Friday, May 18, 2018

Postmortem on the Cataract Surgery

While it might seem odd to have the word postmortem in my blog title, since the usual definition means an examination following death, people have come to use postmortem to refer to any examination or discussion that takes place after an event. As my natural lens has been removed and tossed away, I think postmortem works in this context.

My first cataract surgery took place on Wednesday. Beginning on Monday, I had three eye drops to put into my eye, three times a day, including one of each in the eye before heading out for surgery. There was to be no food or drink after I went to bed Tuesday night. We were told to arrive at the surgical center at 7:30, where I completed enough paperwork to apply to a PhD program. As I was instructed to bring nothing with me except for my ID and insurance card, I didn't even have my reading glasses with me for assistance. But I could clearly see the young woman in the waiting area scarfing down a bag of potato chips. My stomach gave a disgruntled rumble.

About 15 minutes after arrival I was taken back to a surgical waiting area where I was told to lie down on a gurney. You get to leave on your street clothes, so that's a bonus. Two other beds were already occupied with patients, which gave me some sense of my wait time. My vitals were taken and I had to give my height and weight (ugh!) for the anesthesia, I presume. Multiple eye drops were placed in the right eye in preparation for surgery.

I was nice and toasty under a warm-from-the-dryer blanket when the anesthesiologist came to talk to me. I'll admit that I did not realize ahead of time that anesthesia would be administered. When I had my LASIK done 14 years ago, I was given a "happy pill" while sitting in a recliner in a dimmed room to relax me before walking into the surgical room. When the technician talked to me at my last appointment, all she said is that I would be given "better stuff" than what I had gotten previously. I assumed (my bad) that it would be a stronger pill.

About 8:20 the nurse came to administer the anesthesia. It was in liquid form, shot under my tongue with a needle-less syringe, where I was told to hold it for 60 seconds before swallowing. As the first thing I had to drink in 11 hours, let's just say it didn't taste like Kool-Aid and leave it at that. At no time did I ever feel the effects of whatever they gave me - before, during or after surgery - so I'm not sure exactly what it was supposed to do for me. It certainly didn't relax me like the LASIK pill did.

It was 8:42 when the nurse wheeled me into the surgical room. That was not a moment too soon as the man who was waiting in the bed next to me was just starting to tell the nurse about the online video he had watched on cataract surgery. Some things I just don't want to know ahead of time. More numbing drops were placed in my eye, and then a white plastic sheeting was placed over my face. They told me that they were blowing oxygen under it so I could breathe. A hole was cut in the sheet over the right eye, and a clamp was placed on the eye so that I couldn't blink.

When the light was maneuvered overhead, the doctor told me to stare at the light. There were three glowing orbs, and he said I could look at any of the three. Then he began the surgery. I can't say that I felt any pain, only pressure. But I was braced for the pain as I have a weak (or is it strong?) tolerance for anesthesia. Often during my skin cancer removals I will have to stop the doctor as I can feel him cutting. During dental procedures I usually need an extra shot. And I felt them removing the most recent breast biopsy. Ouch! But this time there was no pain, thank goodness. I just wanted it to be over with, as it is rather scary to think about what the doctor is doing.

rocking the pirate look
The procedure took about 15 minutes, then the draping was removed, more drops put in my eye, and I got a sexy eye shield to wear. I was wheeled to a the recovery ward, where I was rewarded with orange juice and pretzels before being helped into a wheelchair for dismissal. Jim brought the car around to the front, and we were off.

For the first day I was to leave the shield on, raising it only to add eye drops. I could watch t.v. but there was to be no reading or computer time. I had minimal discomfort in the eye, only a headache which a couple of Tylenol fixed. Yesterday Jim had to drive me back to Pepose Vision for my first follow up. They said the eye was healing nicely, though my pressure is a smidge high. Fortunately it was not so high as to necessitate additional eye drops. The shield now only has to be worn at night and if I take a nap. But I have to use these eye drops for 42 days! And that is just for this eye.

For the first week, there is no lifting over 20 pounds, no strenuous exercise (no pickleball!) and no bending over. You don't realize how often you do that until you are told you can't. I'm getting really creative in how I get things that are down low. My hair looks like crap as I always bend over to fluff it each morning. I also cannot wear eye makeup, which is a big deal to me. I feel naked without my eyes done.

It will be worth it in the end though. I can already see better with the right eye than I see with the left, and my vision should continue to improve in the surgical eye. The one thing that I've noticed the most is that the surgical eye sees everything much brighter. It is so obvious since the left eye has not been done yet. Although people had told me that would be the case, I wasn't expecting it to be very drastic for me since my cataracts were still in the early stages of development. It's amazing, for sure.

On Tuesday I will drive myself to the last follow up appointment for this eye, and hopefully get the news that I can resume all my activities. Especially pickleball. At least until May 30th when I get the second eye done, and start the process all over again.

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