I Can See Clearly Now

The eyes have it.  After a weekend of settling down, the rather miraculous event of cataract removal and lens implant surgery  has worked its magic and it is a whole new world.  Truly.  Having worn glasses since I was nine years old  and never having seen all that well with them anyway, sight is something I never took for granted. And that is even more the case now.

Eye surgery is interesting. You can’t be knocked out because then of course your eyes would roll back creating all sorts of challenges for the  surgeon.  Therefore,  you are quite awake for your own operation although mildly sedated. But I get ahead of myself.

The whole process starts in the pre-op area where a very cheerful and efficient nurse hands you what looks like a  government surplus  check your stuff through the X-ray machine plastic bin.  It is quite a Pavlovian moment. The urge to take off your shoes and put them in the bin is immediate and overwhelming. Not so much with the rest of your clothes but it seems like the thing to do so it’s not uncomfortable to offload them.  It is a fact that in all the years of hospital operations not one patient has tried to sneak a bomb into their own operating room so hospitals are fairly relaxed about using  TSA style pat downs.   Besides the spiffy grey plastic bin,  you are also the recipient of a one size does not fit all hospital gown, generously cut at the back. You know, the one with those little strings  on the backside that guys with rotator cuff injuries don’t stand a chance of reaching, much less tying.  That’s all right, we’re all here for eye surgery so no one can see anything anyway.

Once you are fashionably attired and reclined in your super duper bed, they test you. They want to know if you know your name. Only mildly challenged, I breezed through that one. Then they get tricky and ask you which eye is being  worked on today. When you pass that test you do not get a gold star.  Rather, the nurse whips out a black magic marker and you get an x  marked over the very  eye you successfully identified.   It would be funny except she uses a waterproof permanent ink laundry marker from the Wal-Mart  down the street and it takes a week to wash the damn thing off.  But it is extremely comforting to  know that the doctor now has one of the most advanced and lasting methods of identifying exactly where to operate ever invented.

Next is the once in a lifetime opportunity  to experience exactly how  a car feels  going through the car wash.  At least the headlights of a car.  Armed with the certainty that X marks the spot and a little training from the CIA,  the nurse starts to waterboard your eye with an immeasurable amount of eye drops.  Numbing drops, antiseptic drops, dilating drops, paralyzing drops, drops to make you smarter, thinner or fatter – you name it, they drop it in.  They let you steep for  a while and then cheerfully do one more round,  giving you your very own tissues to mop up afterwards.

Then you wait for the flood to have its effect.  During that time the anesthesiologist comes in and checks on you. He asks you how much you weigh.  You feel obliged to inform him you now weigh five pounds more than when you checked in, most likely due to water weight. He factors that into  his anesthetic formula while he oh so casually  lets you know that you will be awake when somebody is rummaging around your eye, doing things you really don’t want to see.  But!  The good news is you won’t feel any pain.

Now the surgeon who will be helping you to see better comes in and says hello, assuring you that you will be well taken care of and yes indeed it will be a painless event.  At least you assume it is the surgeon.  Remember, you are now not wearing your glasses and you just went through a tsunami of eye drops so you really, really can’t see worth a hoot.  It could just as well be the hospital janitor having a grand time talking to the patients on his lunch break.  Been doing it for ten years, no reason to stop now.

Okay,  it is time – quicker than you can say “How fast can this thing really go?”, you are whisked out of the pre-op room down the hallway with the nice paint job on the ceiling, to the operating room.  It is very bright and this is comforting.  These people have it down, making an Indy 500 pit crew look like sloths on quaaludes.  Hooked up here! Check! Lines straight here! Check!  Immobilize the head!??  What?  Of course one has to have one’s head immobilized.  They don’t really say that, they just start doing it. For being in such a modern place things are beginning to  feel quite medieval. This broad piece of tape gets pressed against your forehead as you are adhered to the gurney.  Then, some sort of bracket is put around your head and tightened, making sure you can not move in the least.  And for good measure your eye gets taped open.  You cannot blink.  Those bright lights are blasting down on you.  Resolve fails immediately and you agree to tell them whatever they want to know.

But the surgeon knows what he wants and he goes right for it. The whole procedure lasts about ten minutes. And truly there is no pain.  For the first operation, (they are done three weeks apart) I wasn’t offered an “anti-anxiety” medicine. I think they were out, probably a result of the janitor having visited the medicine chest prior to saying hi to all us waiting patients (come to think of it,  he did feel really calm).  Thus, for me,  the operation  was a  La Maz  exercise in deep breathing, because although it was as advertised and there was no pain,  it sure  felt like someone was sifting  through the over stuffed closet of your eye, looking for that special something he was certain was there.  The second time,  however was a different story. This time I knew what to expect and the very, very nice nurse asked me if I wanted something to relax me prior to the operation. Wishing to experience the full benefits of my  Club Med vacation, I replied with a hearty yes.  It wonderfully took the edge off and the operation was over before I could even think to ask the doc if he found what he was looking for. I did remember to ask the very nice nurse if I could have  a doggie bag of “anti-anxiety” medicine but she said there were no left overs allowed. Pshaw.

Here’s a few visual aids to give you a feel for the results.

before

after

before

after

after

before

Ain’t science grand?

Thanks for taking some LIP from me,

Bruce

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