Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eye-Surgery Report (I Can See Clearly Now)

Before Cataract SurgeryThis is the "before" picture of my eye-glasses. This is what I have been wearing for a year or so now as a cataract has grown in my right eye. You can see its growth in the relative size of that right lens as compared to the left. And I could have sprung for an even thicker lens over the last 9 months if I wanted to see fully clearly.

Today, by contrast, I have a plain piece of plastic in the right side; no prescription at all. And my eye doctor has just tested that eye as seeing 20/40. I'm very pleased with that measurement. Just one day following cataract surgery and I am seeing better than I have in years; better than before the cataract, I think. My doctor describes it as "a home run."

This, then, is my report to you on cataract surgery. I have a few friends considering similar surgery who look to me as a test-case. I can say, so far, that it's not so bad. The worst part was thinking about it before-hand; the idea that someone will cut open your eye is a little freaky.

Sunday night and Monday morning, thinking about it too much, were odd. But once we got to the outpatient surgery center, things went quickly and were well-organized.

I deal with stress over health issues by taking an interest in the technology and the process. I wanted to know what blood pressure reading the nurse got, and I used the beep-beep of the heart monitor to try to play bio-feedback games while she bustled about. We talked about the best places to have an IV inserted as she placed a needle into a vein on my right hand. And when the nurse-anesthetist came in to give me a minor sedative, I tried to gauge the progress of that drug as it took hold.

To be honest, though, at that point I disappeared from the process and only have a few impressions of the procedure itself.

They tell you before the surgery that it will go like this:
  1. You get a sedative ("happy juice," someone called it),
  2. They put you to sleep for a few minutes so they can hit your eye with a local anesthetic and get it fully numbed out,
  3. They wake you up for the procedure (I assume since you eye needs to be open),
  4. They brief you and whoever brought you on post-op care and help you into a wheelchair and out the door.
My experienced jumped from sedative going in almost straight to my wife (the Lovely Karen) coming in to pick me up.

I do recall being sort of awake and under a blue cover of some sort around which there was activity and some talking. I could dimly see some eye-doctor-like equipment through the cover (I assume with my left eye). I remember feeling cool water around my eye as they worked. And I think I remember the doctor saying "we're almost done."

But I really wasn't present for all that. And I am fine with that absence. The doctor assured me today (at a follow-up check) that I didn't reveal any deep dark secrets.

The whole thing took about an hour and a half.

When I got home, I felt good enough to take a self-portrait. My eye was under a shield for a few hours. When I took it off, I found I could see well-enough, though through a film of medications, to watch a little TV, but not for long stretches. My eye was a bit sensitive to light and itched a fair amount.

This morning, when I awoke, the itching was largely gone and the sight from that eye is noticeably better. I drove myself to my follow-up appointment (the post-op instructions say you can drive the ext day if you feel up to it and can see well enough, and if you have a valid driver's license).

I do find it is best if I wear the old-guy style full-coverage sunglasses that they gave me when I drive. I assume the light-sensitivity will ease with time.

I do not expect to know just how well this has worked until early January. The doctors say it takes about a month for the eye to settle in and "accept" the new lens. I have an appointment the first Monday of 2011 to find out what my final prescription will be. If any (he wrote, hopefully).

As a side note, I ran into an older couple at the eye doctor office today who remembered me from yesterday. The wife had also had cataract surgery and her husband remembered Karen and I coming in while he waited. We compared notes and found that we had had very similar experiences.

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