How can I adjust my work/life plans in the face of serious vision problems and recovery from surgery? (Details inside.)
This is a follow-up from this question.
I had my eye examination, including dilation and examination of the retina. My ophthalmologist found a case of slow, progressive retinal detachment in my right eye.
This is known as "vitreoretinal traction," because the vitreous humor (the jellylike stuff in the eyeball that helps it hold its shape) is pulling on the scar tissue that formed in my retinas from a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity. I was born twelve weeks premature; this was in 1970, when preemies were still given oxygen even though it damaged their eyes. The traction is slowly pulling my retina away from the back of my eye.
I can expect progressive deterioration. The recommendation is vitrectomy: a surgical procedure in which the vitreous humor is removed and replaced with a clear sphere of gas or oil that holds the retina in place. It is an invasive operation requiring general anesthesia, a week of bed rest (face down), and may take months to fully recover from. Vitrectomy does not promise improvement in vision in all cases; a possible complication is total retinal detachment. In short, there seem to be no miracles. I went through PubMed myself and verified this, as much as I am qualified to read medical articles.
My left eye is less affected (though it also has the original retinopathy) and so I expect to retain vision in that eye.
I am seeking a second opinion, of course. The time scale of the deterioration seems to be months; I was told that seeing another specialist after the holidays would be fine.
What I am most upset about (besides the possibility of eventual legal or total blindness) is what am I going to do about my job and the two academic projects that I am working on.
I work as a school librarian; it isn't an extremely demanding job, though the students are sometimes unruly or unpleasant, and I have good health insurance, so I would really like to be able to keep the job. That is probably a higher priority than the academic projects.
I have not yet told either of my project editors for the academic projects about my diagnosis. Will I need to bail out on them? Can I, since I signed contracts already?
I signed on to write a chapter for an academic "companion" work on a major classical author, 5500 words long and due in July 2012. I have some stuff written but have not finished all the research.
I am also editing a less academic encyclopedia on Greek and Roman warfare for a reference publisher. I'm editing the Roman volume. I find contributors, edit their submissions, and am required to write 10% of it myself (preface, chronology, etc. and some of the articles). The final submission date was originally July 2013, but may be pushed back to 2015 (the project editor's estimate, due to backlog).
Right now, reading academic articles is making my eyes and my head hurt, but I'm terrified that if I don't do it now, I won't be able to later, after the operation.
In the worst case, I'm familiar with assistive technology (having done a library school paper on it and prepared guides for the school library) such as Kurzweil 3000 screen reading and the build-ins in Mac OS X and the Amazon Kindle. For writing I could try speech-to-text software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
At this stage (the diagnosis was Thursday!) I am barely holding down panic; the title of this post is only partly a joke.