LOST MY VISION DUE TO SEVERE PREECLAMPSIA
Posted On Thursday, December 29, 2011 by Christina
In August 2011 my son, Ryan, was born via c-section at 32 weeks gestation, weighing 3 pounds. At that point I had been on hospital bed rest for about one week due to preeclampsia. That particular day, my lab results came much worse than the previous round of labs (which were already bad) and I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia. Immediate delivery was necessary. Ryan was born at 4:03 in the afternoon and was immediately sent to the NICU for evaluation. Thankfully, his 4-week stay in the NICU was quite uneventful with no serious health issues.
The day after my son's birth, around 3 am, I was awoken by my nurse coming into the room to check my blood pressure. As I looked around I noticed that everything was a little blurry, kind of like I had something floating in my eyes. I casually mentioned it to my nurse and then went back to sleep without giving it another thought. A few hours later it was morning and I woke up. When I opened my eyes I was completely freaked out by what I saw - absolutely nothing. Sometime between the hours of 3 am and 7 am my central vision went from blurry to completely absent. After the initial panic passed, I pressed the call button for my nurse. That was the start of a very chaotic, stressful and confusing day for me and my medical team.
At first, the medical team thought my vision loss could be a lingering side-effect of magnesium sulfate, a drug I had received about 36 hours earlier to prevent seizures (eclampsia). That was pretty quickly ruled out as a cause. My doctor then ordered a head CT to rule out a stroke or other neurologic issues. She also ordered a consult with an Ophthalmologist. Thankfully, my head CT came back negative. I felt a huge sense of relief once those results came in. When the Ophthalmologist examined me, he could tell there was something going on with my retinas but since he was on consult he didn't have the proper equipment to make a diagnosis (the hospital I was in, like most community hospitals, does not maintain an Ophthalmology department so Ophthalmologists need to be called in if they become necessary). At that point, it was determined that I needed to be transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia because of their affiliation with Wills Eye Hospital (one of the top eye hospitals in the country). Upon arrival, I went to the emergency department at Wills Eye. Upon examining me, the doctor told me that both of my retinas had detached. This was the first time I heard of serous retinal detachment. He told me that I would be seen by the retinal specialists first thing in the morning (by this time it was already after 2 am!). After a short nap back at Jefferson's High Risk Maternity Unit, I was transported back to Wills Eye (essentially, across the street). At that visit the retinal specialists confirmed that both retinas were detached due to fluid buildup resulting from preeclampsia. They seemed pretty sure my vision would get better, but couldn't say for sure how much of an improvement I'd get or how long it would take. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. Within the next 48 hours I did have a noticable improvement, though my vision was still extremely poor. The next evening I was discharged from Jefferson (I was clear as far as the delivery went) and would be seen by Wills Eye Hospital on an out-patient basis. As it turned out, on August 12th I was readmitted to the original hospital where I delivered due to sky high blood pressures at home - even higher than my pre-delivery pressures. I was in the hospital for another 48 hours and put on Labetalol (a blood pressure medicine). There was no obvious change in my vision (better or worse) with the increased blood pressure or with the Labetalol.
Over the next few weeks there were some very subtle improvements in my vision, but nothing significant. I was only able to see my laptop screen when it was set to 400% zoom, and even then it was still blurry. At my two most recent visits the doctors performed an OCT scan (Optical Coherence Tomography) to determine and document exactly how much fluid remained in my eyes. The first OCT showed some fluid still visible in both eyes, a sign that I could still expect some improvement in my vision. The most recent scan showed a tiny amount of fluid in one eye and virtually none in the other (three weeks between the two scans). They also noted some pigmentation and the vision in my left eye seems worse than my right eye.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2013 (2 YEARS LATER): My vision has improved greatly, almost to where it was prior to delivery. I started with perfect vision so the loss of about 5-10% of my original vision isn't as dramatic for me as someone who maybe started with poorer vision.