Monday, August 10, 2015

Cataract Journey: Post-Op #1

I had my first cataract surgery a few days ago. It began, of course, with fasting and the usual pre-op check ins. I'd already begun using antibiotic and steroid eye drops.* In addition, I used an eyelid scrub, a little moist towelette with a coarse texture, the night before. I don't wear makeup, so that wasn't an issue, and my hair is dry enough so skipping a shampoo the night before (they're afraid you'll irritate your eye) wasn't a problem, either.

The surgery took place in a surgical center associated with a hospital, and clearly it was cataract surgery morning. Nonetheless, I appreciated the care everyone took with me. The nurses were great -- but I think nurses are great, anyway. It takes me a long, long time to feel clear-headed after Verced, usually used as a sedative, so the anesthesiologist and I came up with a different plan. I'm old enough to remember the days when you got what they gave you no matter what you said. How wonderful to be listened to!

Once I was hooked up to an IV and my eye was dilated, it was time to begin. The first step was a femtosecond laser to break up the cataract and make an incision for its removal, at the same time correcting my astigmatism. This was not only painless, but an amazing light show. Gorgeous colors, flashing lights, snowflake mandala patterns...and the laser makes funny noises as if it's singing to itself.

Phase two was the removal of my lens and implantation of the artificial corrective lens. After talking with my surgeon (and my financial advisers!) I opted for accommodative lenses, which should give me great distance and intermediate (computer, piano, social) correction. I'll still need reading glasses, which is okay.

This is the phase that disturbs most folks. They envision (excuse the pun!) pointy metal instruments coming at their eyes. I saw nothing but lights! The lights were not as entertaining as those produced by the laser, but they were quite benign. Before I knew it, my doc was saying it was over and was placing a clear, perforated plastic shield over my eye.

I spent a little while in recovery, not so much from the surgery as the anesthetic, and then my husband drove me home. The surgical center folks were adamant (a) that I not drive; (b) that I have someone at home in case of need. "Need" amounted to eating a light lunch and sleeping most of the afternoon. The next day I had a follow-up exam with the surgeon, who was very pleased by how everything is healing, and was allowed to take off the shield except for sleeping. Oh joy, I get even more eye drops four times a day!

I had thought that I'd be able to pop a lens out of my spectacles to correct the nonsurgical eye, but alas that didn't work. So I toddle around with one still-dilated eye that can see intermediate distances just fine -- far distance will come as everything settles and my eye muscles learn how to flex the lens -- and one utterly myopic eye. Needless to say, I can hardly wait for the 2 weeks to fly past so I can get my second eye done!

It is amazing to open my eyes in the morning and have (one of them) see clearly. Also, the brilliance of the colors astonishes me. I had no idea how much my cataracts "grayed out" colors. I feel like Dorothy, stepping from black and white Kansas into Technicolor Oz.

*My doctor's protocol; yours may have a different one.

Eye image licensed under Creative Commons.

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