Wednesday, 19 November 2014

#375 The Cataract Chronicles

Currently I seem to much more focussed on being retired that blogging about it.  Then something happens and I think that might be interesting. 

Like my recent cataract surgery...

I think my doctor assumed I knew all the details, but I was, in fact, cataract-clueless.  Friends were of no use.   Those who had the operation are so delighted with the outcome they revealed nothing of the process. They were like new mothers who forget about the delivery the moment the baby arrives. They had cataract amnesia,

I will probably slip into that forgetful state too, eventually, but before that happens here are 10 things I wish someone had told me:

1.  For the patient (doctors may feel differently) having a cataract removed is quick and easy.  The actual procedure (the replacement of a cloudy lens with a clear, artificial lens) takes about 20 minutes.  It is completely painless.

2.  It is not exactly quick and easy, however.  It may be “day” surgery, but it takes a month to go from cloudy (cataract-impaired) to clear vision.  It all depends on a post-cataract visit to the optometrist. I can hardly wait.  With my current glasses, I cannot see properly from my new eye.  Without them, my other eye is useless.  My eye is perfect, but my vision is still lousy.

3.  Much of that post-surgery month involves the self-administration of eye drops several times daily. The drops regime begins 3 days before the surgery-- perhaps as a hand-eye coordination training exercise in preparation for the eye-drop marathon that is to follow.

4. Cataract surgery is real surgery.  All the accouterments are there: a backless nightie, a gurney, an operating room and an anesthetist. I hadn't reckoned on sedation, but in retrospect, given that my eye was to be excavated, it was probably a good idea.

5.  It takes two hours to prepare a cataract patient. Two hours of various eye drops (of course), and two hours of “verification”.   Every eye-drop nurse asked the same questions:  "what is your name, do you have any allergies, and which eye has the cataract."  I repeated the same answers again and again and again  The left eye.  The left eye. The left eye.  When the nurse with gel (to freeze the eye open) came along, I knew the drill.  My name is Nancy, I have no allergies and it is my left eye. But I couldn't help thinking that if they did get it wrong, it wouldn't be such a bad thing.  My right eye has a cataract too.

When the anesthetist arrived, he queried me again.  Then he put a magic marker dot over my left eye.  I wondered why didn't that happen when I was first admitted.  It might have saved everyone a lot of time -- unless of course, the admitting nurse mislabelled me.  What if she sometimes mixed up left and right the way I do?  Then staff would have to verify (again and again and again) if the dot was over the right (make that correct) eye.

6.  The cataract accessory du jour is an eye shield of aluminum and rubber held on with tape.  The whole contraption looks like something a one-eyed fly might covet.  It is too large to accommodate glasses, so until I could remove it at the end of the first day, I stumbled about in a haze.  I developed a new appreciation for binocular vision.  One eye is not enough especially if it is uncorrected.  The patch, by the way, is worn to bed for a week.  It is intended to prevent eye rubbing.  (I sympathize with dogs that have to wear a cone-collar after surgery.)

Smiling hopefully...

7.  Every cataract patient seems to experience a different rate of eye-improvement. A friend has since told me that her vision cleared almost immediately.  I had three days of gradually lifting fog, until *VOILA* I could read road signs from the car without having to park right under them.  A miracle!

8.  I was NOT driving that car; driving is forbidden for one week after cataract surgery. It is not because driving might affect the surgery, however.  The surgery (and the possible fuzzy vision) might affect driving.

9.  No bending or lifting for one week!  I am having trouble with that one.  Don’t tell the doctor.

10.  Cataract surgery improves vision, but not appearance.  It is sad but true:  mirrors don't lie.  I look older than I did last week and my friends look older too.  Never mind.   I love my new eye and I want another just like it.   - 

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