09 March 2020
I See Clearly Now
I had cataracts.
Fact: 100 percent of people get cataracts. Once I decided to have the surgery, I discovered that everyone I know from junior high and high school had either had it last year or were about to have it. It's one of those age-appropriate things we all have in common, like memory lapses and hearing loss.
Once I started asking questions, I learned that there are choices involved. There are lenses the insurance pays for vs those they don't. You can end up not needing glasses in general but be unable to read without reading glasses. Or you can go on wearing glasses, but you'll still be able to read when you take them off. Or if you survive the Apocalypse but there are no glasses in the dystopian future. The surgeon can use a laser instead of a knife, but it costs extra.
Does it hurt? Not at all. The eye is numbed with dozens of drops so there's no sensation of invasion. Is the patient awake and aware? It depends. The anesthesiologist explained that I'd be sedated, but not too much, since the surgeon might need my cooperation. Yes, yes, I knew what "disinhibition" meant.
The first time, I did experience time passing. It took half an hour for the surgeon to remove the cataract and the natural lens and install the implant that replaced it.
At one point, when all I could see was gray, I said, "I don't have vision right now, do I?"
The doc seemed disconcerted. Maybe I should have explained writers always want to know every detail. We never know when it might come in handy.
Other eye, two weeks later. I asked to be sedated a tad more heavily. I didn't sleep through it, but before I knew it had begun, I'd already forgotten it. Just like a colonoscopy, another age-appropriate...but I digress.
Next came a regime of eye drops: four weeks daily in each eye. The drops contained tiny quantities of several heavy-duty meds, including the steroid prednisone. I was prescribed some of that for an ear infection once and was manic for two weeks. I wrote two brilliant short stories in ten days, though. But I digress. Again.
While I was taking the drops, my eyes were healing and the implants settling into place. I had to wait six weeks for glasses for my new eyes. But even with my distance vision too blurred to drive, I saw better than I had since I was eight years old—maybe ever. Throughout the recovery period, I could read, watch videos, and use the computer.
My grandmother, who was born in 1878, was blind in one eye. It was just a cataract. In spite of everything that's wrong with the world right now, in some ways I feel very, very lucky to live in the twenty-first century.