By Brandon Lemons
Nearly two years ago, I was thrown into a whirlwind of eye problems. In mid-February of 2020, my right retina detached, leading to two retina surgeries in the following months and a cataract surgery the following year. After that, I was down to one “good” eye, because vision in my right eye was significantly damaged, though it was still useful. Then in July 2021, my other retina detached, leading to two more retina surgeries. (The detachments resulted from being born extremely nearsighted, which weakens the retina.)
Every week, I receive multiple questions about how my eyes are doing. I appreciate the care and prayers of the Friedens Family. As a pastor, I am usually on the giving end of care and prayers. But it has been encouraging and meaningful to be on the receiving end as well. What I have received is a great picture of how a church family should operate – caring for one another, praying for one another, and helping one another in any way possible. Knowing I am not journeying alone means a lot.
I would like to provide an update on my eyes because I know many of you are praying for me, and communicating in this manner rather than only one-on-one is an efficient method of updating you.
My retina specialist discharged me from his care last Friday, because both retinas are stable and as healthy as can be. After leaving his office, I felt like I should have taken a selfie with him, because I saw him so many times over the past two years (I believe it’s been 24 appointments), and he’s done so much to help restore and protect my eyesight. I didn’t go back for a photo, but I am grateful for him.
I am happy to report that my eyesight is improving. Interestingly, about three weeks ago, the vision in my left eye took a leap forward – for no apparent reason. The change was accompanied by a 24-hour intense headache behind that eye, which happens when my vision changes rapidly, and suddenly I realized I could see better out of that eye. I’ve asked a couple of eye doctors about the medical reasons for this sudden improvement; we have hypotheses but aren’t certain. This change is abnormal but very welcome. Even if there is a logical medical explanation, I am still giving lots of thanks to God for this improvement, and I attribute the improvement to answered prayer. The improvement has been sustained in the three weeks since it started. As a result of this improvement, I am able to read my phone and iPad much easier (still in “dark mode,” which helps a lot with white text on black background). Even better, I am now able to read some things on a white background without special assistance. It is hard to describe how beneficial this change is. I can now see reasonably well what I’m writing in my prayer journal or on cards to people (before, I was mainly writing by feel); I have a decent chance of being able to read names on envelopes when I get the mail; and I have a reasonable chance of being able to read notes and documents while working at church without needing to take a photo with my iPad and then zooming in. These activities weren’t possible for me a month ago. So this has been a wonderful improvement.
Things are still difficult at times. I still haven’t driven since June, and I’m not sure if my eyesight will improve sufficiently to drive in the future. Going into unfamiliar stores is daunting (though I haven’t been in a store since my vision improved three weeks ago). Recognizing people from a distance is still challenging. But I am very grateful for the eyesight I have and to be functioning quite normally.
I still have two eye procedures on the horizon. For my right eye, I have a “secondary cataract” that results from the capsule around the lens turning opaque. In the last six months, eyesight in that eye has degraded from 20/70 to about 20/200. On Wednesday, February 2, I have a simple laser procedure to clear up this problem, which should quickly remove the haziness in that eye and return its vision to approximately 20/70.
My left eye (the one with the more recent retina detachment) has a large cataract. Therefore, I’ll be scheduling cataract surgery for that eye, which should take place within a few months. It is obvious that my left eye has much better vision than my right eye; I’m excited to see what the long-term eyesight will be in that eye.
Again, I am very grateful for the care and prayers the Friedens Family has lavished upon me, particularly during the past couple of years. I also value everyone who has given me rides to appointments and ministry activities; I cherish the conversations we have shared in the vehicle. There have definitely been blessings that have come out of the challenges.