For years, I’ve struggled to see. I mean, I literally couldn’t see. Cataracts had clouded my vision so badly that I’d lost the ability to see more than dark and light or, what amounts to having your glasses fog up after coming into a warm environment from the cold temperatures outside. I literally had to put my nose right up to the computer screen in order to be able to see. Glasses were of little use and I often relied upon the “text to speech” function on my computer in order to write. I had long since given up driving, lest I kill someone. Not being able to see an entire tanker truck one early evening was enough to shock me into the reality that I was nearly legally blind.
Still, I resisted going for the surgeries that would cure this defect. Fear ran down every neuron in my body, sending shock waves of panic through me at the mere thought of my eye being cut into. In spite of many people’s reassurances that it was an “easy-peesy” surgery, I couldn’t stop shaking long enough to pick up the phone and make the necessary appointments to get that ball rolling.
I’d had many falls. I couldn’t distinguish between stairs or flat ground, dips in concrete or, even tiny retaining walls that I’d trip over. It wasn’t until I was in the midst of one of those falls that seemed to run in slow motion as I was in my downward descent that the thought, “I’ve got to get this done,” catapulted me into limping home and making that call.
Within a few weeks, I was in the O.R., being prepared for the surgery.
It’s amazing to me what our minds can do to us. If you’ve ever had surgery of any kind, you’ll know the anxiety that I’m speaking of and recognize yourself in the thoughts that run rampant to cause the panic that one gets struck with as you’re awaiting to be wheeled into surgery. A little education as to what to expect is a good thing but, the amount of research that I’d done, had given me more information than I really should have had for my own good. Thoughts of complications were looming all around me as I watched people being wheeled in and out of surgery.
Most of those around me, were of more advanced age. I was one of the youngest in there. There was only one other gentleman who appeared to be much younger than me. I watched with eagerness as they rolled them into the recovery area, which was just across a desk in the central area, dividing the before and after patients. I actually found myself angry when a nurse would step in front of a patient because I so badly wanted to see how they were making out post-op. Yes, I had the thought that it wasn’t too late to rip out my own IV and head for the hills…even if I did trip and fall, doing so. However, as I watched them chatting with the nurses and whomever they had accompany them to the surgery, eating cookies and drinking juice, tea or coffee in recovery, I realized they didn’t look any worse for the wear. They were also much more likely to have serious health issues than me. As fast as they were wheeled into recovery, they were being ushered out again.
It was an assembly line feel to the process. As chairs emptied in the O.R. section, more were brought in to be prepared. Drops were put in the surgical eye several times while waiting, an IV was inserted, a heated blanket was placed over us, EKG leads were put on, blood pressure taken and we were all given a lovely blue disposable cap over our heads. No one changed out of street clothes or shoes, though we were to wear fully buttoned shirts.
The lady beside me, sitting in her lovely recliner chair that would eventually fold down to a flat table in the O.R., was having her second eye done. She’d already been through this process before and, I couldn’t help but ask her how it felt, what they do…essentially, reassuring myself that I too, would come out of this alive.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said, waiving her hand in front of me like I was a loon. “You get a lovely light show, some water squirted into your eye, some pressure and it’s done. Then, they give you cookies and juice.”
The woman with her, whom I presume to be her daughter, simply smiled. It appeared she’d also been present during the first surgery as well and this was old hat to her as well.
Though many doctors were doing surgeries that day, we realized we had the same doctor. She was to go ahead of me, even though they’d run behind by about 45 minutes.
“I’m bloody bored,” she said, shifting herself restlessly in her chair. Her daughter just rolled her eyes and sighed.
Bored? How does someone become bored when I was quaking with fear?
Finally, a male nurse came to wheel her into the O.R..
“See you on the other side (poor choice of words for me at that very moment),” she uttered, waiving back to me. “It only takes about 10 minutes and you’re out.”
The nurse jokingly corrected her for her daughter’s sake, telling her that it would be more like a half hour or so.
“Oh, you’re full of sh*t!” she exclaimed, waiving once again, behind her head to both me and her daughter.
The nurse just chuckled and shook his head, wheeling her off.
Panic was setting in now. I knew I was next but, still had at least a half hour’s wait before it would be my turn to be wheeled off. I’m not good with waiting of any kind, let alone panicked waiting.
In less than a half hour, I could hear the woman on the other side of the desk that separated us pre-op with those who were post-op.
“I’m done! I’m here!” she yelled. I could barely make out her hazy image from across the room as she excitedly waived at me. I waived back, not knowing if she saw me or not but, her daughter had been brought back in again while cookies and juice were being downed and instructions given.
Within moments, I was being wheeled in, saying my “see you laters” to my husband sitting beside me in a regular chair. Was I sure I was coming out of there? I’d watched about 10 people come and go and they all made it out. Was there one who hadn’t? Or, would I be that one?
The O.R. was cold, as I presume all O.R.s are or, maybe it was simply me and my panicked state. Whatever it was, I was shaking as they wheeled me into the room. A swirl of masks and scrubs were around me, hooking my leads up to monitors and my surgeon greeted me. She’s not the most friendly of people. Rather clinical and somewhat cold feeling, I wished there had have been some music or chatting to take my mind off of the hospital O.R. setting but, there was nothing of the sort. Everything was timed and like clock-work, everyone knowing what to do and what order to do it. It was clearly obvious this was done every day of the work week, many times a day. That, in itself, made me feel a little more at ease.
My head was strapped down tightly to the table so as not to have the inclination to move inadvertently. A clamp was quickly and expertly placed on my eyelids to keep them open. I couldn’t blink if I tried. Oxygen in the form of a tubing into my nostrils was placed on and a drape was quickly put over my face and nose, exposing only the eye being worked upon. For a brief moment, I felt rather claustrophobic (a usual state for me in these types of situations) but, it was quickly dissolved when I realized that I could breathe with the oxygen I was being given. The anesthesiologist administered something that he said would relax me a bit but, not put me out, into my IV port.
I saw bright, multi-colored lights and nothing else. I felt pressure and water being squirted over my eye. I asked how it was going and was told “almost finished”. Before I knew it, I was being dis-masked, leads off, head un-strapped and being wheeled out of the O.R. I was heading for recovery and I knew the cookies and juice were awaiting me soon.
My husband met me in the recovery within moments as they call for whomever has accompanied you to come in again.
I was offered cookies and juice, tea or coffee and chose the juice as my mouth was dry from my own unnecessary panic.
Within 15 minutes, I was being seen by another younger doctor who checked my eye, a plastic clear shield put over my eye and told to go home.
I bumped into (I mean that literally) the older lady that I’d met in the O.R. as she was putting on her coat and also leaving.
“See, I told you it was nothing,” she said, patting me on the shoulder.
I slept for a couple of hours when I got home, tired out from my self-made hell that I’d mentally put myself into for weeks prior and lack of sleep from the night before. My husband had picked up take-out food and we ate. I was starving but, full of pride that I’d done it. I’d gotten it done. I’d faced my fear.
The next day, I took off my sunglasses (yes, it was photosensitive still) and looked down at my new puppy. I cried. I realized that I’d never seen him. I’d gotten him while I couldn’t see. There was his fur, his little eyes, all of the details that I hadn’t ever seen. I looked at my husband and for the first time in years, I could see him clearly if I shut the eye not yet done. He looked fabulous to me. Then, I looked in the mirror. How I’d aged 20 years overnight, I don’t know but, I did. Still it was a delight to be able to see what everyone else had been seeing and I didn’t.
For the next week, I found myself extremely emotional, crying at times, unconsciously because I could see the buds on the trees, the birds, stop signs, street signs, changes in houses around ours, people walking on the street and so much more that I’d chatter on endlessly about being able to see each and every thing that I was seeing for the first time in years. I could even see the grain in the new flooring my husband had put down 3 years prior. I had been missing the world and all that was in it. How did I let it get so bad?
It’s been 7 weeks since this first surgery. My eye has been healing. I’m still having a bit of difficulty with small things and light sensitivity but, mostly because I’m still very unbalanced because the other eye needs to be done still. I have more questions for the surgeon about seeing what appears to be the edge of the lens but, I know it’s not and a few other details that she has said will improve with time and more healing. But, all in all, I’m pleased that I can see again!
Thursday June 26th, I’ll be once again, going through the same process on the other eye. Am I nervous. Just a tad. Mostly it’s because I hate waiting but, I know it’s part of the process and that I’m in good hands. Will I be glad when it’s done? Of course. More than anything, I can’t wait to see with both eyes again.
If nothing else, I’ve learned a couple of interesting things.
One is that our minds can do numbers on us that needn’t be the case.
Secondly, is that older people have more nerve and fight than we youngsters. Maybe, it’s because they’ve experienced much more than we have or, perhaps it’s that they’ve come from a generation where they don’t look up everything on the net to scare themselves silly? Whatever it is, I was truly “The Baby” in that O.R. that day in every way conceivable but, I’m grateful for the gift of being able to see again.
From my little corner of life, that’s the way that I see things now.