in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #213 — Retinal detachment

Also no deep-sea diving allowed.
Also no deep-sea diving allowed.

After our family dinner last Saturday night, my wife said that she thought she had something in her eye that she couldn’t shift. I had a look but couldn’t see anything. It was casting a bit of a shadow at the bottom of her vision. As a precaution, she made an appointment with the optician and went along on Monday afternoon.

Our worst fears were confirmed. The ophthalmologist told her that her retina had started to become detached and that she needed urgent attention. They handed her a referral letter and told her to head straight to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage without delay. We weren’t sure what would happen next, so I left my office in London to get the train there too, just in case she had any kind of procedure which meant that she couldn’t drive home again. A train and taxi ride later, we bumped into each other at the hospital reception; a grumpy receptionist told her to come back the next evening, without any kind of examination and despite protestations that she had an urgent problem. It was stressful — everything we read had told us that it was a race against time to get it fixed. So we made a plan to jump into the car early the next morning and head over to the Ophthalmology department at Stoke Mandeville hospital.

The experience at Stoke Mandeville was amazing. We didn’t need to wait long before she was examined and the diagnosis confirmed. They booked her in for surgery first thing the next day. She was now under instructions to go home and rest, minimising movement for the rest of the day to prevent it from getting worse. When we got home we called a couple of private consultants to see if she could be seen any faster, but everyone advised us that waiting until the next day was the best we could do.

We were back at the hospital even earlier on Wednesday, ready for the operation. It’s not a difficult decision to make between losing your sight in one eye and having a medical procedure, but my wife amazed me how she took it all in her stride. The work is all done under local anaesthetic, so you are completely aware of what’s happening as its done. They start with a vitrectomy, where they remove all of the jelly-like vitreous humour from the centre of the eyeball. They then repair the damaged retina with a laser and freezing treatment, before filling the eyeball with a gas to keep the repaired retina in place. The gas means that you can’t do anything that involves any kind of change of pressure. It sounds dreadful. It was all over in an hour or so.

She was told to keep her head facing downwards towards her lap for ten hours, and afterwards to make sure that she get as much rest as possible and sleeps on one particular side, so that the gas bubble continues to push against the repaired part of the retina. Tablets to relieve the swelling and pressure were accompanied by three types of eye drops which need to be administered four times a day. Currently she has no vision out of that eye and will only know how well the repair has gone in the next two to four weeks. Over time, the gas bubble dissipates and is replaced naturally by fluid again. We have our fingers crossed. Unfortunately, most people that have a vitrectomy are guaranteed to develop a cataract within a few years after surgery and nobody knows why.

Why it happened is a mystery. Apparently it is more common for people that are short-sighted, but it seems quite random. I am so grateful that my wife got the urgent attention she needed and for the fantastic care that she has been given at the hospital. My colleagues have been amazing, offering lots of support and empathy where I’ve had to duck out of scheduled meetings at short notice. I feel very privileged to be in a position where something like this can happen and I am empowered to prioritise caring for my family over everything else. Our friends have been so lovely, with a steady stream of flowers and hampers arriving at our door.

Most of all I am so glad that my wife is now on the mend. It’s been an emotional week.

This was a week in which I:

  • Reviewed the work that has been done so far on our revamped change portfolio and roadmap.
  • Ran a password manager training session for one of our offices, along with our onboarding manager from the vendor. Only one office to go now.
  • Was pleased to hear that our proposal for unstructured data management was well-received by the Governance Committee. Now to put the wheels on it and get going.
  • Continued planning for an operating model review meeting scheduled for next week.
  • Took part in our weekly Learning Hour session where we experimented with the Lean Coffee format. The team really embraced it and we are now planning to make it a regular thing.
  • Met with the technical team to discuss a change required for new Android mobile users in our environment.
  • Suggested getting our small one or two person ‘booth’-style meeting rooms removed from the booking system. I’ve been nipping into these rooms quite a bit when I’ve been in the office. I’m not sure that everyone knows that they can be booked, so kicking someone out because you have booked it may not be well-received.
  • Caught up with the planning meeting for our annual investor conference.
  • Joined an internal Diversity and Inclusion forum for the first time. Discussed ways in which we can keep LGBTIQA+ staff safe and supported when they travel, as well as what it means to be an active bystander.
  • Had some brilliant and brave conversations in our management team meeting which got me thinking about the psychological safety of the team.
  • Took delivery of a Jabra Speak 2 75, a significant upgrade from the Jabra Speak 510 that I’ve been using fro the past few years. The addition of a light on the device which gives you visual feedback on how clearly you can be heard is a genius idea.
  • Attended a very interesting webinar by Leesman on A Decade of Change, showing workplace trends over the past ten years. It may be obvious to some, but I didn’t realise that London is so much bigger from a commercial real estate perspective than anywhere else in the country. If companies find that they have too much space and there is a trend to downsize, that’s potentially a lot of floor space coming onto the market.
  • Along with our Interim Headteacher, met with a consultant at HFL Education on how we can further market the school’s Nursery.
  • Attended a very worthwhile in-person training session on Knowing Your School with the rest of our Governing Board.
  • Started preparation for the school Full Governing Board meeting next week. Our Chair is on holiday, so I’m in the hot seat.
  • Skipped the Saturday morning cycling club ride as I wanted to maximise my time at home, making sure my wife is ok. Spent time on the indoor trainer instead. For the first time I can remember, I started to get knee and hip pain; I’m hoping that some small adjustments to the saddle and handlebar positioning will be able to dial those out.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s last home match of the season. A complete mud-fest.
  • Mowed three quarters of the back lawn for the first time this year, before a big rain shower stopped me in my tracks. I was very glad that this frog (or toad?) didn’t end up in the lawnmower. You know your lawn is long when you have animals of this size hiding in it.

Next week: Presenting to the whole office, and running a full governing board meeting for the first time in a while.

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