of Dogs: The Grace of Canine Company, (New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 104.