My Unexpected Adventure with a Brain Tumor–Part 16 (The Gold Weight Surgery)

I am about nine weeks past my brain surgery, and I finally just had the gold weight implanted in my eyelid yesterday.  I first saw Dr. Erickson, the oculoplastic surgeon, about a month ago, and was told then that my eye was in great shape and I was taking great care of it, so it was my choice to go either way with regards to having the gold weight procedure.  At that point I had expected that more healing of the facial nerve would have happened by now, and that I might have control over blinking my eye, so I was initially thinking I would just skip it and hold out, but with minimal change over the next few weeks I started to change my mind.   I was still taping my eye shut every night and putting thick drops in all throughout the day.   The blurriness caused by the dryness from not blinking AND the thick eye drops was delaying some of my other recovery milestones, such as driving and seeing well enough to make jewelry (and therefore generating income) again.  My eye was so exposed all the time, so much so, that I actually had a FLY land on my bare eyeball…TWICE!  The beyond-disturbing nature of THAT experience was enough to convince me to schedule the appointment immediately.

With the end of the year in just a few weeks I knew that whenever I was due to have the gold weight removed would definitely be in the new year, and therefore after our insurance deductible would reset.  I learned that our cost to remove it would be approximately $2000, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend that on something temporary.  (I can tell you that now that I have it and can blink for the first time in over two months and sleep without tape on my eye, it’s worth it!  Even saying this right now with my eye swollen, bruised and gnarly-looking  post-op, it’s worth it!)  See this post about insurance if you want to know more about costs and coverage through this long ordeal.

Side note:  I stopped all supplements a week before surgery, and all blood-thinning supplements and foods two weeks before.  I focused on anti-inflammatory foods before the procedure, and will continue to do so through the healing process.  That’s just how I roll; I want my body to focus primarily on healing my eye, and not have to worry about addressing any other hidden or unhidden ailments.  Again, read up on what plastic surgeons have recommended to their patients regarding nutrition surrounding surgery.  I did start taking Arnica tablets the morning of the procedure, and throughout the day, which I’ll continue to do as well.

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A handy illustration I came across.

My husband drove me up to the Stanford Eye Institute yesterday morning.    The whole appointment was only about 40 minutes long.  When I originally scheduled the appointment I had the choice of the minor procedure room, where I would be awake with just local anesthesia, or the main operating room, where I would be under general anesthesia.  After reading lots of other patient reviews about how minor the procedure was, and knowing how I don’t love coming out of anesthesia, I opted for the minor procedure room.  Once I was called back for my surgery I sat in a big, comfy chair in my regular clothes.  They put a grounding pad on my belly and re-tested the different adhesive tester weights to make sure I still needed the same one they had initially prescribed for me (1.4 grams).  The doctors and nurses were very upbeat and casual, and they had Christmas music playing in the room.  (They asked me if I wanted to change the station, but I LOVE Christmas music, so I took that as a good-luck sign.)  Next they reclined my chair until it was flat, gave me squishy stress balls to hold, put a gel pillow under my head and a warm blanket over me.  They gave me a little surgery cap and started to place drapes over the other parts of my face and body, and I THINK, but I’m not positive, that they loosely strapped me down.  (That makes sense, and it didn’t bother me too much psychologically, but it might be an issue for others.)  The nurse put some numbing eye drops in, then cleaned my face, and injected the local anesthetic.  They said that would be the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure, but it really wasn’t any worse than getting a shot of Novocaine at the dentist.  After that I think they used a laser to make the incision in the crease of my eyelid (I could smell something burning, and I assume that was my eyelid.  I tried to change the subject in the one-sided conversation I was having in my mind, and I sang along to Jingle Bell Rock instead!)  They made a little “pocket” in my eyelid, inserted the gold weight, and stitched it back up.  I couldn’t feel any pain; I just felt a sort of “tugging” sensation during the stitching.   Once it was over I could immediately blink on my own!

By the time we got back home an hour later it was already pretty swollen and bruised, and looked gnarly.  The swelling was impeding my blinking ability a little, but it was still exciting.  For the first 2 days post-op the instructions are to ice every 20 minutes for 20 minutes.  So… if you’re going to have this procedure done I recommended making up several zip-lock baggies with about a cup of frozen peas in each, and keeping them in the freezer to rotate through.  (Definitely put a clean cloth around them before putting them on your eye.)  Aside from that all I had was a prescription ointment to put on the incision 3x/day, and to take Tylenol as needed.  I am supposed to avoid rigorous exercise and bending over, and it was advised to sleep upright for a while.  The doctor said that the gold weight is most effective when you’re standing up, since it uses gravity to keep your eyelid shut, so sometimes when you’re lying down it could creep open for some people.  So, he said it  would still be good to use ointment at night in case that happens.  BUT last night I propped myself, had my husband apply some ointment in my eye to keep it from drying out, just in case, and I slept amazingly well with NO TAPE over my eye!  My eye stayed shut and I woke up today, opened and closed my eye on my own(!!!), and felt so delighted (despite the bruising and swelling).

My follow-up appointment is in a few days.

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I blinked on my own! (I guess its nice that my saggy skin covers up most of the stitches– Cheers to turning 40! Ha!)

The stitches will dissolve on their own, so they’ll just be checking for eyeball and eyelid health.  I highly recommend Dr. Erickson at the Stanford Eye Institute.  He is super positive, friendly and confident, and he put me right at ease.  The nurse and facility were great too.  (Once you’ve been through brain surgery most other procedures seem much less scary-sounding than they used to.  I wasn’t nervous at all.)

I hope the healing is swift, and I hope that my vision issues will soon be corrected.  My eyelid is a little swollen and rosy, to say the least.
because of this.  I’ll update later.  For now, here’s a look at my one-day old newly-blinking eyelid.  (They said it would be worse the second day, but it’s better.  While the area is much more colorful and spreading, the swelling has gone way down.  No Tylenol even needed for pain! )

See this later post for an update on the gold weight topic.

FYI the reason they use gold for the weight, or sometimes platinum) is due the fact that it is a safe metal to have implanted while getting an MRI.  (Most people who have gold weights are in the position of needing MRIs.)  They gave me a little card with specific instructions to show all of my future MRI technicians.

 

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