Friday, 16 October 2015

Eye Update

Hey All!

It has been a week and a half since I told you all about the problems that I was facing with my eyes. As a reminder, I was told by the eye doctor in Cameroon that I had a retinal detachment that required surgery to repair, and was advised to do it ASAP. I decided to come to the United States, as medical care here is very advanced and eye surgery is quite delicate. So, here is what has happened since.

  • I did NOT have a retinal detachment! This was great news! I got in on the 4th of October and by the 5th, was in to see a retinal specialist. They could find no detachment. Now, here is what is thought-provoking. The eye doctor here in the States said that a retinal detachment is pretty difficult to miss... while it is possible that the doctor in Cameroon was just completely incompetent, I think we shouldn't rule out of the power of prayer. So many people were praying for me, I think it is entirely possible that I DID at one point have a detachment, but God answered prayers. Anyways, we will have to wait for heaven to know for sure, but in any case, PRAISE GOD! 
  • I did have retinal tears and weakness. (For more on retinal tears see here.) This means that a retinal detachment was very likely. I have very bad myopia, and this is a major risk factor for retinal detachments. Since a detachment while in Africa would necessitate another emergency trip, the retinal surgeon recommended that I have laser surgery to repair some of the tears and holes and essentially tack the retina more firmly to the wall of the eye. This surgery took about 25 minutes and was an outpatient procedure. 
  • What was causing my loss of vision was a different problem however. I suffer from a condition called Keratoconus. This means essentially that my corneal wall is weak and a part of the cornea is bulging outwards abnormally. This was responsible for the loss in vision that I had experienced. In order to solve this problem, I am making a switch from soft to rigid contact lenses. This should help my condition stabilize, and this is something to pray about, as if it continued to worsen, it might eventually necessitate a corneal transplant. The chance of this is slim though, and through your prayers, unlikely. 
  • I picked up my contacts yesterday and head back to Cameroon on Tuesday of next week. Thanks for all your prayers and concern. I believe it made the difference between major surgery with extensive down time and a simple outpatient procedure and speedy return home. Thanks for also keeping my family in your prayers. They continue to do well and I am very much looking forward to seeing them next week!
Some of you have asked about expenses and costs involved in this situation. Here is a brief breakdown of what we have had to spend so far. Any help that you could provide would of course be appreciated, as this was an unplanned expense. Thank you and especially thank you for your prayers! 
  • Plane tickets, plus changes to return on the 20th- $1,594 + $380. 
  • Laser surgery to repair holes and reinforce retina- $4449
  • Corneal specialist for the Keratoconus- $74 (The doctor waived his fee (a couple hundred dollars) since I am a missionary... we only had to pay some of the administrative costs. Praise God!)
  • Optometrist for the rigid contacts- $250
  • Semi-rigid contacts, specially made for me- $450. 
  • Total:~$7,197

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Eyes Have it

Hello All!

I am writing this blog post from the Airport in Brussels, Belgium. You might not have been expecting that... neither was eye. So here is what happened:

A few months ago, I started having vision problems in my right eye. I lost much of my visual acuity, more so than my usual extreme near-sightedness (I wear contact lenses). I thought maybe it was just an irritation or a scratch on my eye. It caused me some headaches from squinting all the time, and made some tasks difficult, but I've been able to manage alright.

Then, a few weeks ago, my left eye stated to experience similar symptoms. This got me worried. If my left eye deteriorates like my right eye, I will not be able to drive, read, teach school, or do a host of other things. It was time to go to the eye doc. I went down to Mutengene (a town nearby) where there was an opthalmogist/retinal specialist. I figured he would give me some eyedrops and I would be back up and running in a week or two.

Well, things didn't exactly go according to plan. Instead, after examining my eyes, the doctor told me that I have a retinal detachment in my right eye, and possibly in the left eye as well. This can happen to those who are extremely short-sighted (like me) and a stigmatism (which I have) also increases the likelihood. The doctor said I need to get retinal surgery as soon as possible to stop the deterioration and hopefully restore some of what I've lost.

I was a little shellshocked- from thinking it was a mild infection to hearing that I needed retinal surgery or I could completely lose my vision. I wasn't willing to schedule the surgeon for the next day, as they wanted me to, without talking to some people first.

I consulted with an eye surgeon in the US, explaining my symptoms and the doctor's diagnosis. He concurred that it sounded like retinal detachment. He also suggested that I NOT do surgery in Africa, as it is a very delicate and potentially life-altering surgery. Even in the United States, it sounds like complications are common. This advice, of not getting surgery in Cameroon, was echoed by many, both Cameroonians and others. Medical care in Cameroon leaves something to be desired. My only options then were to just live with my condition, which wasn't advised, as the longer the detachment persists, the more likely the damage becomes worse and irreversible, or else travel to the US for an emergency treatment.

Losing my eyesight would SIGNIFICANTLY impact our ministry in Cameroon, so I made the decision to go to the United States for consultation and consequent treatment.

My consultation book from the eye doc. He recommended creating an encircling band around the detachment to keep it from spreading and to try and reattach it. We will see what they do. 
This was a difficult move, as we are just now down with our first month of school, things have been really progressing, and it wouldn't be possible for my family to come with me for the time being... as Brittney is still teaching the Learning to Read class and Brian and Jael Harris, our coworkers, will be returning in 10 days.

So here I am, on my way to the States. We covet your prayers, as it is a little tough not really knowing how long the treatment and recovery will take and when I will be able to return. If recovery is expected to take a couple of months, my family will need to join me and we will go ahead and do our furlough that we were planning to take in February next year. If I can be done and get back in a month or less, I will just go back. We will hopefully know more in a few days. Please be praying specifically:

1- That I can get good treatment and have a full recovery. Talking to some who have experienced retinal detachment, it is a little frightening. One woman shared that she is not able to fly anymore without her eyes becoming detached again. This would be devastating. Others have said that I might not be able to continue lifting weights... which is a big part of our ministry. I think I would cry if that happened... but in everything God will be praised. Please be praying though. Who knows, it might be a simple matter that is easily resolved.

2- We don't really know how much this will end up costing. We are hoping that insurance will help cover much of the costs, but some expenses, such as plane tickets, were not yet saved for... we were planning on February-March instead of October. Please pray that God will supply.
3- My presence will be missed, but I believe that with the Lord's help, the work will go on. Especially pray for Brittney, as she will be teaching and handling the kids all by herself. Pray for special strength and energy for her. Also pray for all the saints in Cameroon that will need to step up and fill my shoes. I have great confidence in George, Abel, and the others, but their workload is definitely increasing.
4- I am seriously disappointed to not be there when Brian and Jael get back. We have sweet fellowship and partnership with our coworkers, and they have many adjustments to make as they continue to settle into Cameroon, now with a baby as well. Pray for God's strength, wisdom and guidance as they MAY need to fill Brittney and my shoes for several months if we end up needing to take our whole family to the States for our deputations.
I will miss every aspect of our ministry here, but especially teaching my morning devotions to these school kids. I know they will be in capable, loving hands and God will watch over them. 

A lot on this amazing woman's shoulders, but with God, all things are possible. Please keep her in your prayers. Thankfully, she's got her sweet kids to keep her comfort and 
Comfort and reassure her. :D 
Thanks once again for your continued prayer and support. As Brittney said, our life is sometimes crazy and can be intimidating at times. I think though of Paul, who suffered from eye problems, and yet still made a tremendous impact and pray that God can similarly use me no matter the outcome. Thanks all and we will keep you posted as we know more!