Tuesday Talk is taking a break this week so I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about something personal to me. Something which I though might help reassure anyone who has either been diagnosed with a cataract or is awaiting cataract surgery for the first time.
Three weeks ago I had a cataract op. It was something I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. In fact the thought of anyone doing anything around my eye just about freaked me out.
My eyesight has always been good and I’ve been lucky enough only to need glasses for reading or PC work. However, about three years ago I noticed a definite change in my left eye. It was subtle at first and mostly noticeable when driving. The number plates of vehicles in front became blurry. They were ‘ghosting’, so effectively I was seeing two plates, one slightly to the right of the other.
My annual eye check revealed I had a cataract developing and the ‘ghosting’ was due to the fact it was a rare vertical variety which splits the vision. Everything stabilized for a while and was copeable with, the only changes being to the lenses in my prescription glasses. Then last summer I began to notice a definite deterioration. An eye test in September confirmed the cataract had worsened but it was borderline so my optician was unable to refer me. It was suggested I return for another assessment in the New Year by which time they felt it would have reached the stage to justify surgery. This I did, in March and a referral letter was written to my GP.
Once the paperwork was processed I had my initial consultation and was measured for a new lens. Then I had to wait to be contacted and offered a suitable date for surgery. When I received the call I chose 14th June, two days after returning from holiday. With hindsight I’m not sure whether this was the most sensible thing to have done. OK I was away relaxing, but each day my date with the surgeon was looming ever nearer. By the time Sunday 12th came and we had arrived home I wasn’t looking forward to what was about to happen…not at all. However putting things into perspective, like it or not the situation was a ‘must do’ if I was to retain my sight.
My appointment was scheduled for 1.40 pm. I arrived and was directed to the Day Surgery Unit. I had arrived minus make up and any earrings or necklaces had to be removed. A nurse arrived and a gown was slipped over my clothes. We then went through the form I had completed on my initial consultation just to clarify nothing had changed – prescription meds etc. I was then given two lots of post op eye drops and guidance on how to manage the eye after surgery. Before the nurse left he inserted a tiny drug delivery bead behind my lower left lid. This gradually released medication to dilate the pupil. It took about an hour to take effect following which I was taken into surgery.
Looking back I realise the great unknown was driving most of my fear; that and the fact the eye is such a delicate organ for someone to be operating on. As it was I have to say the whole process (which only took 20 minutes) was nothing like I expected. The face is covered; the anaesthetist who sat on a small stool by the operating couch was merely there as he put it ‘for hand holding’. I had instructions to squeeze his hand if I wasn’t comfortable and wanted them to stop. As it was I didn’t. There was the sensation of having liquid poured across the eye followed by an awareness of light to my left. While the surgeon carried out the procedure I felt absolutely nothing. Once the op had been completed I left the theatre with my eye protected by a clear plastic shield. I kept this on overnight and removed it the next day, although I did use it for the first few nights afterwards to continue to protect the eye while I was asleep.
My OH joined me back in Day Surgery reception where were brought tea and biscuits. The nurse arrived to complete the discharge paperwork and eventually we went home. The anaesthetic gradually wore off, of course, and regular doses of paracetamol were needed afterwards for a couple of days. I was also one of those patients whose eye was closed post op and it took around a quarter of an hour for it to open properly. My first sensation was brightness, then it was as if I was looking through fine gauze so everything was slightly hazy before my vision eventually cleared.
Once home, there was a regime of four lots of drops per day for the first two weeks and two for the second two weeks. I had to wait 24 hours before being able to wash my hair. There was also a make up ban for the first week and for me who never goes anywhere without putting their ‘face’ on, it was like going out in public wearing just my underwear. But it was a small sacrifice in order to make sure everything was allowed to heal properly. A week after the op my eye still felt a little scratchy but my vision was amazing. What it did show was how bad the ‘good’ right eye had been .
I had my follow up appointment last Tuesday and it’s been a complete success. My right eye will need the same treatment as a cataract is already developing. However, now I know what to expect the future holds no fear for me, only the expectation of having clear vision once more and that, for me, is incredible.