Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cataract Surgery

Wow!  What a journey!  At present I feel I am in the midst of 'the worst of it', but I am looking forward to that final procedure on the second eye.

I got my first pair of glasses at age 11.  In 4th grade, classmate Dena got glasses, and of course EVERYONE in the class had to try them on.  And when it was my turn I was AMAZED!  When I got home from school that day I told my Mom,  and explained how when I put Dena's glasses on, I could SEE!  Of course, Mom believed I just wanted glasses because my friend got them (I'm a mom now too, and I can understand that now).  But I was quite frustrated, and spent 4th grade moving closer and closer to the front of the room to see the blackboard.

Several weeks before 5th grade started, Mom did take me to the eye doctor.  What a fascinating experience!  I still love eye exams -- SO much more than visiting the dentist.  And glasses were prescribed.  A couple of weeks later, we picked them up, and I vividly remember that drive home.  'Wow, Mom!  There's a jet up there, and it's RED!  Hey, the trees have BRANCHES!  There's a WIRE on that fence!'  My mom looked at me and said "I'm sorry."

I am sure that this experience contributed greatly to my journey through optical education and employment.  I have had regular eye exams ever since that first one, even annually while working in the field.  So, I was greatly surprised when I found Dr. Chris White in Friday Harbor in November of 2011, and he told me 'You have a cataract.'  WHAT?!  I hadn't expected to hear that word for 20 years or more!  He said I'd probably want to do something about it in 5 years or so.  Boy, we were both surprised when I picked up the glasses he prescribed two weeks later, and I said I couldn't see.  Several rechecks ensued -- my vision was very changeable!  We finally believed the change had stabilized, and had a new lens made.

But last summer, my fuzzy vision became more than annoying!  I was still able to see 20/25 using both eyes, but the left eye by itself could not be corrected better than 20/40.  For this Virgo perfectionist, this just was not acceptable!

Cataract surgery has changed so greatly from the time when my Grandma Freda had those 'bubble glasses'.  The materials and procedures used now-a-days often leave the patient able to be free of glasses.  I was excited about this possibility.

BUT, I knew that if I had the procedure in ONE eye, I would want to do BOTH eyes.  My prescription is such that the difference between the eyes would be so great that it would induce double vision.

Tuesday, Al and I made our way to Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute in Bellingham, WA.  (Thank you, Samantha, for lending us a vehicle!)  Pre-tests were done, and I was told that my right eye 'did not meet criteria'.  Insurance would not cover this eye.  That's okay, since we have such a high deductible, being a catastrophic policy, we would be paying the cost ourselves anyway.  But, repeating the glare test after dilation, I did meet the criteria in the right eye also.

A doctor came to take a look, and said that, while my cataracts themselves were maybe only a 4 in left, and 2 in right (out of 10), that they were both centrally located, which makes them seem worse.  Location, location, location!  (Dr. White called them 'beam-splitters'.)

So, we go forward.  I wonder if my optical background makes me more nervous.  My blood pressure reads higher every time they take it.  I know there is a needle involved, but the anesthetist assures me that I will not be able to see any of the procedure.  There IS just a fleeting pinch, and then a sensation of pressure, and some burning, but he does slow down when I indicate it is a bit too much.  When he is through, he says that the worst is over, and he is right.  A rubber ball is mashed onto my eye and held in place with an elastic band, which helps the medication distribute.

An added plus for a believer -- the surgeon and team prayed over me before beginning.

The whole cataract removal takes only minutes.  It's the preparation that takes the most time.  Before I know it, I stand up and get walked out to meet Al and get my after-care package and go home!

My eye is taped shut.  The anesthesia immobilizes the eye, so I would not be able to blink anyway.  And it would not move WITH my right eye, which would give double vision.  The attendants warn that taking the tape off too soon often freaks people out.  They say an average of 3-4 hours, but it could take up to 6, before my 'eye wakes up'.

We have some errands that I feel just fine doing, as long as I can keep my sunglasses on to cover up my taped eye, and Al can offer me an elbow to guide me.  My depth perception is NIL.

By the time we get back to Anacortes, I feel ready to take the tape off.  Wow.  My eye is all bloodshot and goopy.  The cornea is kind of foggy, but covering my right eye....I can see!  I can read signs and more.  It's kind of achy around my eye, but Advil helps.  As warned, I see halos and glare around lights.  Just for curiosity, I remove the left lens from my glasses.  That SHOULD, and does, allow for a clear image to be seen by both eyes.  BUT the two images I see are now of very different sizes, and my brain cannot fuse them.  As expected, DOUBLE VISION!  Not expected, instant NAUSEA!  I put the lens back in.

Yesterday morning, 24 hours after surgery, I visit Dr. White, and he says that I can see 20/25 uncorrected!  As I am now, until I have the second eye done, one of my eyes is greatly blurred regardless of what I do.  With no glasses on, my left eye is now clear!  With glasses on, my right eye is clear!  What to do?  It's kind of confusing to switch back and forth.

Dr. White instructs me to begin my transition.  I should wear no glasses for distance, and get +2.00 readers to help that left eye see close up.  Now I begin to be like Al -- who is always asking 'Where are my glasses?'   and I will be wearing my newest accessory -- eyeglasses as a headband, or neckwear.

And I am getting by.  Yes, it IS quite uncomfortable to have my dominant eye being useless right now.  (It's similar to the before-surgery situation, but worse.)  But I know it will be resolved in two weeks!  Oh happy day!

For the first time in almost exactly 40 years, I will not be dependent on glasses or contacts!

1 comment:

  1. Wishing you well. check out my new blog on Puget Project when you can see well enough.