Keratoconus is a rare disease which affects the shape of the Cornea. What ordinarily is a nice round oval distorts to a funny conical shape, causing abnormal refraction, and outwardly, ‘double vision’ for the ailing individual. One of my previous blogs describes the condition in detail. This one, however, is about my experience at Dr.Tony’s Eye Hospital Aluva, Kerala doing a surgical procedure called C3R (Corneal Collagen Crosslinking with Riboflavin) which supposedly increases the chance of delaying or even stopping the progression of Keratoconus (it really does not reverse the damage done), and thereby eliminating the chances of an imminent ‘Cornea Rupture’.
16th January 2012: Driver Thaddeus came by early morning to pick us (Daddy, Uncle Babu and Me) to embark on the 45min drive to Aluva. Mother was already tearful as she bade us goodbye and I took efforts to visually lap up whatever I called family. If C3R happened today, my vision would be hazy for about a month. And of course, Sujith’s cheeky post on FaceBook regarding a botched up Lasik from Final Destination V was not all that encouraging or comforting. And so I kissed my wife and child goodbye and we set out.
It was almost 9pm when we reached the hospital. Dr. Tony’s Eye Hospital is 3 floors high. For the Dubai Crowd, it resembles a cleaner, bigger and much more organized version of Dr Joseph’s Polyclinic, Karama. We went upstairs and waited in a room full of people for my name to be called. Man, Husband, and Father that I am, my heart skipped into overdrive mode, with all the fear I had for the unknown. I had never been operated on before. Around 25minutes later, my someone called out
The scene inside resembled that of Area51 in Independence Day. Nurses, Doctors in white and blue overalls/ scrubs , face masks and all, and a number of specimens motionless on cold green hospital beds. Without much effort, I tuned into the chatter and banter between the pretty but loud nurses. I was handed over clothes to change. But only In the changing room did it strike me that I was to wear a ‘mundu’ and a long button up kurta, many times my size. Horrified at the thought of an obvious embarrassment, I tucked in the folds as tightly as I could and climbed into one of the beds. A khaitan Ceiling fan did its rounds right above me. A pretty dark nurse then stepped by to clean my eyes with (betadine?), put on some sort of a head covering and proceeded to cover my feet with funny looking cloth bags. I tried to push off the thoughts of capital punishment in movies. For the next 40 minutes I would lie thus, staring at a convex me at the Ceilling fan, lying prostrate between two Appachens with bandaged eyes for Cataract or Glaucoma I suppose. Clinic Banter ran in the background from Lunch recipes to interdepartmental bitching. I felt at home and resolved to relax.
When it was time, a male nurse helped me up. I excused myself to the loo to empty my bladder one last time. The Operating Table was long, green and hard. All sorts of electronic equipment loomed over what seemed to be a head restraint at the bed. I lay myself down, and a clip measuring my heartbeat and the arm band measuring my blood pressure was set up. A long tube hovered near my nostrils gave me oxygen. The nurse then draped my head with a green cloth, a slit in it exposing my left eye – the protagonist in this ordeal. A sticky plastic sheet followed, an oval incision made to prevent any seepage of eye fluids (or blood, maybe)
< The next few paras may be tummy-turning. For the faint hearted, I recommend proceeding to ‘Waters of May’ on the same blog>
Some kind of a clip was then fixed on my eyelids to keep them wide open for the doctor to do his thing. My audible heartbeat had now become the throb of an Enfield bullet, and I didn’t feel embarrassed anymore. Only sheer, pure, fear. I chose ‘resignation’ mode. Vulnerable me lay thus for the next 90 minutes at the mercy of the Doctor and his apprentices on the 3rd floor Operating theater at Tony’s Hospital, Aluva. Something which looked like a miniature Golf club was used to scrape off the outer layer of the eye (epithelium). It was a feeling par description, go ahead, imagine scraping (yes, scraping) your eye. I could picture shreds of epithelia being deposited on the corner of my eye to be scraped up again for thrashing. My vision reduced to a blur and I could make out only the green surgical masks of the people hovering over me. I tried to fight it, but the Final Destination situation kept coming back into my crazy mind. The pain wasn’t brutal, it was simply irritatingly ticklish and queasy, about 100 times over. ‘Riboflavin (Vitamin B3)’ – the potion was called out for and duly dropped into whatever was left of my eye.
The world turned into a Yellow Kaleidoscope. It felt like I had injected myself with LSD, as Lennon described it. I almost smiled and my mind started singing the yellow submarine song. What a freaky moment. The vision temporarily improved and the masks turned into people again. This continued for the next40 minutes. Drop, High Definition, Picture Tube fail, Uptron TV, Drops, HighDefinition, PictureTube Fail, Uptron TV. My open eye started stinging as the painkiller drops effect faded out and I got stuck in a dilemma whether to open up and ask for a (refill?). I did not have to stay that way for long. I let out a moan as the eye felt like it would pop out of the socket. By the end of 40 minutes I had asked for 3 more refills and I was ready to give up even my eye to make it stop. My arms and legs had gone to sleep long before and droplets of sweat, regardless of the conditioned air, were quivering beneath my robes.
After what seemed like an eternity, a white robotic arm was positioned right above my eye with 7 hexagonal violet and yellow lights right above me. These emitted ultraviolet rays which would strengthen my retinal muscles in order to rule out further deterioration. Another eternity of waiting and 2 more refills and I decided to build a temple for worshipping people who get trapped in still positions. I couldn’t comprehend the banter in the background and I really couldn’t take it anymore. The lights became hazier and they started playing with my mind. I imagined I was under a huge spaceship and was about to be sucked up by aliens as a human specimen for interrogation and dissection. Images of random people and incidents floated by and I drifted into a sleep, with an eye open.
Someone announced and moved the spaceship from above. The doctor muttered something like he would like to clean the eye before he finished up and I could feel nuzzles of clear water being poured over my eye. The eye remained open for the next one whole minute after the clip was removed. White bandage gauze never felt so comforting before. It blocked the light and I let out a long sigh of relief. 1 hour and 30 minutes and the ordeal was over.
6 days into the C3R and my left eye looks much better even though it does not serve me all that well. Days are misty and I am in a perpetual dreamy state. Night lights remind me of warm fuzzy Christmas Tree lights, but I thank God this is half of one item off the list of things to do in my lifetim. The other half, my right eye twinkles in anticipation 🙂