Ralph S Bacon

MicroControllers, Electronics and IOT

Eye, eye, Cap'n!

A quick update for anyone interested in my eye problems!

You may remember from November 2018, that my left eye had surgery for a detached retina. Fast forward to November 2019 and my right eye has decided to join the party, albeit a bit more seriously.

Older people (anyone 50+) and especially those with severe short-sightedness (-5.0 and lower) have a predilection to retinal tears and retinal detachment.

As you get older, the vitreous jelly in your eye shrinks. It happens to everyone. The gap is then filled by fluid automatically by the body. Most people don’t know it’s happening.

Short-sighted people have a retina that is already stretched as a result of the slightly elongated and larger eyeball. As the jelly detaches from the retina it pulls a bit and sometimes tears the stretched retina. You get bleeds into the eye, often showing as a huge increase in ‘floaters’, along with tadpole-shaped black shapes.

The fluid in the eye then finds its way into the tears and down the back of the remaining retina, just like water going behind the wallpaper in a damp bathroom, and ultimately peeling the whole thing off.

If no action were taken the result would be permanent blindness. If this happened to people in Shakespeare’s day there would be no treatment (not that the peasants could have afforded it, anyway) so I’m grateful I’m alive now.

The treatment is to suck out all the remaining jelly, blood and general detritus in the eye, laser the retina back into position and fill the eye with either silicon oil or gas, to keep the retina in place whilst it heals. If silicon oil was used you have to have it surgically removed later.

The gas can be short or long-lasting. I got short-lasting gas in my left eye a year ago (a fairly small detachment) but now have long-lasting (6-8 weeks) gas in the right eye as the detachment was more serious and had even reached the macula, the area of the retina used to read (or solder small, SMD components).

Why are pirates called pirates?

Because they Arrgh!

– Jessica, YouTube subscriber

The operation was uncomfortable, but not especially painful, and lasted about 90 minutes, including waiting 20 minutes for the local anesthetic to kick in. They also inject something into the muscles of the eye to stop you moving the eye during surgery. That was most definitely painful, and felt like my eyeball was going to explode with the pressure.

After surgery I had to lie on my left side for seven days and seven nights (they call this “posturing”) with a 10-minute reprieve every hour. This ensures that the gas bubble pushes up towards the area of retina that was reattached. This was so easy to do (not) and I was so glad when I could finally sit up in bed on the 8th day. Benny kept me company throughout this ordeal, of course. Unfortunately he thought it amusing to test my knowledge of C++ and the difference between the ESP8266 and the ESP32. I was not amused.

The irony of using gas to keep the retina in place whilst it heals is that the gas causes the lens to become misty or cloudy within a few months to a year. This is called a cataract and the lens needs to be removed and a plastic lens inserted in its place.

I’m currently on the waiting list for a cataract replacement for my left eye (the one that wen’t wrong a year ago). But I’ll need another one for the right eye, once it has settled down and they can establish how good my vision is, and whether it has been permanently damaged.

It’s only been just over two weeks since my latest eye op, and I can’t see anything out of it yet (except very, very blurry light and dark areas).

I’m hoping that I will be able to see something with my right eye by Xmas 2019 although I am dreading it too, as I might discover that my vision is not what it was.

Most importantly, will I be able to solder small components again? Keep your fingers (toes and anything else) crossed! I’ll give an update early in the New Year.

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to all!


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42 replies

  1. Hi Ralph – I had my retina reattached a couple of years ago (emergency next-day job at St.Thomases, London, diagnosed at Specsavers (bless’em)). They said I’d inevitably get a cataract in the affected eye – and now eye has gone foggy (makes soldering tricky!) so I’d better get it sorted. How’s your sight doing?


  2. Dear Ralph. Hope you eye gets better. I’ve got one somewhat duff after an operation but have learned to live with it. Just on the side followed with great interest your excellent and clear video writing an Arduino Library and copied the code from the screen. However I cannot compile and wondered if you would be kind enough to supply me with a download so that I can check what I’ve written. It’s probably a simple syntax typo but I can’t spot it. Thanks Ralph Michael Denton Lincoln I’m over 70 now and ardently developing my arduino programming skills.


  3. Sorry to hear you’re having eye problems again… it’s not nice (ok, perhaps understatement of the year there) when your eye’s go on you. I might only be an GenY’er (’86), but I’ve had my fair share of eye problems starting with detached lens when I was around 6, leading to emergency surgery to yank that floater out and put in a replacement, with the proviso that it would need to be replaced when I was older as there was zero chance of it being the correct lens long term. Fast forward 15-20 odd years, and then the congenital cataract in the other starts to rapidly deteriorate, so I go on the waiting list for cataract surgery, and then also briefly toy with a contact lens for the eye previously operated on, until I have a nasty reaction to it, so give up that idea, and switch back to the beer-bottle lens glasses. I’m now on the other side of that, and I’ve had both eyes operated on – standard cataract surgery for one with just local anesthetic and nerve suppressants, and lens replacement with a general anesthetic for the other… and whilst there’s a minor mismatch between the two eyes… I can now comfortably do most things without glasses – reading, using the computer, working on electronics stuff, etc, and just need correction for distance. Cataract surgery is so ‘simple’ now… the preparation and lead up to it is longer than the ~15 minute operation! And boy the difference it makes! All the best to you Ralf, and have a Merry Christmas! 🙂


    • You really have been through it, I feel for you, I really do. But you now seem to be in a much better place and I am (sort of) looking forward to my first cataract op, especially as others (including you) have indicated it’s a real game changer.


  4. My best wishes for your recovery!

    Short-sighted myself, I had a light-surgery (not yet laser, but an arc lamp) back in 1988 because I had a tiny detachment. Two years ago, now age 47, I experienced the detachment of the shrinking vitreous from the retina which completely frightened me and freaked me out, but three short visits at the hospital and an insight into the cross section of my eye later, the eye doctors told me that everything was in order.


    • I can’t imagine what an arc lamp, suitable for eye surgery, might look like. It makes me cringe. Most people don’t notice the shrinking of the vitreous humor as it is gentle and the gap it might leave is filled with new fluid as it shrinks. I guess you must have been particularly sensitive to any changes in your eye due to your earlier experiences. I’m glad your eyes are OK, though. Thanks for your good wishes and for posting here.


  5. Good to hear your progress report and as everyone says, don’t rush your return. For what it’s worth I had both my cataracts removed a couple of years ago, the anticipation of the surgery was definitely worse than the actual operation. Certainly nothing like you are currently experiencing. Best of luck.


    • I have the joy of cataract surgery yet to come, ironically brought about (or at least, hastened) by the gas they use to keep the eye inflated after surgery (that keeps the retina in place whilst it heals). But it will be so worth it, so thanks for the report that it is not as bad as one might think.


  6. Brings a new meaning to I2C ! (geddit?)…eye two see…awful joke, it’s good that your spirits are high considering all that’s going on..we all look forward to more vids as soon as you are well, but don’t rush it.



    • Look up the definition of “joke”, Andy,I don’t think that qualifies!!!

      OK, it was a groaner (and quite a clever one at that). I forgive you for crimes against comedy.

      I’ll try and keep positive, and it helps greatly getting messages from people like you. Thank you.


  7. Constantly thinking of you and your eye problems. Down now with my back, so your videos are much appreciated. Hope you have a full recovery.


    • I’m sorry to hear that, Danny. If my videos help you in any way that’s music to my ears. I hope you recover before Christmas. Funny, isn’t it, it’s only when we lose our good health that we start appreciating it. Well, true in my case, anyway.


  8. My best wishes for a well and speedy recovery.
    I really do hope your eyesight back.

    We all get older with all that brings, losing the eyes is the worst i can think of.
    After 3 blood clot in the brain i lost the ability to concentrate for longer periods and go tired easily.
    Following you on YouTube really brightens my day – thank you..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gosh, I’m so sorry about your state of health, Flemming. Luckily for you, you won’t have to concentrate much with my videos, they are all pretty simple. At the risk of being very nosy, what caused the clots? I am “at risk” of blood clots so it’s related!


  9. Hang on in there mate! I know what you’re going through.
    Eventually it will get better. Take on the advice of the specialists. Sit out the time and don’t stress about this forum or YouTube. Life goes on for all of us. If it takes longer for you to produce more content then so be it.
    Your health is the most important to you.
    Thanks for the update, I really feel for you and wish you all the best!
    Melbourne, Australia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I remember your previous reports of detached retinas from the last time this happened to me. Well, I shall definitely not overdo it. Fingers crossed that in 6 months I can finally say that it’s all fixed. You got through it OK, right? And had cataract surgery too, IIRC?


  10. Keeping all my fingers crossed for good luck! Take care!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Ralph, you have been conspicuous by your absence. Take good care of yourself and get plenty of rest. Enjoy the festive season and don’t let Benny eat too much.
    I’ll keep you updated on the mobility scooter to cheer you up.
    Stay strong brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I Ralph, take all the time you need to recover and be assured that most of us will be patiently waiting for your return.

    I am pretty sure that you are a little “impatient” to come back to normality and returning to your projects, so are we…

    Take the time to “adjust yourself” to this new “condition” and then come back in force… and that blog tell me that you are improving and about to make something for Arduinautes…

    Take care!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a waiting game, Pierre, at the moment. Although it’s only 3 weeks since the op it feels a LOT longer! Another week or two and I should be able to see (a bit) out of that eye. What I see is another matter!


  13. Hi Ralph,

    I really liked your clear explanation of what’s happened to your eyes, I’m sorry for your ordeal. Wishing you all the very best for a speedy recovery. Benny is always a great help and comfort too.

    Take it easy for now. Looking forward to more videos when you are up to it.

    Kind regards,


    Liked by 1 person

  14. what would you call a deer with no eyes == no idea!

    Get well soon, I love to see you making things again.


  15. Crossing everything I can find Ralph🤞

    Oh! And tell Benny maybe it’s time to teach you some Python.


  16. This getting older lark isn’t very much fun as you wait to find which bit of you is going to fail next. Back in the summer I was informed my 17 years of high blood pressure (and the necessary medications) have resulted in damage to my kidneys. I now have stage 3 chronic kidney disease. The most noticeable symptom is chronic tiredness. When I say chronic, I mean bad enough to keep me away from my workbench and that is totally frustrating. Imagine your “get up and go” has just totally “got up and gone” and you’ll get the idea. I’m also short-sighted. High blood pressure and kidney problems can lead to eye problems so I’m now on yearly eye tests instead of the usual every two years.

    Maybe it is time for us to form the “tinkering old crocks” group.

    I do hope your treatments are successful and you can return to some kind of normality (whatever that is) as soon as possible. I know from my own experience just how utterly frustrating it is to be away from spending time doing the things you enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m very sorry you’re experiencing that kidney problem, NIck. Yes, I know the feeling when you just can’t get up to do anything. I’m hoping things will improve with you, is that a realistic aspiration? We shall see in a few weeks whether I’ve been fixed or whether they need to do more butchery, sorry, surgery.


      • Here’s hoping it is fixed and you don’t need more butchery. As for me, the best I can hope for is it doesn’t get worse, stages 4 and 5 mean dialysis and I really don’t want to go there. I just need to be extra cautious with certain things and try to keep my energy levels up. I have a list of projects I want to be doing. Here’s hoping 2020 is a better year for both of us.


        • Gosh, it seems you are really going through it. I really hope things do NOT get any worse for you. And do keep that energy level up and do a few projects, perhaps design a PCB for an SMD project, that should keep you busy! Fingers crossed 2020 is a better year for us both.


  17. Remember Ralph, just wait for the day you cannot wipe that grin from your face!


    • I know what you mean, Jon, but that seems quite a long way off right now. But if I get at least one eye back to 20/20 (sorry, that was old money, 6/6 these days) I’ll start grinning for sure!


  18. Best of luck to you and hoping for a complete recovery. I enjoy your videos immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Nice to hear from you again
    Best regards
    Asger Vestbjerg 👍❤️


  20. Good luck with your recovery, Ralph. I really appreciate what you do.
    God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

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