Four short days ago, I was practically blind. And now? I am so happy to SEE you!
At 40 (or 38, when I was diagnosed), I never expected I would be incapable of taking care of my family properly, but that is what my life had come to. I had given up nighttime driving a year and a half ago and was about to give up daytime driving as well. When you can’t see a stop sign or the color of a traffic light, you’ve got problems. My problem is posterior subcapsular cataracts, in both eyes. They ruined me. I was in a depression and every day feeling more and more sorry for myself and my children, who had to drop out of activities and events because mommy’s taxi service was going out of business.
I knew this had to be remedied, but I was honestly scared about someone cutting into my eye, removing a natural and critical element of my being and replacing it with something fake and seemingly less capable. (By less capable, I mean not doing the same job as a properly working lens.) The alternative was going completely blind. I pulled up my big girl pants, and surrendered to the ophthalmologist, knowing it was my only option.
A little over a year ago, I was scheduled to have the cataract in my right eye removed. Paralyzed with fear just a few days before surgery, I canceled and took a friend’s suggestion of trying a homeopathic doctor. I was desperate to save my god-given body parts and do what I could to naturally reverse this debilitating cloudiness. Long story short-it didn’t work. After 8 months of taking a little white pill that tasted an awful lot like sugar, I gave up, made an appointment with a new ophthalmologist (by that time, we had made a military move to another state and I had to start the process all over) and waited impatiently to be scheduled (specialties like this are slow in the military world of medicine). Three months after my initial appointment last November, I found myself in the operating room.
By this time, my left eye was by far my worst, so it was determined that one would go first. From the get-go, I told my doctor how nervous I was and how I thought it best to be completely knocked out for the surgery. The morning of, both he and the anesthesiologist agreed as my nervous attempt at humor failed and I fell into uncontrollable sobs. I gave birth to four children; I know pain. I am not afraid of pain. I am afraid of not seeing. My children. My husband. My family and friends. You can tell me all you want how easy and safe this surgery is, and rattle off statistics on success rates, but that would all fall on deaf ears, ears that could only hear my brain screaming the what-ifs. And so, I was given a glorious shot of something and then some gas, and drifted off into a sleep where I felt nothing, saw nothing and remembered nothing about the surgery itself.
I had decided on a monofocal lens, more or less because that is all the military has to offer its patients, but was comfortable with the doctors opinion that it was my better option anyways. He determined, from my insistence that my driving ability was the most important factor in all of this, that he would choose a lens that would give me great intermediate focus, as well as giving me good distance vision and reasonable near vision. My lens is a Tecnis 1-piece (ZCB00) IOL. Technicalities aside, 4 days out I think his choice was perfect.
I woke up from my sedation with a pretty obnoxious headache and a patch on my operable left eye. I do remember hearing my doctor say everything went extremely well, but in my stupor, all I cared about was my aching forehead. The hospital lights made it worse, so after receiving a Vicodin, I pulled the covers over my head and gave in to my drowsiness for a bit longer. I’m not sure how much longer I slept, but when I awoke, I was perfectly pain-free and ready to leave. My friend (my husband was unfortunately away on a military mission) helped me put myself together, gathered my belongings and drove me home, where I continued to sleep most of the day away. My kids came home from school and tenderly checked in on me from time to time. Another friend gratefully made us all dinner-a delicious potato soup and homemade bread. I was thankful for that, as my throat was very sore from the device they inserted into my mouth to keep me sedated. It wasn’t an intubation tube, thank heavens, but some other contraption that I was told sits just outside the area of your vocal chords. (They couldn’t use a gas mask because it sits just too close to the eye area.)
I felt just a tiny bit of pain around my eye, but was really more annoyed by the gauze and patch they taped across it. I think the gauze was rubbing against my eyelashes. I was nervous for the next day and what I would expect to see when the patch was removed. My expectation was that everything would still be blurry, but not cloudy. I was told that bifocals would be needed after my eye healed completely, so I was under no illusions that I would see perfectly well. Boy, was I surprised.
That patch came off and I fell into a blubbering mess! I could see! There were colors! And there was sharpness! And letters! And the beautiful eyes of my good friend! And the lights didn’t discount anything in the room! Everything was vibrant and without cloudiness. I couldn’t believe what a difference. The nurse handed me the device to cover my right eye and asked me to read the chart. Not only could I see the top line, I could read the 20/15 line! I was no longer blind. Only half-blind, of course.
Shortly after the patch removal, I noticed a strange thing happening in my vision on the left side. A weird black shadow that I described to the doctor as being the side of my face that I was seeing. He quickly informed me that it is called a black arc, known as “negative dysphotopsia”, a common side effect of the surgery. It should go away over time as the eye heals and my brain adjusts to my new way of seeing. I have since read that sometimes it takes a long time to go away, and sometimes it doesn’t go away at all. No matter, this is much preferable to everything that was lacking in my vision and in my life. For two days, I felt some pain in my eye as it moved and focused on things, especially when I was looking at something with light, like out the window or at the computer screen. I have not felt this pain since. I also saw a few flashing lights every now and then for the first 36 hours, but those have also gone away. It was sort of like a strobe light coming on and going off rather quickly. I imagine my eye was getting used to filtering light properly for the first time in years.
With my right eye still with a severe cataract, it is strange for me to be able to test just how blind I was. I started looking around my house, and even though I had cleaned the day before my surgery, I noticed how filthy it actually was. Dust and hair and scum in the sinks that I had NO IDEA was there. Scuffs and spills on the floors that I COULD NOT SEE. Windows that have smears from the dog’s nose when she is watching the squirrels tormenting her outside, not to mention the DOG HAIR THAT IS EVERYWHERE, not just when they collected enough in the corners so I could actually see them. There were certain benefits to being as blind as I was!
I am noticing that my vision is definitely going through an adjustment phase. Things that I can see clearly one minute are needing to focus again the next. So far, I think there is a slight possibility that I will not need corrective glasses for distance. I am pretty happy with what I have there. Reading glasses I will clearly need, although if I sit back far enough, or hold my phone or reading material down enough, I can see very well. That will get old, I imagine and I will just give into the cheaters. But instead of wearing +2.75 readers on a full time basis (even for distance!) as I was before this surgery, I am now back down to a mere +1! I am looking forward to checking out my nighttime driving abilities. I’m not sure I’m going to be comfortable enough to attempt that until both my eyes are cataract free. I did drive for the first time yesterday, during the day. My kids really got a kick out my constant announcement of all the street signs I could clearly read. “Hey guys, look! It’s 2nd Street! Oh, wow! That says STOP! Hey, that light is green! Did you all see that Starbucks sign? Let’s go have a treat!”
Have I told you how happy I am to SEE you?