• H. Rick Goff

Aging

Updated: Oct 2, 2019



I recently had a "moment" with aging. One of those moments when my body told me it was beginning to feel my 59 years of living. It was scary when I stood up and begin to see floaty things in my left eye. It was a warm evening and as I walked, I began to see what seemed like bugs flying around me head. As I swatted at them, I asked my wife "Do you see bugs flying around my head?" She looked at me like I was nutz and deadpanned "there are no bugs flying around your head." But I knew what I was seeing, and I continued to wave the bugs away. They eventually disappeared and I didn't think about them anymore.


When I woke up the next morning, the "bugs" were now wisps of smoke floating around in my left eye. Admittedly I sort of panic as the vision in my eye became a little blurry. But I continued with my Sunday morning routine of having a cup of coffee while watching Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley (I love that show and she is still one of my favorites-- guess I just dated myself). I was hoping the blurry vision and the wisps of smoke floating around in my eye would just go away. That's how I (and probably most men) address medical issues i.e. hope they will just go away. But as I watched the show, I noticed the vision did not improve and the wisps of smoke continued floating around in my eye.

At this point I knew I should probably get this issue checked out and reluctantly decided to go to the emergency room. Even though my vision was still blurry in my left eye, my right eye worked fine (that was the little boy in me--I'm not blind in both eyes so all is well) and I went alone and drove myself to the emergency room. Once I arrived, I prepared for a long wait while the emergency room people handled "real" emergencies. Guess I should have figured something was up when I was given a red card, because it didn't take long before I was seen by an ER Doctor and he began to treat me. Of course, the process begins with ruling out the really bad stuff, in this case early signs of a possible stroke (yikes). It got real for a minute as they attached all the tubes and lines to let them (and me) know I was still alive. Not one to panic, but I must admit my blood pressure did go up a bit! However, the ER Doc quickly deduced I was not having a stroke, the floaters were being caused by an issue in my left eye and I needed to see an Ophthalmologist soonest.

Good news was that an ophthalmologist just so happened to be in his office (on a Sunday no less) and was ready to see me immediately. I was unplugged from all the life confirmation lines and cords in the emergency room and directed to the ophthalmology clinic. Winding my way through the empty hospital trying to find the Ophthalmologist was the most challenging part of this entire ordeal. No one was there to ask for directions and the directional signs seemed to be written in Latin. I did eventually find the Ophthalmologist and he was eager to help me. I told him how reluctant I was to go to the emergency room for this issue, but he confirmed it was a smart move to come in immediately, but I was lucky he was there.


The young doctor went to work performing the modern eye examination procedures and techniques. I felt like I was in a science fiction movie as he literally poked me in my eyes for what seemed like hours (good thing the numbing eye drops made this painless) to see what was happening inside. He looked at my eyes from every angle and through various types of equipment before finally giving me the assuring look that he had isolated the problem. I appreciated his efforts in trying to explain the issue in terms I could understand. In short, my retina was detaching and the jelly like fluid that holds it in place was slowly leaking into my eye. This was the cause of the "bugs/wisps of smoke/floaters" I was seeing and the blurry vision.

I live in the moment and have an active lifestyle. So, when the Doctor asked if I had experienced any head or face trauma over the last few months, I really had to think about it. I told him, I had fallen in a creek while fishing (split my thumb wide open), gotten whacked by a tree limb while hiking (knocked me to the ground), sprained my ankle while running from a snake while fishing (wore a boot and on crutches for almost two weeks); but nothing had happened recently. The Doctor chuckled as he began to tell me the detaching of my retina was natural for my age. He told me the floaters would eventually go away, but the issue may reoccur over time and I should not hesitate to see a Doctor when/if it does. I nervously asked him how this issue was going to affect my lifestyle, hoping he wouldn't tell me I had to slow down. He was careful in explaining to me I had not done anything to cause this issue, it was simply a consequence of aging and I should keep living my life as normal. However, he did sense my fear of snakes and suggested I avoid them at all cost!

Nothing can stop the consequences of aging. We must adapt both mentally and physically as the reality of aging takes its' place in our lives. Aging will be a constant companion that I will respect and never take for granted. However, I will continue to live my life to the fullest and plan to do and see as much as I can as long as I can!

BTW The retina detachment that happened to me is called Rhegmatogenous. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/retinal-detachment/symptoms-causes/syc-20351344

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