About five years or so ago I started to develop cataracts, not unusual for my time of life. My glasses got stronger and stronger, until the doctor said that we’d done as much as we could, and it was time to operate. I didn’t particularly like that idea. I mean, it’s my eyes, mon. You don’t mess with my eyes. I’d be perfectly happy to live out my life as a brain in a jar, as long as I had one eye to read with, and a finger to turn the pages. I mean, I never considered lasik surgery and continued wearing coke-bottle glasses for decades, because…eyes.
But after a while it became obvious that my vision was going bad…der. When it got to the point that I couldn’t reliably read the titles on my bookshelf, I told the doc I was ready. This is a summary of what went on. I decided to wait and write it all up at once, rather than treating this blog like it was FaceBook.
First thing was scheduling. I wanted to have it after the end of the school year, so it wouldn’t interfere with my teacherly duties. That meant I had to get an extra eye exam, because Medicare says I need one within X weeks of the operation. I can see that. It lets them make sure that you haven’t come down with some horrible eye-dissolving disease in the meantime. So the first operation got pushed into mid-June.
Once the process starts, its pretty structured: operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait three weeks, operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait a month, final eye exam, order new glasses. If you keep track on your fingers, you will note that this takes most of the summer. It was the end of August before my new glasses came.
The pre-operation was quick and straightforward. I put some drops in my eyes for a week before the operation, then switched to a different array of bottles for afters. Everything had color coded caps. The prep was simple: eye numbing drops, me-numbing drugs (same drugs they use for colonoscopies, and not nearly as cool as my cataractic friends had said). They take your blood pressure (188/120 …it’s my eyes, man), put a robe on over your street cloths, you walk into the operating room and lie down.
The instructions are to pick a spot and stare at it. Don’t move the eyeballs. No Clockwork-Orange-style restraints, so you are in charge. Don’t speak, because that moves your jaw, which moves the eyeball. Hum, if you need the doctor’s attention, and he will safe the operation and attend to your needs. I don’t know what needs I’d have that couldn’t be put off for ten or fifteen minutes. Medical equipment comes close enough to your face to go out of focus. The out of focusness goes blurry, with a little color. After a bit they tell you to get up. I thought it was five minutes. They said it was 13.
Afterwards, the instructions were to protect the eye with glasses or a flexible plastic guard. Since glasses are OK, my assumption is that they are more concerned with keeping out owls than germs (the antibiotic drops do that). I taped the guard to my face the first night. Probably used too much tape, as it felt like I was pulling my eyeball when I took it off, but no harm no foul. Vision was blurry, but rapidly got better. They say no reading, because they don’t want your eye straining to focus. Watching TV is OK, because that’s no different than looking across the room.
Vision improved rapidly, and by the next day I was operating fine. They say that glasses are an acceptable substitute for the guard, but of course none of my glasses worked for that eye any longer. So I popped the lens out of my glasses and used cable ties to strap the guard to the empty lens.
For sleeping, I went down to the hardware store and bought several different models of eye protectors. I wanted something that was reasonably soft, wrap-around, and had a head-strap to hold it on. This is what I settled on.
A month later, we did the left eye. Same deal. Same procedure. On the way into the OR, the doctor said that many people experienced the second operation differently from the first. Perfect timing. And it was subjectively different. I thought it was longer, but no more than ten minutes. I heard him describing each step of the procedure in calm, helpful, tones. I later found out that this operation had taken 13 minutes, same as the first.
The second month was the most inconvenient. Both eyes had been changed, but I still didn’t have glasses. I bought some reading glasses at the Dollar Store, and those helped with the reading. For middle distance, I was fine. Due to the way we’d done the eyes, any signs over about 20 yards were hard to read. Convenience is a relative thing. I was fully functional. Some things (reading small text, the computer) were more work than they had been. Once the glasses came in, everything was fine, mostly. See Part 2 for comments and lessons learned.