Cataract Surgery -- YMMV

... so the worst is over, and here I am at my computer, without glasses, back to reading and writing, and not taking it for granted.

After discussions with my regular eye doc, the astute-but-lethargic-looking Dr. L., and my surgeon, the gentlemanly-and-professional Dr. S., it was agreed to correct my eyesight mainly for reading (i.e. my “near visual acuity”); which means I'll still need glasses for distance, but with much less correction. Something like -2 rather than -5 going on -6.

What I didn’t know until recently is, that the current favored method of cataract removal is with ultrasound, at least for pulverizing the bad/cloudy lens. Sounds gruesome, doesn’t it?

When I first started seeking personal-experience info about cataract surgery and recommended surgeons, I was surprised by the number of responses I got. Friends, colleagues, the “girls” at exercise class, our family lawyer, my cleaning lady – they all either had it done, or else their spouses had, or their parents. Everyone assured me it was a short, safe, non-painful procedure, with remarkable results. All very encouraging, and probably contributed to my calm, cheerful  attitude at the hospital, and my relaxed state on the operating table. My doc said I was a model patient.

Ultimately, everyone was right. But that’s not how I felt during the procedure itself.

First of all, you are told not to budge. Particularly not your head or your hands. The mere knowledge that I have to resist any  sudden urge to scratch my chin, sneeze, or withdraw from the glaring light, made me worry.  Then my face was covered with a heavy protective mat, leaving a hole for one eye, and for the nostrils. I nearly panicked when the heavy cover pressed on my left nostril, since my nostrils are quite narrow and I have a deviated septum, which means my nose gets blocked up very easily. But a tube of oxygen was placed right under my nose, and breathing was easy.

The entire 20-30 minutes you are staring into a very bright light. Most of the time it’s white. At times it turned a pretty pink, green, turquoise. And two or three times it went black, which is a bit scary (“Gosh, I hope this is normal and not a sign that I’m going blind!”). Occasionally my doc said, “Look up, please,” “Now look to the upper-right,” or similar. When he addressed me directly, which he did from time to time, either to explain what he’s doing next, to remind me not to budge, or to instruct me where to turn my gaze to – it was reassuring. But when the doc and his assistant and the other one or two [male] nurses or technicians in the room spoke to each other sotto voce, one’s imagination tends to run wild. So if that happens to you, make sure and rein it in. I wish you luck. Reining in my imagination is not something I’m good at.

As the bright light shone on, flickered and changed color, and as the pressure on my eye socket increased or decreased, and the sounds changed from humming to buzzing to sucking or purring, I couldn’t help trying to guess what they were doing now. A certain part of the procedure did entail some pain, a sort of dull pressure/pain perceived in the top-back of the eye socket. I said “ouch,” in a very even, matter-of-fact tone of voice, and Dr. S. said, “Sorry I have to apply some pressure here.” This painful pressure accompanied me, on and off, for about 40 hours. By now, 50 hours after the surgery, as I write this, it has abated and vanished.

As I understood it, the process was roughly so: Setting the sights; pulverizing the nasty lens; sucking out the debris; mopping up and disinfecting; inserting the small, folded acrylic lens through a 2 mm incision; spreading it out and maneuvering it into place; a bit more rinsing and mopping; checking that everything is okay. Removing face-cover, oxygen pipe, ECG wires, blood pressure arm band, pulse-taking finger clip. Affixing a huge bandage over the relevant eye. Helping you off the operating table and into a wheelchair and wheeling you back into the pre/post op room. Grin at your partner to indicate that all’s well. Get dressed. Get coffee and a couple of petit beurres. Get an All Clear and paperwork from doc and head nurse. Give the next patient in line an encouraging wave. Go to office to complete paperwork. Heave sigh of relief. Go home.

The following morning, after the removal of the bandage, my surgeon gave me a hard plastic eye patch (clear plastic with holes) to use at night, but said he hands it out mostly because patients want it, not because he thinks it's necessary. I did use it last night, worried that I might, out of habit and absent mindedness, rub my eye.

Though the doc told me my right eye is also developing a cataract, I was not aware of its effect until now: When I cover my right eye, the wall ahead of me is brightly white; when I cover my left eye, the wall is a sort of beige...

I’m instructed to use 3 kinds of eye drops, 4 times a day. Am cleared to do anything I want, except go swimming, wet my eye, do weight lifting, or let my bubbly, bouncy grandson within arm’s-reach of my face.

The surgery took place at Assuta Medical Center, Ramat HaChayal, Tel Aviv. 

And in case you haven't seen the before-and-after pics I uploaded to FB:



Claire W. said...

Wow! Thank you for that description and I'm so relieved it went well. I think I'll copy this so if/when I have the surgery I'll know what to ask about and what to expect!
Congratulations on your newly clear vision--I hope it serves you for many years!

Chaya said...

Everything I ever wanted to know about cataract surgery.

Unknown said...

This is an amazing account of your surgery and it is great to hear you have recovered fully! My mother is due to have cataract surgery in san diego next month and she is absolutely terrified- so am I actually. It is extremely reassuring to read a post like yours. I'll have to pass this along to her (to read with her 1 good eye!). I am sure hearing of your success will definitely boost her spirits. I never realized how cognitive you actually are during the surgery. Sounds a little freaky!

Nina Rimon Davis said...

Thanks, Chuck. I hope your mom finds my description reassuring, even though I was blunt about the few moments of pressure/blunt pain. It's really rather mild, far from unbearable. And also quite subjective. Yep, one is totally with-it during the procedure. Quite interesting. Wishing you both lots of luck.

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