I have had several people notice that I have not been writing as much as usual. Most of my close friends and acquaintances know why, but there are a lot of people that read this blog all over the country that I have not had the pleasure of meeting. And while this is a political blog mostly, I thought I would let those that do not know I have been suffering with cataracts for some time and finally had one eye fixed. It is a slow process that I didn’t pay much attention to – until I reached the point a few months ago that I simply could not see. It has become more and more tedious every day to read or write. And I have had to limit my writing and, often, even though I had a lot to say, I simply was not up to the task visually.
Even though I have only had one eye done at this point, I expect to be easing in to writing political stuff on this blog and elsewhere as my recovery permits. Some days I felt like I would explode if I didn’t spout off about something or the other. So I am looking forward to getting back into the fray as quickly as I can.
I will try to make this as non graphic as I can for the squeamish. But this is the most frequent surgery in the US and anyone over 50 is a potential candidate.
I had surgery on my right eye one week ago to remove the cataract on my right eye as well as correct the astigmatism in that eye. I opted to pay an additional $1,500 to have the most delicate portions of the surgery done with a LASER. This is supposed to minimize the potential problems and leads to a faster recovery time. the $1,500 IS NOT covered by insurance as using a diamond blade is considered good enough. However, since spending the extra for the laser didn’t help, I had complications, I will probably not go with the laser for the left eye later this year.
The most surprising thing was that there was absolutely no pain at all during surgery. They gave me a Valium to relax me, started an IV line in my hand for the anesthesia and put drops in my eye to dilate the pupil. They keep you awake during the surgery in a “twilight” state, but they DO put you to sleep for a short while as they administer the injection into your eye to numb it. I did not know that they had even put me to sleep or that I got a needle in my eye.
They rolled my bed down the hall to the laser room and positioned me under the laser and moved the machine down onto my eye and docked it to my eyeball. All I could feel was a little pressure. And I could see light.
They first prop your eyelids wide open using an eyelid speculum. They must have put this on while I was briefly asleep. I could not feel it and had absolutely no sensation that my eye was propped wide open. Even more strange, when I blinked, and there is no way to stop doing that, I had the sensation that my eyelids actually blinked. Even though I knew they did not. That was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise.
The laser began working and I saw some res lights. I knew what it was going to do and could pretty much tell what was being done as it happened. But again, absolutely no pain. The laser cut two incisions in my cornea to fix the astigmatism. It then cut a perfect circle in the capsule that holds the lens with the cataract to allow removal of the old lens and implantation of the new one. Then the laser began breaking up the cataract in a pattern that looked like a round maze. And finally the laser made the two incisions for the manual part of the process that requires tools.
That entire process seemed to take under a minute. Perhaps 30 seconds. And during the entire time docked to the laser, cool soothing liquid was repeatedly bathing my eye. No pain. No discomfort at all and a great light show.
I was then rolled, still on the bed, out of the laser room and into the Operating Room. I could see the overhead lights as we moved along, and being that the laser had just pulverized my lens, I was surprised by that a bit.
Another bright light and I knew that several tools would be inserted into my eye, but I didn’t feel anything. It looked like a white stucco ceiling with rust spots. Weird. And more cool, soothing liquid. I was happy to find that when I blinked, I still had the sensation that my eyelids actually closed and opened.
Then we hit a snag. the capsule that holds my lens ripped around to the back. That was not good! I couldn’t tell, and still no pain. But they had to get a different lens because the one I was supposed to get would not work. Something about the way it anchors. So they obtained the one they needed and implanted it. And he said he was going to put a bit more fluid in the eye along with a stitch to make sure nothing leaked out from the back of my eye.
The way they make the incision it is self closing in most cases. It works like a tubeless tire. The pressure in the eye actually keeps the incision closed. Pretty cool. Only my issue would require a stitch to be safe. It was a quick process, a minute or two, and the stitch was in place. And no, they do not dissolve. Most times they leave them in forever. Sometimes they cut the stitch and leave it there, other times they remove it entirely. At this point, I am not sure what will happen with my stitch. But I can’t feel it at all.
In what seemed like 10 minutes, we were all done. Even with the complication.
I was wheeled into the recovery area and asked them if my wife could come back. She was already there and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
I got some water and after a few minutes, maybe 20 or 30, was helped up into a wheel chair and rolled out to the pick up area.I was given a prescription for a pill that was supposed to start reducing the pressure in my eye. These things were $54 after my insurance paid. For 30 pills.
I was feeling fine, just tired. Dozed a bit and the doctor called to check on me. All is well. Except that when I look out through the small holes in my eye patch the vision in that eye was to the right and down compared to the left eye. The doctor said that the eye muscles were not awake yet from the anesthesia. Nothing to worry about.
Later that evening, I had the feeling that there was a splinter in my eye. Every time I blinked it hurt my eye and my eyelid. Then I developed what seemed like a headache behind the eye. I slept in my recliner the first night so I wouldn’t roll over on my stomach. By morning, the two previous pains were gone and I had a feeling like I had styes around my eyelids.
My day after follow up visit was at 8 AM. They removed my patch and checked the eye. the eyelid was swollen and the eye was bloodshot. And it stung a bit. It looked like I had been in a fight. And lost. No real pain, but discomfort.
The extra pressure he put in my eye to keep it from leaking was still present. So he prescribed a glaucoma drop that lowers the pressure along with a couple of antibiotic drops and an anti inflammatory. So we went to the place I bought my glasses and they replaced my half inch thick right lens with plain glass. No charge. Eye Mart Express in Short Pump. That was very kind of them, and considering that the 4 eye drops prescribed came to $350 after insurance, a bit of welcome financial relief. I started the drops as soon as my wife picked them up and by Saturday morning, the swelling was going down and the redness was subsiding. The vision was still blurry, but it takes time.
On Sunday, more improvement. I could look out the back door from my den and actually see the branches on the trees.
But on Monday, the blurriness increased, and on Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to be getting progressively worse. I was worried something was wrong. I should be getting better, right?
My doctor is off this week, so they made me an appointment with another one. He checked everything out and I was glad to hear that there was nothing wrong other than some swelling (edema) in my cornea. And the pressure in my eye was low. So he said stop using the Glaucoma drops and said I could use an over the counter saline drop – strong concentration. That will take the swelling down. So I stopped the Glaucoma drops and started using the saline drops and an ointment overnight.
At this point, I feel like I am back on track. My vision has improved and I can see things pretty well. At this point, I am sure I will at least need reading glasses once things stabilize, but that was expected.
One really cool improvement is the colors and brightness of everything. When I look out of my left eye, which still has a cataract, paper, the computer screen and anything white has a yellowish – gray tint. I had come to accept this as white. It happened so gradually that I never noticed the change. But with my new bionic right eye, the white’s are much brighter. In fact, every color is more vibrant and bright. The world looks like it has a new coat of paint.
It will take my brain a while to process the new brighter scenes in my right eye along with the dull and dingy colors in my left eye. Right now, the right half of my computer screen looks whiter than the left, but the brightness seems to be slowly taking over the whole screen. I assume my brain has decided that it likes the vibrant colors and should process the entire screen like that.
Right now, my left eye is scheduled for the Monday after Thanksgiving. So by the time my brain learns to process my new vision pattern, I will be changing it again. Hopefully, this time I will have a matched set, making the transition easier.
Right now I am leaning towards not having the incisions done by laser. It cost me $1,500 and I still had the very issues I was trying to avoid. My main concern was the astigmatism incisions. They have to be precise and the laser was the best option. My left eye does not have enough astigmatism to worry about.
There is also the matter of the stitch. It is probably distorting my vision a bit. The doctor said it is way too early to think about doing anything with the stitch. It does not dissolve and very often they just leave it alone if it isn’t bothering anything. Other times they snip the stitch and leave it in. And sometimes they remove it completely. It all will depend on my vision a couple months down the road. I absolutely do not feel the stitch or any of the incisions. That is a pleasant result.
I still have a long way until it is 100%, but I am hoping that is weeks, not months. But last night I woke up in the middle of the night. And I looked on my dresser to see the time. And this is the first time in decades I have been able to see the time without my glasses at night. Even with just one eye. And through the protective patch I am still wearing at night.
That is one giant leap – for me.