Matt Clark: Detached Retina

posted by / News / February 11, 2013

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Meet Matt Clark. Professional photographer. Former Follow the Light winner. NYC resident. Family man.

Matt shares the story of his girlfriend’s loss of vision and how you can help:

Basically what happened was, Jessica went to the eye doctor about five years ago and she was seeing these light flashes and floaters in her vision and was slightly concerned about what they were and the eye doctor told her it was nothing to worry about.

Skip to this past summer where she had told me about them becoming more frequent in her vision and that they were becoming “annoying” to which I obviously replied with “are you kidding me? I’ve never seen anything like that before in my vision so you need to take care of that as soon as possible” to which she replied that she had been to the eye doctor for the problem in the past and they said it was normal.

Jess also told me that she had a yearly checkup in February of 2012 and they noticed nothing and the light flashes were so infrequent up to that point, maybe once in a few weeks so it wasnt at the front of her mind often, and she again had been told it was normal. My father too had recently went in for a checkup and said he saw light flashes once in a while and the doctor told him it was normal and a part of aging.

From there we forgot about it but Jessica began to tell me more and more that she was seeing the light flashes and that she was just waiting for her yearly checkup in February of 2013.

Saturday the 26th of January I was working a side job about four hours from home when Jessica texted me and said she was seeing the light flashes about once a minute and she was scared so she made an appointment with the eye doctor (optometrist) which was considered an emergency but couldn’t get into the office until Wednesday the 30th. Already a bit of a conundrum to me in that an emergency eye doctor appointment still takes 4 days to get into the office.

I take Jessica into the office and the doctor goes through all of the procedures looking into her eyeballs and taking photos of the inside of her eyes. The doctor tells her that she wants her to go to the retinologist by the weekend but then takes a second look and changes that to the next morning and going to see an opthomologist. Jessica gets an emergency appointment with the opthomologist on Thursday the 31st and he confirms what the optometrist believed, that both of her retinas were detatched. He then sent Jessica straight to a surgeon to run more tests and see how far advanced the detachments were and what the next steps would be. Hoping for the laser surgery to be done in office, Jessica was already freaked out because the detachment of your retinas will quickly lead to blindness. The surgeon determined that the detachments were too far advanced for the in office laser surgeries, and that it was literally a matter of days before her central vision was completely gone.

Jessica works as a social worker at a not for profit, “VISIONS services for the blind and visually impaired” in NYC. She is literally working hands on and with people who were either blind their entire lives or who had lost their vision.

By the next day, the 1st of February, Jessica was in surgery where they preformed Scleral Buckling surgery as well as Pneumatic Retinopexy on her right eye which was the worse of the two but not by much. The surgery went well but as a recovery it is very painful and uncomfortable. She had to spend 50 minutes of every hour of everyday for at least a week on her left side to the gas bubble they injected into her eye would hold the area that is detached in place. The buckle that was wrapped around her eye also helps in the recovery of her detatched retina in ways I don’t completely understand. The positions she has to keep on her left side have become incredibly uncomfortable.

The day I found out this horrible news which quickly went from a regular doctor visit to emergency surgery, I also was awarded the Surfline user photo of the year for 2012 and the first thought I had was to take advantage of the buzz that it may create among my Facebook friends. I quickly set up an online store selling prints of the photo that won me the photo of the year along with other favorites I have. The photos were priced at 10.00 above cost so for those looking to donate to her surgery costs (she does have Insurance but we aren’t sure what it will cover yet). The point of me charging 10.00 over cost is to raise as much money as possible, seeing as most people may not feel a desire to help someone they don’t know or whatever, the point being that I could sell people artwork for cheap and offer prints to everyone, people who may not have purchased my artwork in the past because they couldn’t afford it could now both get a canvas print for 80 dollars or whatever and also know that the 100% of the profit is going to someone who needs it, not because they were surfing and having fun and got injured or because they were doing something stupid and got injured and now need help, Jessica is an absolutely beautiful girl who does so much for everyone around her and is such an amazing person, I am so fortunate to have her in my life, who had something happen to her that is basically a big question mark. They say that detatched retinas are usually the result of head trauma, extreme nearsightedness, or heredity, but none of those match anything to do with Jessica, and she has it in BOTH of her eyes.

This afternoon we will be meeting with the surgeon to see what the next steps are and when the next surgery will be, where we are as far as recovery and try to get an idea of how successful the surgery was. We are hoping for the best and doing ur best to keep calm and roll with the punches but it’s taken a toll on her and really shaken up our lives. Walking Jessica around and holding her arm while she navigates through a dark world was and is a scary vision of what could be a future for anyone who doesn’t take care of their vision. I believe that eyesight is actually often overlooked because it is completely taken for granted and under appreciated, it might be the most important sense of our five senses. It’s the connection we have to the world, without a sense of taste, touch, smell, hearing, you can navigate through our world, but without sight, you will need to depend on someone in some way shape or form moreso than what everyone else with a sense disability does. It’s very scary.

As a photographer this really hits home with me, and all of her stories of helping the blind and visually impaired from her last year of working at VISIONS had already been heart wrenching, but to think that all of this is now happening to the girl I love is really tough. Shes very strong and I am doing my best to keep her positive through this tough spot in life.

After her next surgery, Jess will be basically unable to see for a month, the repercussions of the surgery to fix her vision is that she will only be able to see shapes and colors, basically what you see when you open your eyes underwater but maybe worse until she is fully healed and even then, you’re guaranteed to have worse vision than before the surgery. She already had corrective lenses and glasses but even if she has to walk around in coke bottle glasses for the rest of her life, if her vision can be saved and she can see we will eternally grateful.

The website is: http://society6.com/Clarkography

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  • Dawn

    Hi. I’m so sorry to hear about Jess. I too just found out that I have detached Retina’s (both eyes). I am so scared. You are great to be right there with her. How is she doing since then? Has her vision improved? I also have some other complications with my eyes like Retinal Scars in both eyes, etc… Everything in both eyes. It is so scary. I’ve been reading so much so I can know what I have to deal with. Thank you for your story. It helps to know someone has been through what I’m going through right now and that is “both eyes.” I hope she is doing well.