Why? My husband is an automotive research engineer and I am a high school principal. Some days we see some of each others, and others, hardly any. But at 36 years of marriage, we have fulfilling lives and careers and each exercise regularly. We are still madly in love, love our family, and by all undeniably external indicators, young for our age, in body, mind and spirit.
And then two weeks ago, without warning, in one day, the retina in my husband's right eye, detached, a large tear. Emergency surgery was scheduled for the next day, and our difficult odyssey began.
Do you know what the recovery regimen after detached retina surgery is? Certainly we didn't know, and really hadn't even thought about it. That is the way life is. One minute we are sailing with positive momentum, certainly grateful and appreciative for our love, family and life, and the other we are drawn into the medical world of unknown ailments, where surgery is performed through a microscope trying to reattach something so delicate and small that it is difficult to conceive. Its importance-- consequential. What is the price of sight?
After detached retina surgery, the patient must spend at least 45 minutes of every hour looking down, with only a respite sleeping at night. Imagine. My husband spent virtually every waking hour looking down for about 10 days. In the surgery, the physician repairs the tear with laser surgery and inserts a gas bubble in the eye. The patient must look down in order to have the gas bubble rise to repair the retina. Who ever thought of that idea-- whoever it is surely owns his/her own Caribbean island, right? Torturous but certainly worth it to make this surgery successful, for a lack of success means compromised vision.
The surgery was on Valentine's Day and for 10 days he was home most of the time, looking down, not being able to drive or go to work. We eagerly looked forward to last Monday's appointment to release him back to driving and work. We had followed every doctor's order; surely success and freedom, a return to normalcy, was imminent.
But right when the surgeon took a look we both knew something was wrong. Instead of experiencing elation and freedom, we were told fluid was still present, meaning either a hole had been missed in the surgery, or another tear had developed. We were stunned. Disappointment would be a euphemism. After three more appointments last week and having him lie on his side to see if the liquid would cease, we received the devastating news that he must again have emergency eye surgery. Anticipated elation to nightmare.
With every surgery comes the increased chance of compromised, damaged vision. How can this be happening? And so, since Thursday, my dear sweet husband has been sentenced to looking down, but this time it is even worse. A bigger bubble and a serious second surgery now requires him to look down virtually 24/7 for another 10 days, even while sleeping at night. Another 10 long days to see if this surgery is successful. He is eating looking down, sleeping face down, listening to music face down, trying to read face down, with extremely swollen eyes, puffy face, eye discomfort, minute after minute, hour after hour, day in and day out.
Our new existence is tortuous for both of us. He is sentenced to another 10 days in the house; I worry and come home to fix lunch and put eyedrops in four times a day. No meals out, no social life, an eerily quiet existence as he often naps, still recuperating from the arduous surgery. Our previous normalcy seems distant.
But with every storm comes the possibility of a rainbow. How can we see rainbows if we are looking down? The rainbows are the prayers and positive thoughts of our friends and family. The rainbows are the home-baked breakfast loaves of bread, the made-from-scratch bean dip, and the humorous and uplifting greeting cards left mysteriously on my desk and chair.
The rainbows are having my daughter Jennifer and her husband Ryan come and visit us Friday, Saturday and again tonight, just spending time as a family. The rainbows are the gift cards for restaurants, symbols of hope for the future, one given by my entire World Language Department and another by my administrative team. Rainbows of texts from old friends wanting updates and rainbows are prayer chairs. Rainbows of homemade chicken noodle soup and deciding to have blueberry waffles for a Sunday lunch. When and why did we ever get too busy for this scrumptious treat?
And so, in these difficult days of my husband looking down, I find myself longing to see his beautiful hazel eyes, unbruised and unswollen. To me, that would be a rainbow. And just to correct Charlie Chaplain, you really CAN find rainbows if you are looking down, thanks to love, good friends, and family.