Closing the loop

I would like to start by thanking all those family members, friends and followers who have sent a steady stream of messages wishing me well during the last eight months as the ‘detached retina saga’ has unfolded.  While I am not on social media and therefore unable to respond directly, I have appreciated each and every message that Anne has read out to me. A big thank you to all.

Where am I now?  A little over a month ago at the end of March, I underwent a third operation, this time to remove the oil in my eye and replace it with gas again.  This had always been planned, but became more urgent due to the oil causing my retina to become inflamed.  We had tried steroid drops to control and reduce the inflammation a month prior but as the photo below shows this was not successful, so back under the knife again.

November 2020, February 2021 and April 2021. White is inflammation.
Now where is that parrot?
Laser scaring top and right hand side.
Part of the belt and buckle placed around my eyeball.

After a week face down again, getting used to this now, and wonderfully supported by Anne, I was able to see the progress of the gas dissipating. It was like having a spirit level in the eye which slowly moved to a point where if I leaned forward, I just had a single bubble in the centre of my eye.  One day, probably because I jogged about 50 meters, it split into two bubbles.  I found that if I moved my head in a certain way, I could make the small bubble travel round the big bubble.  The surgeon seems less than impressed with my skills when I mentioned this last week during a checkup! He was however happy with the last operation and apart from a checkup in six months, my surgery days are over, hurrah!!!!!!

I would like to take a moment to thank my surgeon Dr Abhishek Sharma who not only fixed my detached retina but made himself available at any time to promptly answer any questions or concerns we had, such as what looked like a blister was in fact part of the belt and buckle. I was lucky to have him and his team treat me.

So what next?  I will visit a specialist optometrist to get glasses that will help the left eye to work harder which may help my vision.  The laser scarring caused by repairing the 13 tears in the retina and the detachment of the retina and macular means a reduction in vision in my left eye.  As the surgeon said “Think of it as the film/sensor being damaged, even having a Leica lens will not completely compensate for the loss of vision”.

While this whole process has taken some eight months to reach a conclusion, it has not been all pain and discomfort.  After each operation I was able to resume normal activities, which in Australia, has meant pretty much everything we used to do. We have been so lucky in Australia that COVID-19 did not get a foothold.

Anthony on a bodyboard at Main Beach, Gold Coast
Anne and her Honda CB500X at Poona 250km North of Brisbane.
Troy Cassar Daley on stage before Midnight Oil at Sirromet Winery
Out at Canungra Qld for coffee

We have not forgotten that a blog on our African Adventures in 1982/83 was proposed back in February 2021.  Just like the Australian COVID-19 vaccination rollout, we are behind schedule but will get there eventually – just need to get the creative writer juices flowing again.

Thanks again for all the messages and well wishes.

– Anthony

A Retrospective RTW journey?

Thank you to our faithful followers for your encouragement and comments!  So here are our thoughts.

As we slowly worked through our “to do” list in 2020 which was drawn up in Thailand over Christmas 2019, we came across boxes of transparencies/slides taken on previous trips prior to the digital age. From this came an idea: why not try and see if we can retrospectively record our experiences from our first attempt at a RTW adventure over 38 years ago in 1982. 

When we considered how we should record our trip, this blog came to mind. This would give us a permanent, easily accessible, record of our travel from this time, in a format that we are familiar working with. While this is a self indulgent exercise for us, it might fill in for the lack of travel we are all suffering from.  We thought it would be an interesting comparison between that first attempt and our more recent trips.   What was travel like 38 years ago?

So how will this work?  During our cleaning up, we also uncovered old tickets, receipts and maps, dug up a few faded photos plus the transparencies/slides. We received copies of letters we sent en-route to friends and family. We even still have items that travelled with us, I Anthony is more reluctant to throw stuff out than Anne is.  Anthony’s defence is that seeing and handling an item can illicit more memories that just a photo.

To start the process, each of us separately jotted down a high level list of memories, before we looked at the pictures, to see what we could remember unaided. How will writing in the present about long past experiences work? We shall see.

What will be missing? Sadly neither of us kept a detailed diary that we can fall back on to fill in the gaps so our thoughts and musings at the time. Many we met travelling were recording their travels to write a book later,  I am not sure how many ever did. What will also be missing are the names of many wonderful people that we met, which is a pity. I did find a small notebook in which I kept diary notes for the first month of our journey.  A review of my simplistic scribblings confirmed the theory that I had limited literary skills at that time. Anne keeps saying that I have improved immensely since then.

What memories will we dredge up as we go through this process? We have no idea, but this will be an interesting challenge, given what I, Anthony, when asked to remember my childhood, would only fill a couple of A4 pages. How does someone write their memoirs and produce a book?!  

The result we hope will a permanent record of our first and somewhat naive, long term travel adventure. Some of you will actually feature in this journey, a bit like an Alfred Hitchcock film where the director appears in a walk-on role early on in the story.  

Drawing on the structure of the Star Wars movie series, we have numbered the last two RTW trips, Episodes 1 and 2, and so we will title this one “Episode 0 : In the beginning”.

We appreciate our patient followers’ forbearance. So here goes……

– Anne & Anthony

Looking Forward / Looking Back

My dusty Linkedin profile proclaims my occupation, somewhat optimistically, as “Adventure Motorcyclist”. When I reflect on our single motorcycle adventure last year, all of three days through the Bunya Mountains in July, it makes me think I can expect a call from the government regulators for creating a false or misleading impression.

The last twelve months have seen unprecedented changes and challenges to all our lives. Employment terminated, families separated and loved ones lost as the world and the frontline health workers battle with the COVID-19 virus. International travel from Australia for most of us has been banned for the foreseeable future, even Australian interstate travel is risky with sudden interstate border closures having the potential to strand us and the motorbikes at any time, like Western Australia’s five day lockdown from 6pm today only just announced, after a straight 9 months without a single Covid case, a perfect example.

With the start of the rollout of vaccines across the globe, hope is that country borders will start to open up to travel, but realistically, this will not be until late 2021 and probably more likely 2022 so a steady stream of blog entries to keep those lounging on the couch happy will not eventuate. So, looking forward, we do not have a practical adventure in mind at present, but to fill in the time for the couch dwellers, perhaps we need to look back in time. A long way back… Interested?  Any thoughts on how far back we’re going?

– Anthony

Reconnection – on the road to recovery.

Anne has said that my medical episodes come in twos, heart, ankle etc so that the second detached retina operation will be the last.  The power of positive thinking which Anne has always been good for.  Two weeks after the surgery is my first followup and I have a long list of questions, mostly around understanding the recovery process. 

This must be a question that many people ask after surgery.  Is the level of pain, discomfort, weeping etc within acceptable bounds? You do not want to be a hypochondriac but conversely neither do you want to miss something important.  I was provided a checklist of issues to look out for, but what about other symptoms not on the list?

I am very pleased and relieved, as we both are, to report that the recovery is progressing in a timely fashion and all that I am experiencing is normal. While I still have to undergo surgery next year to remove the silicone oil which has some risks of further retinal detachment, we are on track and will be back for a further follow up in early December to look at my other eye.

I thought that those of you who have been brave enough to see the graphic photos from my operating team might be interested to see, some non surgical photos of the retina pre and post surgery to round out your ophthalmic education.

My retina, detached from the back of the eye.
The bottom of this image shows the retina reattached.

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to all of you who have sent messages, prayed and otherwise wished me well, both via the blog and Anne on Facebook, through this eventful journey. 

– Anthony

Detached again – the Sequel

Since receiving many positive comments about the blog entry “Detached in Rockhampton”, I have been concerned about how to keep that level of excitement and interest in the blog given the lack of travel opportunities. So I have done what film producers do when bereft of ideas, create a sequel.

As I sit in the entrance of St Andrews hospital (last Thursday), I am reflecting that this blog entry was planned to wax lyrical about the marvellous progress I had made since my detached retina operation four weeks ago.  Alas, I am scheduled for more surgery in two hours’ time as the first round is failing. In spite of the great surgery, careful recovery progress, the bottom of my retina is detaching again and will continue to do so unless more radical surgery is undertaken. 

Our first checkup after four weeks saw us travel to the Queensland Eye Institute armed with a list of questions based the next phase in the recovery, when to swim, bicycle, travel etc.  It took less than a couple of minutes for Dr Shama to dissolve this plan after reviewing left eye scans.

Plan B: a rubber band and some 5W-20 or was it 10W-30 given our warmer climes? I believe that the technical term is a Left Vitrectomy, detached Retina with buckling. Yes they use a belt and buckle around the eyeball, what fun.

Seriously, as the gas bubble dissipated and was being replaced by natural liquid, the pressure was reduced and the retina has not stayed stuck to the back of the eye. The gas bubble works in 80% of cases, just not in mine. The planned option is to fit a silicone belt buckled around the eyeball and inject a silicone based oil then in place of the removed gas.  The oil will remain in place for up to six months before a further operation to remove the oil next year.  If successful, I should recover 30 to 50 percent of my left eye’s vision. I got all this news at 11am just before we were due to have lunch with friends. No eating and drinking allowed for me.  I just had to watch, as no food or drink for at leat six hours before surgery, while Anne and our friends tucked into a tasty looking lunch.

I think hospital wards must be a little like aircraft, the crews are always different as no one from my last operation four weeks ago is around this time in the same ward (2F). The paperwork is significant and duplicates all that I did four weeks ago. However it is to ensure I get the right surgery so no complaints here. 

I have the same surgeon and anaesthetist as last time so the team is all together again. Dr Sharma organised the people he wanted on the team again with little notice. A big thanks there.

I just hope the after party blues will not be as bad as last time. Sadly I have been told the procedure will be more uncomfortable than the first time. My discussion with the anaesthetist about how seedy I felt leads to a change in anaesthetic mix. I had been chatting with the anaesthetic nurse and she had enlightened me to all the mixing drugs and monitoring of the patient that goes on during the operation.  I just thought that the mask went on and then it was off to coffee for the anaesthetist. Must be all the old masters paintings I have seen where they anaesthetic was administered via alcohol or a piece of blunt wood.  Science has moved on, thankfully.

Let’s get this show on the road.

I am told I have wiggly veins in my hand so the cannula into my arm near the elbow. Sadly no more commentary as the lights go out pretty quickly so over to my photo team. 

Anne has asked that I include a warning this time for those of a more sensitive disposition. So here goes WARNING – DETAILED MEDICAL PROCEDURES ARE  INCLUDED IN THE FOLLOWING PHOTOGRAPHS.

The team hard at work to save my retina.
Look at the neat stitching.
Just pull the thread a little tighter.
Amazing the skill level to do this. (A Closeup)

Back in recovery and while I drift in and out of consciousness in the first few minutes I do not feel seedy as I did last time. The change in the mix of anaesthetics has worked and I feel good.

Back to my room in ward 2F and a quiet night’s sleep as there is very little elective surgery that day.  I am the only patient for eye surgery.

Taking it easy after a busy evening on the operating table.

Two new things I learnt in hospital this time, firstly some people have  this operation up to five or six times, not me I hope.  Secondly remember, while recovering from the effects of the anaesthetic,  the nurses adjust the bed up and down for treatment and when you get out of bed they have not shortened or lengthened your legs.

Safely home with Anne caring for me.
Day 6

So what’s next?  After a week on my back, opposite of the last time, and a further week of recovery, I return to the surgeon for a follow up.  I must wait for three to six months before the oil is extracted, yes another operation under general anaesthetic, but I am planning for this to be the last of the eye blogs. Again a big thanks to all involved in my treatment and this was all done in the space of 10 hours, two less than last time.

– Anthony