Ever since the corner of a cardboard box did an impressive imitation of the JFK magic bullet, finding it's way down under my glasses and then up and into my right eye, I have had a trauma-induced cataract. This, for a person who has worn glasses since the first grade, was one more sight-related issue I did not need.
I began regularly visiting my opthamologist (yes, now I have an opthamologist), it became certain that once this cataract infringed on my daily life to the point of discomfort, surgery would be needed. I learned from many that cataract surgery was the most commonly performed procedure in the country and that is was painless. This is a fact easy to digest when you are talking about other people's eyes.
Yesterday was the day. The most painful episode came during two aborted attempts at inserting the IV. A series of jabs to the right hand were unsuccessful, as was a mid-arm vein attempt. I have no needle fears, at least had none, until I felt a spike rooting around my insides. The nurse had an easier time on my left arm. Most cataract patients are in their 70's, not just mentally old like me. I heard one such patient behind the sliding curtain next to me. When mention was made of a "numbing jelly" I was more than a little nervous. While I hoped that I would only get drops, I did receive two spurtts of eye jelly. Now, one of my favorite lines in any work of art is when Oedipus, pre-eye plucking, wails, "Out, vile jelly." I always found that strangely amusing. Not so much now.
I've never had the pleasure of being wheeled into an operating room, but I was impressed how familiar it felt. Who says watching movies every day was a waste of time! The film reference turned macabre once it was almost time to begin. There is a creepy 1966 Rock Hudson flick, "Seconds." Directed by John Frankenheimer. It is the story of a man who gives up his old body in return for, well, Rock Hudson's. I won't give away the ending. It is memorable. When the nurse strapped my arms down, and the doctor taped my forehead the table, all I could think of was Rock Hudson, a possible first in the annals of eye operations. Unless Rock Hudson had some work done.
The oddest thing of cataract surgery is that you are awake. Calmed by an intravenous relaxation cocktail, and slathered with pain-deadening jelly, there really is no physical trouble whatsoever. What they don't prepare you for is the emotional trauma of seeing things, weird things. I would probably be curious to watch my foot being operated on while feeling no pain. My eye? Well, that is very much a part of my head and I'm pretty emotionally attached to everything in my skull in a way my foot will never know. Plus, you are seeing things with, well, with what exactly? I guess your eye, but there are all kinds of instruments in there. I'm still confused, but on to the strange sightings.
In the upper left corner of my field of vision, if that's what it was, was a vertical ellipsis of white light. Imagine being the person on the other end of the eye at the opening of a James Bond movie. Through that opening I may have seen an instrument or two. There are two incisions made, one from the right side, one from the bottom, and, while I wasn't seeing things from those directions, those devices are the most likely explanations. What I did see was a shape oddly reminiscent of a man's head wearing a fencing mask, popping in and out of the oval. Creepy. Plus, it would change colors. In addition to my epee-wielding new friend, various flashes of color would appear, as would a dark gray tendril, most likely a tool of the trade.
After 30 minutes of recovery time, and a quick trip to Taco Bell for comfort, I was home. Not much discomfort, but to be safe, I was given a clear plastic half-goggle to literally tape to my face while sleeping. The idea is to prevent a semi-conscious scratch to the eye. I felt like I was donning half of James Worthy's eyeware, for those who watched a lot of 1980's basketball.
I see now why the focus is on the physical aspects of the surgery in preparing a patient. There's no way to get ready for the psychological damage of being awake while someone is digging around your eyeball. After a visit to the surgeon today, there's even more best left untold, like the option of injecting a needle full of Novocaine into the small space between the eye and socket. Thank the lord for numbing jelly!
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