Ken clay eyepatch
For the past few weeks I have been waiting to have an eye surgery that was necessary for my continued well-being. I have had it now and am recovering, so I thought I would blog a few thoughts on the process. I really have not told many people about having to have the procedure – I just did not want to.

The whole thing actually started about 3 1/2 years ago when I had my very first eye exam, other than what they did in the military, at age 61. The doc found what he called “a freckle” inside my left eye. When I returned a year later, he felt the freckle needed to be looked into a bit so he sent me to an eye specialist. This second doctor referred me to another, an eye surgeon, and so the watching of the freckle began. My surgeon, Dr. Minturn, said that this was a suspicious nevus (nee-vus) and that it could be cancerous. Every 6 months for 2 1/2 years, I went to Dr. Minturn’s office and he photographed, ultra-sounded and measured the nevus. He said that if it stayed stable and did not grow, it was just a benign nevus, but in his experience it was important to continue to watch the thing, just in case it changed. Well, the bi-yearly vigil paid off. This last visit in late March showed that it had spread laterally by 1 mm (to about 12 mm) and had grown in height as well. We were scheduled for surgery on the eye as soon as possible. Tuesday April 9th was the date.

My nevus looks a lot like this ultra-sound image

My nevus looks a lot like this ultra-sound image

About 20 years ago, if I was diagnosed with this problem, a malignant choroidal melanoma, they would have simply removed my eye. No alternatives were available. But a procedure had since been developed where a “plaque” containing radiation pellets is sewn outside the spot where the nevus sits. This is worn 4-5 days and then removed in a second procedure. The therapy hopefully shrinks the nevus and kills the cancerous cells. Another effect is some loss of vision.

The plaque was placed behind the nevus.

The plaque was placed behind the nevus.

So on Tuesday morning, I went into Methodist/IU Health and had the plaque inserted behind my eye and sewn into place. A lead patch was taped in place to cover the eye and prevent spreading of radiation. My nevus is very close to my optic nerve and therefore I can expect some sight loss to happen gradually over the next 2-3 years. After the procedure, I was required to stay overnight at the hospital and then was released to go home the next morning. I could not go out of the house or be around any children or pregnant women. I was lucky in that aspect as most patients must spend the entire time between procedures in the hospital. Many are from out of Marion County here in Indiana; or they may have children or pregnant women at home. I met all criteria to be released until the second procedure on Saturday morning.

I must say that there was no discomfort to having the plaque in my eye. The biggest problem was not being able to sleep on my left side due to the bulky lead patch; that and Mrs. K having to sleep in a separate room so that she was not exposed to radiation.

A bit about the radiation I was exposed to. During my short hospital stay, a technician with a radiation measuring device took some readings in my room. We got to talking about the possible spread and the intensity of the radiation which is measured in rads. He said that my exposure over the period I wore the plaque would be about 95 rads. He also said that a sudden full body dose of 5-10 rads could kill a person. It was something to ponder, for sure.

Relaxing at home from Wednesday to Saturday was certainly no problem. I set my computers up to watch the Masters golf tourney as it is being streamed over I napped (a normal, retired guy activity) and felt no discomfort. The worst part was getting up at 5am to go in for morning surgery on Saturday. This second procedure took only about 15 minutes and I was home again by 10:30 am.

So now we wait. I must take a week or so to heal my eye and I go in to see Dr. Minturn again in about two weeks. He expects there to be no problems as I came through everything in such good shape. But the telling moment will be when he photographs and ultra-sounds my left eye, and we see what the effect of the treatment is. Prayers are requested…


Note: a one year later follow up blog entry can be found here: