Blog Post for August 25, 2020
So, last October, I scheduled cataract surgery. It is a very common surgery. We all know at least one person who has had it. Your grandma had it. And probably your grandpa too. My roommate had it. My mom had it. Listen, I have worn glasses since I was 7 years old, until my first pair of contact lens’ at 16, but cataract surgery was a whole new deal.
My vision history
- For decades, my uncorrected vision put me in the category of legally blind. Without correction: 20/200. I could see at 20 feet what most people can see at 200 feet. It was a blurry world.
- My first pair of glasses were blue cat eye frames. I was 7. I was one of those kids who was amazed that there were wires attached to telephone poles and trees had individual leaves on them.
- My vision became worse every year until the age of 16 when I received my first pair of hard (and they were hard glass) contact lenses. These lenses were so hard, some patients couldn’t wear them at all. But I was highly motivated. I was in high school and longed to get rid of my “coke bottle” lensed glasses. I added hours gradually, and soon I was wearing the contacts a full day.
- The hard contacts also stopped my eyes from changing every year. It was the pressure of the hard lens that prevented my eye from changing shape and my vision from getting weaker.
- Besides being nearsighted, I developed an astigmatism. Then in later years, my eyes developed floaters so bad, I was continually watching shapes float across my field of vision and was diagnosed with vitreous degeneration.
In the past few years, my vision, even with correction, began deteriorating. “You have the beginning of cataracts,” I was told several years ago.
I asked my optometrist if my reading in bed with a kindle or nook caused the cataracts and he said there was no evidence of that. It was another natural part of aging. That was a relief since I didn’t want to change my reading habits.
Finally, after struggling with different strength prescriptions, my eye doctor-an optometrist -told me he could not help me see any better than I already did.
I realized it was time to see the ophthalmologist.
Of course, I was terrified to have surgery ON MY EYES! I mean come on, a surgeon was going to slice into my eye, chop up the cataract (with a laser hammer or something) and remove it and insert a new “lens.” Wouldn’t you be afraid? And what if I was one of the rare ones and something went wrong? What if I couldn’t see to read? Notice the fear of not being able to read is the first thing that list? Never mind those who said, presumable joking, “that’s why they invented audio books.” Ha. Not helpful. Or those who had said and still say, you’ll ruin your eyes from reading so much. Less helpful.
At this point last year, I could not read the traffic signs, could not see at night, especially in wet conditions with the glare of headlights. It was also pointed out to me that my color vision wasn’t quite, shall we say accurate? I had a few discussions about colors, and is that blue or gray? Answer: Neither, it’s green.
My roommate said he finally understood how bad my vision was, when I asked if that was my pony standing on the hill in the paddock or was that a tree stump? I really couldn’t tell.
My oldest daughter said she understood how bad my vision was when we were driving down the highway behind a horse trailer. She said something about the horse, who was (supposedly) visible above the doors. I couldn’t see a horse. So, she drove closer to the trailer. “Now can you?” No. She drove even closer, almost tailgating a loaded trailer. “NOW can you see the horse in the trailer?” UGH. No, I said. “MOM! You need to get your cataract surgery scheduled.”
Did I mention that I hadn’t been able to read regular books for some time? Thank goodness for e-readers. They were backlit and I could adjust the text size. Did I mention how many times I googled “Is seeing double a symptom of cataracts?” (It is.)
It was when I realized that I couldn’t see what color the traffic light was until I was nearly on top of it. It was when I almost rear-ended a car in front of me while squinting at the light that I realized I should NOT wait any longer, fear or not.
After a year and a half of waiting, I was finally scheduling cataract surgeries. One eye would be operated on a Tuesday and the next eye on the following Tuesday. Some surgeons wait longer between surgeries, but my Doctor does not.
Here are a few medical information resources if you are scheduling your surgery soon or considering surgery.
So, here is what happened.
I had to schedule two surgeries a week apart, and two follow-up appointments the day after each surgery. I had to wear my glasses for a few days to get my eyes back to their natural shape. I had to go for a vision test so the surgeon knew the correct power of corrective lenses to insert. We had to check with insurance so we had coverage and knew what our out of pocket expenses would be. (This was actually taken care of by the hospital.)
I woke early the morning of my first surgery, and my husband drove us in rainy bad weather to the hospital. I put on my gown, got my IVs ready and my blood pressure checked. I was worried, it was high. Try not to worry, I was told. It will be fine once we give your twilight sleep anesthesia.
We waited patiently (pun intended) until I was wheeled in to the operating room. I listened to the Surgeon and anesthesiologist and nurse for a moment or two and then I was gone. Out like a light. Next thing I knew, I was being taken back to the recovery room. I had a tin cup filled with holes taped to my eye. I could barely see through the holes. “All finished,” I was told. “Doctor will be in to see you soon.” He came, he reassured me, he would send me home with a 3 bottle regimen of eye drops and instructions. “Were you guys talking about Disney Princesses in the O.R. ?” I remember asking. (It was close to Halloween.) He laughed. “We probably were. See you tomorrow“, and he was off to his next patient.
I was groggy and hungry but let the miracle of sight begin. Now remember, without correction, I have not been able to see anything except blurry objects for all my life. If I wanted to read without lenses, I held a book or kindle up to my nose (about 6 inches away.) But now, suddenly, peering through the holes in the eye shield, I was noticing a clear world of objects outside and inside.
When I went to the to the offices the next day, I was nearly in tears with happiness. “I can see,” I told the receptionist and the nurse and the doctor. Even through those holes in your shield? They asked. ”YES!!” I wanted to shout it.
“I love Dr. K,” I said. I told already told my roommate (aka husband) that I loved another man now: Doctor K. “Don’t be upset,” I teased. “I just want you to know!”
After decades of poor vison and years of a gray fog, it was truly the most miraculous experience. I now understood why surgeries were scheduled only one week apart. I could barely wait. After 24 hours, I was able to take off the eye shield and I had to wear it only at night while sleeping. No makeup for weeks, but that was fine with me. I CAN SEE!! Who cares what others see when they look at me.
After my second surgery a week later and the follow-up appointment the next day, I was still in awe and so grateful and happy. I was overjoyed and telling everyone about it. “I’m sure you get tired of hearing it” I told Dr. K. “Actually, no,” he said. “It’s still nice to hear.”
So, the moral of this blog story is, if you are blessed with good vision, be grateful. If your vision is able to be corrected with glasses or contacts, be grateful.
And if someday, you need cataract surgery, especially if you’ve worn corrective lenses for over 57 years, DO NOT HESITATE.
In a little over one month, I will be having the one year anniversary of my cataract surgeries. I wear reading glasses to read and for closeup vision. Yes, I’ve turned into the person always searching for her reading glasses, and there is a pair perching on my nose when I want to read.
I also have one tiny and weak contact lens so I can have mono vision when I don’t want to worry about reading glasses. Mono vision: one eye corrected for near vision and one for far vision, your brain adjusts! (By the way, my reading contact lens is a 2 power. My regular contact lens’ were 8.75 and 9.)
I am so happy that I can read the traffic signs. I can see the traffic lights. My vision is crystal clear, and it is a beautiful miraculous thing.
However, it wasn’t all wonderful… I must be honest and say there was one very disconcerting problem those first few weeks with having this clear vision. HOLY CRAP, is that a coating of dust? Is that a spider web on the ceiling? Wow, my house is filthy, I noticed. Frankly, my dear…
I kept screenshots of my rave reviews in texts to friends and family members. I am sure they got tired of hearing me go on and on. I still do not take this for granted. I am still thrilled daily with the miracle of clear vision.
POST SURGERY BONUSES
It was fun to receive beautiful flowers from my beautiful sisters.
It was fun to wear a pirate patch.
Guess what I see? That is not a tree stump. That is my fat pony standing at the top of the hill!
I love Dr. K!
I love you.
I miss you.
You know who you are. ❤️