What Recovery from Vitreoretinal Surgery Looks Like

I woke up Wednesday, looked the mirror, and immediately called the doctor. My operative eye looked like something went wrong! Day 2 of recovery had begun.

Coming home from surgery

Undergoing surgery with local anesthesia meant I felt great on Monday. I enjoyed the combined effect of significant painkillers and a super-powered version of Valium. Since they didn’t completely knock me out, I had no trouble waking up or recovering.

Face Down for the evening

Head position means everything for recovery from Retinal surgery. The doctor told me to stay face down for the first evening and sleep on my left side. So I watched shows and dozed off and on through the evening. I pulled a table up to a chair in the living room and put my iPad on the floor. My head rested on the table. Unfortunately, I discovered around 10:30 pm that maintaining this position gave my back the mobility of a 90-year-old.

I slept well with an eye patch taped firmly in place.

Day 1

Tuesday I woke and Ashley drove me to me follow up appointment. There, the surgeon explained that morning if we had waited even a day, I would have lost vision in my eye.

The retina had almost completely detached.

The dr also gave me the good news. Since the tears in my retina took place in the upper nasal region, my recovery involved sitting up.

In a vitreoretinal surgery, they frequently use a gas bubble to hold the repaired retina in place. So wherever you damage the retina, that’s where they want the gas bubble. Some patients recover weeks on their side, others laying face down. I got lucky.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, I made my way home for the rest of the day 1. It sobered me how narrowly I avoided losing my sight! I owe a lot to my wife’s persistence.

The rest of Tuesday I spent sitting down trying to keep my head still. I tried to work in my office but quickly ended up home exhausted and fighting headaches.

Day 2

I expected a red and bloodshot eye.

The surgery involved sticking two small instruments in, blasting it with a laser and filling it with a gas bubble!

But nothing prepared me for how it looked Wednesday!

After peeling the eye patch off (I tape one on at night) I looked in the mirror. I expected redness but not swelling. Not the area around the eye but the eyeball itself! The retina stayed the same, but the surface all around it bubbled up and swelled. I didn’t know the eyeball could swell like that!

I immediately called the doctor. The nurse relayed that the Dr. wasn’t concerned, but I could stop in on Thursday if I wanted. I decided to wait a few hours.

Thankfully I spent a while on Google images and saw other eyeballs post Retinal eye surgery. I love using Google for medical searches. I found many different eyes just like mine. The surface of the eye can bubble up and swell.

So I settled into another day of not trying too much.

I find that when I try to talk too long or look up at all, I get a headache. (This might present issues on Sunday.) I also tire surprisingly quickly! It’s crazy how big my body’s reaction is to such a small surgery!

Day 3

Thursday my eye swelled less, but I increasingly felt like I had something in it scratching me. I found that if I held my hand over my eye, it felt better. I keep my operative eye closed most of the time.

Day 4 and 5

My vision in the operative eye resembles swimming underwater. Excitingly I see blurry images. But that’s all I see. If I move my head, the water moves as well. This disorients me so much I keep the eye closed.

I physically feel ok except for my head. If I move or talk too much, I still get headaches. Writing this blog makes my head hurt. The best way to make everything reset is to put my face in my hands and curl up for a while.

I think I have swelling in the operative eye, which causes pressure. My right eye is also pretty strained/tired from all the work. I have the text on all my devices blown big. I love this!


I get to sleep either on my left side of my face. I love this for the first few hours of each night. Then my body reminds me of how much it wants to turn over and move around. Thankfully I stack pillows that keep mine from turning.

I discovered Tuesday afternoon that church pews are perfect for sleeping on. I only have room to lay down on my side. Might have to try spending a night at the church. ;) Or maybe get one installed at our house.

Fun Fact

The surgery involved two tiny instruments working inside my eye. They closed the tiny hole with a stitch. I can see the stitch on the side of my sight! So crazy!


If you see me, I will spend a lot of time looking down when I talk. I may also cover my eye/eyes. I may just be making my eye comfortable (I’m not allowed to look up). Or I may genuinely be getting a headache from the conversation. Honest, it isn’t you, it’s me and my eye. 🙂

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