How almost losing an eye can help you see life more clearly

    A vitrectomy recovery chair is like a souped-massage chair with a mirror to allow television watching.
(Photo courtesy of

    A vitrectomy recovery chair is like a souped-massage chair with a mirror to allow television watching. (Photo courtesy of

    For those who’ve long claimed Chris Satullo must have a hole in his head, good news.  Medical science has pinpointed its location.

    It was in the retina of his right eye. Doctors told him back in February 2012 that this “macular hole” was the culprit behind the fun-house-mirror vision that he’d been experiencing.

    Click the audio file above to hear his account of what happened next medically.  Read on to review the commentary he wrote in the spring of 2012 after the experience, talking about the lessons almost going blind in one eye can teach a person:

    So I underwent what’s called a vitrectomy. In this facsimile of medieval torture, the surgeons suck all the juice out of your eyeball so that they can get at and repair the hole. Then, they insert into your cornea a gas bubble that serves as a kind of bandage.

    To keep the bubble in place, you have to spend a week, or more, living facedown, round the clock, never ceasing to point your eyes at the floor.

    I recently survived that regimen, spiced by a post-op infection that filled my eye with something resembling pea-soup fog.

    This interesting experience taught me five lessons.

    No. 1 – People around here should appreciate more what an amazing boon it is to live near one of the world’s great clusters of health-care knowhow. No matter how your body goes haywire, chances are that you live near one of the nation’s most adept practitioners at fixing what ails you.  In my case, it was Dr. Mark Spirn and all the other good folks at Wills Eye Hospital.

    No. 2 – Streaming Netflix is one of the greatest inventions since the horseless carriage. I rented a contraption that enabled me, through an ingenious set of mirrors, to watch TV while facedown. With Netflix (and a little March Madness), the time went surprisingly quickly.

    No. 3 – Coffee sipped through a straw loses something in the translation.  It still beats caffeine deprivation psychosis, though.

    No. 4 – The love of a good woman is the most precious thing on earth. To battle the infection, I had to put drops in my eye every hour around the clock for several days. Because I couldn’t see a thing, I couldn’t hit the bulls-eye with the drops. So my wonderful wife woke herself every 45 minutes through the night to help me.  And my daughter drove down from the Lehigh Valley to help with the exhausting overnight regimen for a few days. If you have people in your life who will do that for you, pull them close and never let them go.

    No. 5 – Friends are a wonderful thing. I was overwhelmed by people’s gestures of support during this brief ordeal. Given that many of my friends are journalists, their concern tended to be expressed in the form of rude jokes about Mr. Magoo and pirates, but that did the trick all the better for coming wrapped in laughter.

    I’m back at work now, with a much deeper sense of just how lucky a person I am. That’s a pretty good tradeoff for a few weeks spent living with my nose pointed at the floor.

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