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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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