It’s been exactly one week since I had my cataract surgery and I thought I would share the experience. I wasn’t terribly worried about it, but the combination of it being surgery and the thought of having a knife cut into my eyeball wasn’t the most relaxing set of circumstances I could imagine. The reality was that I really needed the surgery, as my eyesight was becoming more and more problematic. I’m happy to say everything went off incredibly smoothly and I was actually able to go outside two days afterward and see the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter clearly for the first time in years. I nearly cried with joy.
I was due at the Woodland Hills campus of Kaiser Permanente, in California, at 2:00 pm. The hospital isn’t too far from where I live and my wife was able to pick up several of our oldest daughter’s friends and ferry them to Girl Scout camp, then make it to Woodland Hills in plenty of time. We also had our youngest, who is not very good at a thing called patience, and I knew there was no way she would sit in a waiting room for at least a couple of hours without driving my wife (and everyone else, no doubt) crazy. I had her drop me off so they could go elsewhere and do something other than sit.
I got out and walked the short distance to the entrance that leads to the Ophthalmology Department and took the elevator up the one flight to the Surgi-Center, right down the hall from where I had been examined previously. I checked in and sat down to wait. There was no cell service so I opened up my Kindle app and continued reading one of the many books I have loaded on my phone. About ten minutes later my name was called and I went into the Center.
I was led to one of the many hospital beds that sat on each side of the room, each with its own monitoring equipment and privacy curtain. The nurse who was getting me prepped introduced herself and started me on the routine she has likely gone through dozens, if not hundreds, of times. I only needed to take my shirt off and put on one of those wonderful gowns every hospital has. I also had to take off the gold chain I have worn for nearly twenty years. At her suggestion, I put it in my pocket.
She had be get in the bed, sort of high up so my head was resting on a special pillow. I didn’t even have to remove my shoes! I lay back and, as she began to ask me some questions, another nurse came and started an IV on my right arm. A blood pressure cuff was placed on my left arm. The first nurse asked me my name and date of birth. She had me look at the info, which included the consent form I had signed, and asked me if it was correct. She asked me which eye was to have the procedure. She put an indelible, purple mark just above my eyebrow on the side it was supposed to be.
She also explained she was going to put drops in my eye to anesthetize it a bit in order to make me comfortable with the small sponge containing a chemical designed to dilate my eye. She was very concerned that I not experience any discomfort and repeated her offer to make me comfortable should my eye bother me. She then left me alone.
Shortly afterward, a young man came in and introduced himself as the anesthesiologist. He asked me the same questions I had been asked a few minutes previously and, being a big believer in the old adage, “measure twice; cut once”, I was more than happy to give him my answers. He checked my chart, apparently was convinced I was unlikely to die in the OR, thanked me, and disappeared.
Finally, about a half hour after I climbed into bed, my doctor appeared. She put a few more drops in my eye and carefully removed the sponge. It was the first time I realized there was a sponge in my eye. The nurse who put it in hadn’t mentioned what it was, just that she wanted to be sure it didn’t make me uncomfortable. My doctor then took a large syringe — kinda like a turkey baster — and filled my eye with a warm, gooey substance. She told me that I would be close to sleep, but they needed me to be awake at least enough to follow some instructions during the procedure. They then began moving my bed.
I remember nothing after that, save for a moment when I heard someone telling me to “look directly at the light.” Others have pointed out it was good they weren’t saying “go to the light.” I followed the instructions, especially since they had told me that’s what would be happening and I had been anticipating it . . . sort of. The next thing I knew, I was back where I had been prepped and my wife and daughter were coming in to see how I was doing.
I had a clear plastic, protective “patch” taped over my eye. I was able to get up, put my shirt on, and prepare to be driven home. I was also give a pair of sunglasses, a roll of tape, and printed instructions on what to do next. Although I was still a bit groggy, I was able to walk with my family out to the front of the building, where I sat down while my wife went to get the car. I noticed immediately, despite my eye being considerably dilated, that my sight was clearer. I was done with the hard part and everything seemed fine, which it was.
I had been using two different ophthalmic drops (one anti-inflammatory and one antibiotic) for four days and now had to start a third, another anti-inflammatory). The drops had caused a bit of discomfort, as they burned after I instilled them. However, the first couple of times I put them in after the procedure it felt like someone stabbed me in the eyeball. It was the most painful part of the whole ordeal.
I had to return the next day, Thursday, so I didn’t go into work that day, but I was able to comfortably return to work on Friday. I had my final post-op exam today and everything is going swimmingly. I’ve been putting drops in my eyes nine times a day for the last week, but now only have to put two of them in three times a day for the next week, then a week at two times and another at once a day. Then I’m done.
I’m told there’s a possibility my eye could, in time, develop a membrane that will act like another cataract, but it can be removed with a simple laser procedure. I am extremely grateful for the existence of this procedure I just had and the manner in which it was performed. I am nearly ecstatic to have my eyesight back. It’s better than it’s been in many years. If you’re having a problem with cataracts, which nearly everyone develops if they live long enough, I highly recommend you have the surgery performed. I now have a serialized, registered implant in my eye (my card says so), but I can’t feel it and the difference in my world is like . . . well . . . night and day.