Tag Archives: surgery

Cataract Chronicles

At least 10 years ago, when I was 66 years old, I was diagnosed with the beginning of cataracts in both my eyes during a routine eye exam. The doctor at the time said every person and every eye is different so any information she gave me would be general. I wasn’t having any trouble seeing except I did need reading glasses. So I got a prescription for those and they were upgraded throughout the years to more magnification.

Shortly before this past Christmas at my eye checkup, the doctor told me I was close to needing cataract surgery, but not quite yet. In March, I was scheduled and then unscheduled due to the pandemic and then finally rescheduled for May 18th for the left eye, which was the worst eye and after some dancing around with surgery schedules, I was scheduled for the right eye on June 1st.

Many of you may already know what this type of surgery is all about, but for those who don’t know what to expect, I thought I’d relay my experience with it. The majority of my friends told me it was a breeze and their only complaint involved putting in lots and lots of eye drops before and after.

I found I was responsible for making sure my primary doctor filled out a medical clearance form for the surgery center stating I was healthy enough to have this eye surgery and it needed to be done in a timely manner. A seven month old form would not be accepted.

Medicare pays for this surgery including the basic lenses, which often require reading glasses afterwards, but if the patient ops for a more specialized lens, that lens is extra and needs to be purchased ahead of time. I decided on the specialized lenses to correct my astigmatism and to also allow me to see close-up, at a medium distance and far away without requiring eyeglasses. My lenses were $3000 each. I anticipated wanting to invest in the special lenses, so I allowed time to save money for them.

During my initial exam, my doctor told me I had dry eyes and needed to start a regimen about a month ahead of time to help the moisture situation in my eyes. He said it would improve my chances of successful surgeries. Lubricating my eyes with a good over-the-counter lubricating eye drop (without redness control) taken regularly beforehand (six times daily in each eye) prepared my eyes quite well.

I was given some samples and I purchased some eye drops specifically relating to the surgeries starting the day before surgery and continuing until they were used up, all except the antibiotic, which was stopped after 10 days. I’m in that phase now with my right eye. And there are so many different eye drops to take; it helps to have a system for making sure you are conscientious in taking them. I was told this is very important. My son showed me how to set alarms on my cell phone to remind me when to take drops and I worked out a system of color-coding different drops for each eye. Believe me; it can get confusing if you don’t have it worked out ahead of time! Once you have a system, it’s a breeze.

Okay, now it’s surgery day. I had no food or drink after midnight except for one medication and a small sip to get it down an hour before leaving for the surgery center. They wanted to know I had a way to and from and I had to provide them with the phone number so they could call my ride to come pick me up after I was out of the recovery room. And since a patient can’t drive for at least 24 hours after surgery, I needed to provide them with my ride information for the next day’s post-op appointment.

After I arrived at the surgery center, I was taken into a room where a nurse gave me an EKG and an IV was started and capped off for when it was needed later during the surgery. A cap was put on my head to keep my hair contained and I was given a Valium tablet. I was transferred from a chair to a gurney and wheeled into the operating room. The rest, I don’t remember until afterward when I woke up and was told all went well. I caught my ride home and the drops began.

What an adventure! One drop was an antibiotic, one an NSAID, one was a steroid and one a lubricant. Some were one drop four times a day, some two, and some one time a day. Two of the drops were fairly clear, one was creamy and looked like ranch dressing and another was yellow and thick-ish and rather like Italian dressing. Both the “dressing” ones were rather opaque so I tried not to have either in both eyes at the same time. Otherwise it was 15 minutes before I could see through all that. After my first post-op appointment, I was told I could blot more after applying my drops than I had been doing. That was good because I was missing whole sections of the TV shows I was trying to keep up with in-between all the drops. My mind had some pretty weird plots it was trying to process. Ha! And one thing that was good; I was getting plenty of exercise getting up and down and trapesing back and forth to put in the latest eye drops all day and evening long.

The most wonderful thing about it all was the surgery was painless both before and after, Medicare took care of the cost (except for my special lenses), the world is now brighter and more colorful (cataracts make things appear yellowish) and I can now read the bottom line of the eye clinic’s eye chart! I feel like a kid again!  Yipppppee!!!! And I want to extend another thanks to my rides to and from the clinic.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Please join her here each 11th of the month.

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Filed under life, musings

Getting Old Is Not For Sissies

 

 Years ago I first saw the saying: “Getting Old Is Not For Sissies” on a hallway wall at my mother’s nursing home. It impressed me then, but Time has proved it far truer than I once imagined.

 A few years back, I had life-changing surgery which put an end to years of suffering with ulcerative colitis. That’s one of those “down there” diseases, like colon cancer, recently out of the closet of unmentionable ailments.  One of the worst things about UC—besides the pain–was becoming virtually housebound whenever the disease was active. Surgery left me with an ostomy, but brought about positive changes, freeing me from the burden of various now ruined body parts. Once again I could travel, go out to eat, go to the movies, or even just out to the mall. I could ride my bike to the farmer’s market and load the bags with groceries, or hop onto the back of my husband’s motorcycle and go out to admire the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside for hours, a pastime we both enjoy very much.

 I’d been feeling stronger every month for the last three and a half years. I could lug sacks of mulch around the yard, pull tough weeds and interloping maples that were hoping to settle in my gardens. I was going to the 50+ classes at the gym, planning a trip back East and generally enjoying life.

 Unfortunately post-surgical patients of my kind are digestive Rube Goldberg machines. Lots of things can (and do) go wrong. I considered myself well-educated about possible problems re-engineering might create, but I missed the early signals of adhesions, which are not uncommon after this surgery. Mine formed a total intestinal blockage. I’m just emerging from a long hospitalization followed by a longer convalescence, crestfallen and weak.  It’s much, much harder to imagine a nice seamless (literally!)  future.

 I’ve got to suck it up, though, and head “onward, into the fog.” The joy of the right- now-moment, from a phone call from a beloved grandchild to the flight of a late summer butterfly has to take precedence over fears and “what if’s”.  Certainly, life has always required this, but it has never been so clear or so imperative as it is to me today.

9/1/2010

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Filed under writing

At A Loss

As I sit here contemplating what to write for my post today, I am at a loss for words. This is not a good thing for a writer as we make our living on the words we string together in some form of intelligent copy. But there it is. I am at a loss. Why? Because my mind is elsewhere, centered on other things that persistently nag at my brain for attention even though there is nothing I can do about them at this time. The logical part of me knows this, but the maternal part circumvents this knowledge to continue the process of worrying.

What could be so mind consuming? You might wonder. What could prevent a writing fanatic such as myself from being able to concentrate on the process of writing?

Motherhood.

I am a mother, first and foremost, and sometimes that role overshadows every other aspect of my life. This is one of those times. You see, my family was just beginning to recover from the emergency surgery performed on one of our cats three weeks ago – a harrowing experience in itself, but more so coupled with the loss of a family cat just two years ago – when we received some potentially devastating news yesterday. Both of my daughters suffer from scoliosis, but my older daughter’s was mild enough that she only needed to wear a back brace for awhile. My younger daughter isn’t so lucky. Yesterday, we met with an orthopedic doctor and he delivered the news that neither of us wanted to hear: Her curvature is so dramatic, it will take surgery to correct it. And for a child who’s been plagued with health concerns, both medical and behavioral, her whole life, the news was crushing. The whole ride home, she kept asking me questions like, “Why does my life suck?’ and “Why does this keep happening to me?”

And I was at a loss.

For words.

For an explanation.

What do you say to a child who has spent her life in and out of hospitals for one reason or another? How do you convince her that her life doesn’t suck, she just has some difficult times to endure? Add to this the fact that her sister is the very picture of health and hardly ever catches a cold, let alone requires surgery, and you have a difficult task, indeed.

People often wonder how we balance life with career and the honest answer is: Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes life takes precedence and other things must be put away temporarily until we can return to them with fresh perspective. Does this mean I will stop writing until after my daughter has her surgery? Of course not. Writing is my saving grace, writing is my therapy, writing defines me as a person beyond my role of mother. I just can’t promise that my conversations will be witty and full of fun, but hopefully, they will be informational and inspiring because the point of this exercise was to show that, even though I started out at a loss for words, I pushed on. I continued to write. I found comfort in the process of putting words to paper. And I thought about something else for a short time along the way.

Writing is wonderful and magical. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes you have to pry them out of you, and sometimes they fail you completely. But they’re always there in the end, helping you through the difficult times and cheering you on through the happy ones. Kind of like children. Isn’t it amazing how similar writing is to motherhood?

So for all of you aspiring writers, for you seasoned writers, remember to write through the difficult times and not just wait for the good ones. You might be surprised at how the words get you through whatever life throws at you. I know I am. Thirty minutes ago, I sat looking at a blank page and thinking, “I’m at a loss.” And just by typing those words out, the rest soon followed. So pick up that pen or put your fingers on that keyboard and just write. You’ll be glad you did. I know I am.

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul, book one in the Dante Chronicles.

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