Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eye Surgery

By Rob Watson

I first got glasses about the age of 13. Until a few years ago, my vision was correctable to 20/10. When I went for my new glasses then, I could not see well at all. The optometrist eventually told me I had cataracts. One day I became aware that I could no longer see the dashboard on my truck as I drove in the daytime. How fast was I going? How much gas was left? You know, tiny details like that.

My friend here had already had his eyes fixed and recommended his doctor. I went for an examination. The conclusion was that my eyes were not bad enough to be fixed. When I asked if it was really important to be able to see my speedometer... nobody answered.

Friend and I do a lot of things together. He is always trying to point things out for me to see. The things are usually small and a long way away. I almost never see them. For his April fool joke on me, he got all excited and began pointing to a non-existent deer... "right there!!!" "right there!!!" "Can't you see it? It has a huge rack!!!" He got a great laugh out of it. Me, not so much.

Friend has two cousins that come up every November to pheasant hunt on Friend's farm. They always invite me. For reasons, possibly associated with my limited ability to see, I have trouble distinguishing the difference between hens (Which should not be shot) and roosters. This actually doesn't matter because I seldom hit anything any way. They are kind enough to donate one of their harvest to me. Wife really likes the tail feathers for decorations.

When I became eligible for MediCare I went back for a second evaluation. This time they said I probably needed the surgery. I expressed an interest in having my wandering eye fixed as well. They told me they had a visiting surgeon that did that. In fact, they could schedule the two on the same eye at the same day.

Cousins have both had cataract surgery. As mine was already scheduled when Pheasant season rolled around, I asked them a lot of questions. Friend, and Cousins, insisted the procedure was painless and quick with very little problems. They all insisted I would be very happy. They collectively said I would be most amazed by the return of color to my vision. Nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be concerned about, no worries. The doctor even advertized that he had done over 30,000 eyes.

As the surgery for the right eye rolled around I was relaxed and unconcerned. The vision in the right eye had been reduced to indistinct shapes and dull colors. I was ready for it to be fixed. Wife, on the other hand, could have used a mild tranquilizer. Wife is a great planner and scheduler. I was glad to have her around, even if she was a little nervous.

When the big day comes, we get up at 3AM to get to the surgery on time. It is cold and dark outside. The surgery clinic is warm and full of friendly efficient people. The blanket they cover me with has been warmed in a warmer. Each person has a task. Each task is performed in a friendly and efficient manner. Then the next person comes to do the next task. It seems to be no more than 10 minutes from the time I enter the building until I am lying on my back, IV in place, chatting with the anesthesiologist. Fade to black.

When I wake up a patch covers my right eye. It hurts to move the eye so I focus on keeping the eyes straight and moving my head. After a short interval the pain killers wear off and a big dull pain develops in the sinuses above and below the eye. I take a big green pain killer and think to myself, I been lied to. This is not easy and painless. I am nauseous and feel like I have been poked in the eye with a sharp stick. After the patch is removed, material oozing from the eye dries and glues the eyelids together and feels like someone sprinkled sand in there. "All natural."says the doctor.

Those who have been around me will recall that I keep the right eye closed much of the time. I have developed that into a rather strong habit, that I knew I had to break. In preparation for the surgery I have been practicing holding it open. After surgery, keeping it closed solved some problems... all except the sand in the eye feeling.

Holding the eye open had its own problems. I tried to walk around with the left eye closed and the right open... Diminished sense of the vertical. I tried holding both eyes open while showering the morning after. I got sick enough to deposit supper and breakfast in the toilet. A few hours later I deposited lunch in a pile of leaves. Turns out, keeping both eyes open and making rapid changes in points of focus was the cause of that problem. This was caused by the drugs given me to keep the eye from moving during the corrective surgery for the wandering eye, The right eye muscles were partially paralyzed. It took two days to wear off.

The third day after surgery, Wife and I began a two day journey to our fishing cabin in another state. Each of us drove a vehicle towing a trailer. I worked at keeping the right eye open though moving it caused discomfort. On the second day along the way, we spent most of the day driving through an area with spectacular fall colors. I have to say I was impressed with being able to see them. I was more impressed by being able to see my dashboard with the gas gauge and the speedometer.

After a week, almost all the discomfort had gone away. The left eye was next and was then a week away. I began to wonder if the left eye was going to be as unpleasant as the right had been.

On Surgery day for the left eye, I was somewhat less relaxed. In the minute or two we sat in the waiting room before the prep, an older couple hustled out the door. The lady called over her shoulder "He is feeling nervous about being put to sleep... we will be back another time." I thought to myself, they probably didn't have friends who had gone before.

For me it was the same friendly efficient folks... This time no fade to black. I watch the doctor fix my eye from the inside. Mostly all I was able to see was a big blurry light. When my new lens popped into place, I could see the doctor finishing up my procedure.

Apparently ALL the problems and discomfort were associated with the wandering eye correction. Within minutes of the surgery I was able to see foggy images from my left eye. By mid afternoon I was able to see clearly from it. No problems, no pain, no nausia, no sand-in-the-eye.

I have significant astigmatism so I will always have to wear glasses. I brought along my computer glasses because my corrected vision was better in the right eye. By mid afternoon I was wearing these glasses. Next day, at my followup checkup, the nurse/technician tested my vision with these glasses. It was 20/20. Trees had branches. Branches had twigs. Twigs had buds. It is really great to see again. Friend is going to have to think up a different April Fools joke for next year.

The only real catch to the whole process is the eye drops. Three drops three times a day for seven days. two drops three times a day for about 20 more days. Wife has been an extra ordinary aid in keeping up with this.

UPDATE:I wrote about some problems with my eye surgery. Now that it is over, nearly all the discomfort was caused by the lazy eye correction. However, the eye drops, for no reason that I could discover, would sometimes burn like liquid fire. My doctor said that would happen.

Except for the changes I am now able to see in the mirror, I am exceedingly pleased.

I have been near sighted from about 6th grade, and with serious astigmatism. Because I will always have to wear glasses anyway, I chose the nearsighted replacement lenses.
This is counter to all the advice from friends who had the cataract procedure. Of course they were all far sighted to start with, and now do not wear glasses at all, except to read. The only other advice I got was from a person who got one of each. One near and one far. her advice was DON'T DO THAT. (Emphasis, hers.)

I actually had five choices. One of which corrected for astigmatism. After my divorce, I got contacts with astigmatism correction. They never worked… I couldn't recognize a friend at more than 30 feet or so. The next pair of contacts I got without the correction… I could read license plates at 60-90 feet. These people here showed me the irregularities in the surface in my corneas that caused the condition. I didn't see how anything could correct that. Corrections to bad choices would cost me $6,000 to $10,000. For all these reasons I decided to go with what was familiar-Glasses. Besides, a lot of the things I do on a daily basis, guns, motorcycles, home repairs, helping friends with fixing their cars, requires eye protection. Over the years tempered lenses have saved my eyes more than once.

Case in point: One day while riding my smaller motorcycle, a huge grasshopper made a direct hit on the lens of my left (master) eye... old One Eye Rob, lucky again.

1 comment:

  1. A telling, comforting story for those looking ahead to face problems associated with aging. Thank you!