I was always the nearsighted kid with the glasses. Funny thing, though, my right lens was like a Coke bottle but the left one was much thinner. I spent most of my life like that. And then I tried contact lenses. My eyes rejected the hard lenses and I hated the soft ones. There was something about reaching into my eye and pinching out the lens that was somewhat less than enchanting.
Years and years later I finally asked if there were surgery available to correct my vision. I didn't hold out much hope but surprisingly, Lasik was now available in the U.S. I would have gone to Canada if I'd known about it! I researched ophthalmic surgeons and had the surgery done on my right eye. My left eye was 20/40 and I hoped to bring my right eye which was 20/400 up to 20/40. I didn't even realize that I was legally blind in my right eye before surgery. The doctors thought I was seeing double! No, I wasn't. The human body is an amazing thing. Somehow, I had compensated for the disparity without even being aware of it. Imagine my reaction when my post-Lasik surgery was 20/20. I no longer needed eyeglasses. I no longer had the deep red dents in the side of my nose, behind my right ear from the heavy eyeglass lens. I would awaken every morning for that first year after the surgery and would automatically try to reach for my glasses. And then I'd remember. And I'd look around my room in wonder. I could see. I could actually see!
As the years passed my one concern was not so much that my eyes would normally age but that I might develop cataracts like my mother or the detaching retina on her side of the family. Indeed, the day my mother had her first chemo, I had to drive us into Boston because I had the tell-tale signs of a detaching retina in my right eye. I was lucky. There was a new procedure and a brilliant ophthalmic surgeon did it in the office and I drove us home into the setting sun. I'd dodged a bullet.
My mother had cataracts. Sadly, the doctors kept telling her to "wait until they're ripe" to have surgery. Surgery never happened. They never told her when. She lost most of her eyesight and with it, her favorite hobbies: reading, knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, painting, and more. Gone. A voracious reader, she would struggle to see one word at a time. I would be damned if that would happen to me so when I was finally told that I had the start of cataracts I was insistant that my opthalmologist, the one who had done the surgery to prevent my retina from detaching, to tell me when I needed the surgery. I'm very visual for a writer and I saw what happened to my mother. I was determined that that wouldn't happen to me. He wanted me to tell him but I pointed out that it would be gradual and I doubt that I'd be aware of it.
A few years passed and it was at my last check-up, at the end of 2010, that he said they had developed enough that I should see a specialist. He referred me to a colleague. Early this year, I saw his colleague who told me that I could have it done now or wait 3 years. It would make no difference. I opted for sooner rather than later.
Last Monday I had the surgery. It took all of 8 minutes. Pre-op and post-op took longer although not very long. I was awake during the surgery. The hardest part: seemingly endless eye drops and several physical restrictions. My best friend and chosen sister flew in from Kansas to help with the things that I couldn't do. She fed my cat, gave her treats, scooped the litterbox, did all of the driving, put in my eye drops which I could have done but she insisted. I wasn't allowed to bend over, which is remarkably restrictive. I couldn't lift anything 10 lbs. or more. Meanwhile, she scheduled appointments with her doctors here. What do we do for fun? Well, we see a lot of doctors but I'm not sure how much fun that is. Fun will come a little later.
It's just over a week now. I had a check up the day after surgery and I was told that I was healing fast. Well, frankly, it's not as fast as laser surgery so everything is relative. At today's appointment virtually all restrictions were lifted. My eyesight in my left eye is now 20/20 but I will now always have to wear reading glasses. A small price to pay for saving my sight. Yes, I could have had three more years without glasses but what if I'd gambled and it was too late? It probably wouldn't have been but I wouldn't take that chance. I'll have the cataract removed from my right eye later this year. It's doubtful I'll get to 20/20 in that eye since I've already had two eye surgeries on my right eye but I will save my sight and that's all that matters. So what if it's only 20/30 or 20/40? It's still better than my old 20/400.
There are more books to read, to write, there's much to see and I know that I will be able to do just that.
I'm sitting here with my over-the-counter reading glasses, my chosen sister sitting not terribly far away, and I'm counting my blessings.
Causes Darlene Arden Supports
The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the AKC Canine Health Foundation