Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had surgery to reattach the retina in his right eye and is unable to lead his team tonight against the Cowboys.
It's unknown when Zimmer will be able to return to the sideline. As a fellow member of the retinal detachment club, take all the time you need, Zim, and then some.
Each case is different. Each tear is different. Each procedure is different. Each outcome is different. We might never learn everything that Zimmer has experienced with his vision issues. I can go only on my experience -- when the retina in my right eye detached four times between 2005 and 2006.
I'll never forget the first surgery. Three microscopic holes were made in my eye -- one for light, one for irrigation and one for the tool the doctor is using. The retina was repaired, and a buckle was placed on the back of my eyeball. I will spare you the details about how my doctor got the buckle on, but it's used to prevent any pulling on the retina in the future. A gas bubble was placed in my eye to hold the retina in place while it heals, like a splint for a broken finger. The bubble slowly disappears over a few weeks.
I was supposed to take it easy for a few weeks, but I was stubborn and was back in the office less than two weeks after surgery. Two weeks after that, the retina detached again. My baseball editor, Dennis Brackin, was mad at me for coming back to work too soon to stare at computer screens. It was nice that he cared. The truth is that my eyes are a special case. I had to wear glasses when I was 3. My eyeballs, apparently, are longer than normal. "You have the Shaquille of eyeballs," one doctor told me. I've had cataract surgery. The risks of a detachment were higher for me than most.
So I needed surgery No. 2. Now the doctor began to mention problems with the macula, the part of the retina that provides central vision. If that part becomes detached, then loss of vision is a strong possibility.
I ended up having four surgeries, and my vision has suffered because of it.
Zimmer has now had three procedures on his eye in less than one month. That beats me. Being able to return to the sideline for the Dec. 11 game at Jacksonville appears to be unrealistic. His eye needs to heal following surgery. Retinas can be reattached without a gas bubble, or silicone oil, required to assist in the healing process. Even if he doesn't need that, traveling under those conditions seems risky.
Coaching is a full-contact sport. Zimmer's mood swings on the sidelines have been seen live and in color. Unless technology has improved in 10 years to make it easier to rejoin such a chaotic scene, it doesn't appear to be the right environment to recover from such an extensive surgery.
The Vikings are fighting for the playoffs. But Zimmer is fighting to save his vision, and that should take precedent here.